(This site has movie clips of some of Johnson's fights)
The late actor Victor McLaglen (an Oscar winner
for The Informer, and an unforgettable foe of John Wayne
in The Quiet Man) was once a professional boxer. In fact,
he once fought world heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in a bout
The date was March 10, 1909.
The Province of the day described Johnsons
opponent as Vic McLaglan of Tacoma. The World
identified him as Arthur McLaglen, a local heavyweight.
The Ring Record has it right: Victor McLaglen. He obviously
wasnt well-known at the time.
Jack Johnson certainly was. Johnson, 30, the first
black man to win the heavyweight title, got a lot of attention while
he was in Vancouver. Hed defeated Tommy Burns , the Canadian-born
title-holder, in Australia the previous December and had returned
to North America (aboard the Makura) in triumph. This Vancouver
bout, even though a non-title exhibition match, was his first fight
as world champion.
Great Reception for the Big Black, read
the Provinces headline. (One becomes inured to the
shock of reading how minorities were described in newspapers of
the day. This was a mild example.) Anyone, the paper
continued, who thinks this same Jack Johnson is an ignorant
and unsophisticated negro should have seen the Chesterfieldian grace
with which he bade farewell to those ladies in silks and satins
on the Makura yesterday.
Johnson has a pleasing voice, his soft, southern
accent sounding almost strange coming from such a huge frame. In
fact, from the delicate way in which he expressed himself one could
almost close their eyes and imagine it was some ballroom dandy at
an afternoon tea.
The champion was accompanied by Mrs. Johnson, who,
the World enthused, owing to the fact that she is a
white woman, occasioned almost as much attention as her big, colored
Johnson toyed with McLaglen during the six rounds,
and impressed the Vancouver Athletic Club audience of 1,000 with
his speed . . . and his classical English in a short
speech of appreciation to the throng after the fight.
Johnson would lose the title to Jess Willard in April 1915, six
years after his visit to Vancouver.
Victor McLaglen, who was 22 at the time of his Vancouver battle,
had been a professional boxer and wrestler in Canada for five years.
He apparently had also briefly been a cop and a circus strongman
while up here. He had a few more fights, and even faced Jess Willard
in October, 1911 in Springfield, Missouri.
Born in Tunbridge Wells, England December 10, 1886
McLaglen grew up in South Africa with eight brothers. Their father
was the Bishop of Claremont there. Victor had a rollicking, haphazard
career, which you can read about in his Imdb
entry. One passage: During the British occupation
of the TransJordan (now Iraq) in the 1920s, McLaglen, who was a
sergeant in the British army, was appointed provost marshalchief
of military policefor Baghdad.
He got into British silent movies in the 1920s,
then American director John Ford made him a star with The Informer
(1935). His hilarious turn as Squire Will Danaher in 1952's The
Quiet Man assures his permanence in our memories.
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