Good Reading : November 2015
GOODREADINGMAGAZINE.COM.AU GOOD READING NOVEMBER 2015 64 The son of a slave, Jackson was born near what is now Saint Croix, in the Virgin Islands. He grew up in a poor fisherman’s family, a diligent student who dreamed of playing Shakespeare’s Othello. Reports of the time describe him as having ‘a slight lisp, a soft pleasant voice and pure speech with every sentence like a well-cut jewel’. Jackson arrived in Sydney in 1879, a cook on a ship which was carrying Boston ice to India and Java sugar to Australia. Penniless, he peddled small wooden toys around Pyrmont, worked in an orchard and as a woodcutter in the bush near Lane Cove, and crewed on a paddle-steamer running between Circular Quay and Manly. Larry Foley first saw Jackson on a Saturday night in 1880 at Wynyard Square, fighting off seven thugs who belonged to the gang of Dixon the Dog Hanger. In his gymnasium at the back of the White Horse Hotel, Foley taught Jackson the skills of modern boxing. Meanwhile, the bare-knuckle era came to an end with a death in a fight at the back of Randwick Racecourse, shortly after dawn on 17 April 1884. Alec Agar, a Melbourne bootmaker, died in a fight with the much larger black American James Lawson. The winner had helped carry the dying man to a cab so he could be rushed to hospital, but it was to no avail. Lawson was found Boxing in this country today is as highly organised and sophisticated as any other sport. But its origins are much humbler and rougher. As veteran boxing journalist and writer GRANTLEE KIEZA outlines in his new book, Boxing in Australia, the pugilistic arts started in colonial times with two tough convicts who were spared from the gallows but nonetheless fought for their lives amid a mob of drunken soldiers and free settlers. The author traces the history of our earliest boxers through to Jimmy Sharman’s boxing troupe in the early 20th century and familiar names such as Tony Mundine, Lionel Rose and Jeff Fenech. In this extract we read about Peter Jackson, a man of African ancestry who was born in the Virgin Islands in 1861 and would go on to become ones of Australia’s most successful fighters. BOOK BITE 1 BY GRANTLEE KIEZA BOXING IN AUSTRALIA BOOK BITE 2 Reports of the time describe him as having ‘a slight lisp, a soft pleasant voice and pure speech with every sentence like a well-cut jewel’.
December January 2016