In this unique letter Burns reveals his racial prejudice at the time of the fight

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  • In 1908 the World Heavyweight Boxing Champion stood at the pinnacle of sporting dominance, and so the result of the Burns-Johnson fight held on Boxing Day at Rushcutters Bay, Sydney shook the white supremist view of the world to its core. Jack Johnson, a black American champion had been denied a licence to contest the championship in America because of his colour and had come to Australia to fight the white Canadian title-holder Tommy Burns who had been lured by a local entrepreneur, Hugh McIntosh, on the promise of a œ7,500 purse. Although there was no bar to the fight being held in Australia, the local population was also instilled with racial bigotry and the Australian boxing champion Bill Squires demurred from taking on Johnson in any lead-up fights. Johnson won the world title regardless but certainly lost out on the prize money reportedly receiving only œ1,500 for his efforts. Originally, Macintosh planned to draw potential customers for the fight from the thousands of US sailors on shore leave from the vessels of the American ?Great White Fleet? which visited Australia for the first time in August 1908, but he was unable to organise the bout in time. The fight was eventually held at Rushcutters Bay on Boxing Day in front of more than 20,000 local fans on the site of the old Sydney Stadium. The acclaimed Sydney photographer Charles Kerry captured the action and his iconic pictures place the position of the boxing ring in the middle of the Weigall sports grounds of Sydney Grammar School which now occupy the site. In recent years, the great-grandson of Tommy Burns came to Australia to pay respect to his forebear?s history and was saddened to see that there was nothing marking the place that was the setting of arguably the ?greatest? sporting event ever staged in Australia. Johnson's victory led to a seven-year search for the 'Great White Hope' to reclaim the title for the white man, drawing out of retirement the past undefeated champion Jim Jeffries who was called upon to teach the cocky negro a lesson. In their 1910 contest, often referred to by parochial pundits as the ?Fight of the Century?, Jeffries was expected to take back the title but he was soundly beaten and graciously acknowledged the superiority of Johnston as a boxer. But, on the world stage, it was the 1908 fight that deserves that accolade as it also proved a major catalyst for great social change in the decades that followed. Johnson?s continuing success in the ring, and his outspokenness out of it, baited White America and he was the target of a very bitter and hostile press. No doubt he was the inspiration for Cassius Clay (Mohammad Ali) the ?Louisville Mouth?, another black champion who didn't know his place and similarly roiled White America in the 1960s. The great social divide between white and black Americans led to a trumped-up morals charge against Johnson in 1913 which relied on a racially motivated interpretation of the anti-prostitution ?Mann Act?. Johnson was convicted of transporting a woman (a Caucasian girlfriend who later became his wife) across a state border for immoral purposes and he fled America to fight overseas to avoid imprisonment. He eventually returned to the US in 1920 to serve a one-year sentence to clear the slate. Only in America could Johnson be posthumously pardoned of his ?crime? in 2018 by President Trump after he was petitioned by the cinematic ?World Champion?, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone). The slow journey from racial hatred to grudging respect for black Americans is best summarised in a letter written years later by the defeated champion Tommy Burns. A transcription of the Burn's letter follows. Dec 7th, 1953. Coalinga California USA Box 366. Dear Bill O?Loughlin, Your Letter 25/10/53 received. I was very pleased to hear that Bill Squires is in good Health. Inclosed (sic) find a clipping of Bill Squires & myself in the Coalinga Record two days ago. It will explain itself. What I am doing today as you requested, I am healing the sick and the suffering with the power of thought qualified with love through the Cosmic Consciousness as Jesus did 2000 years ago and as he is doing today. My contest with Jack Johnson Dec 26-1908, reminds me that in all my previous contests I had used the secret of relaxation during all my rest periods, but at that time, race prejudice was rampant in my mind. The idea of a black man challenging me of the white race was beyond endurance. With that ruling my consciousness I went out to kill. I surely did hate which was the opposite to relaxation. Thus, I was tense and unable to defend myself - Johnson was the very opposite and naturally won the contest. I, however was fortunate in not being hurt, I was not bleeding although I had a swollen jaw. To prove that Mr Johnson held no hate against me was born (sic) out years later when I was operating a Nightclub in New York. Johnson was broke when he came into my club and asked me if I would help him, so with a feeling of compassion and love I gave him the amount requested. The word Christ means Savior (sic), so my seeming loss on Christmas Day was turned to that of love and I felt that after all I had won a great battle which I realize now to be true. To me Johnson was a champion of the first magnitude. He just had to be to out box Tommy Burns. Now I am glad that I lost the championship to Johnson. I may say that I still had a greater contest to master some years later and that was a disease named arthritis which tied up my whole body and was the result of erroneous thinking. The thoughts were not bad, but it was my qualification of the thoughts. Finally, I discovered that when I qualified my thoughts with love I felt better physically. So this was the great battle of all battles, if I was to live I just had to love and I found this almost as difficult in the beginning as the Johnson battle. However, with that determination as is expressed in my protruding (sic) chin, which has now been somewhat receded, I hold on to the qualifying of every thought with love which has regenerated me physically, mentally and spiritually. First, I had to prove that love power had on my own body, and if I could heal myself, then this same power could help others when mentally applied and now I live to help others. I have helped thousands whom I have never seen that write to me for help. All is done through the cosmic consciousness from mind-life. As all mind-life is one life when the truth about life is understood. I am in my seventy- third year and in perfect health as my picture shows, although I belong to no form of religion I do read and study a book written by John Westaway entitled ?The Mystery of God Revealed.? If anyone would like a copy of this book they may have one by writing (to) John Westaway Vancouver B.C. Canada 3589 Granville St. Only love offerings are accepted for same. It gives you Jesus teachings to its fullness how to have life everlasting and overcome death ? the last enemy with a consciousness of love divine. I realize today and I want to thank Mr Johnson for what he taught me that boxing day in 1908. And I now know he was a great teacher and not an opponent and I realize the word Christmas means freedom and to love is freedom. Jack Johnson has received help from me, since he has passed on, as all people pass on live in the same consciousness as they did while in the flesh body while on the earth plane as the parable of the sick man states who wanted a drink of water to quench his thirst is an example. Enclosed find photo taken a few days ago and my card which you may publish with the article anywhere except Canada and; U.S.A. With love unreserved to Australia, Always your friend in Christ-Love. Tommy Burns.

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