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Description1908 Jack Johnson "Black Opal Trophy" Heavyweight Championship Pendant. The call for a "Great White Hope" was already echoing through the sporting world as Australian jeweler Percy Marks hunched over this elegant bauble, elegantly engraving the words, "World's Heavyweight Champion, Black Opal Trophy, Presented by Percy Marks, Won by Jack Johnson, Sydney, Dec. 26, 1908." Noted American author Jack London had coined the phrase, an artful expression of an ugly sentiment shared by the vast majority of white sports fans who took Johnson's assumption of the Heavyweight throne as a personal affront.
For two years the dark-skinned Galveston Giant had trailed the reigning Champ Tommy Burns across the globe, taunting the Canadian in the press with the suggestion that it was not racism but fear that fueled Burns' evasions. It was a campaign which ultimately proved effective, with Burns finally accepting the challenge, then falling in the fourteenth round on Boxing Day, 1908 before a huge Australian crowd.
Presented is the only known personal award deriving from the bout which began Jack Johnson's six and a half year tenure at the pinnacle of the boxing world. The lack of such artifacts is hardly surprising given the intense animosity Johnson faced from the boxing establishment. One wonders if Mr. Marks made the presentation of this prize in secret to avoid recrimination from outraged fans.
Percy Marks Jewelers survives to this day, still specializing in the rare black opal that adorns the center of this gorgeous pendant, and which so fittingly honors the first Heavyweight Champ of African descent. This particular stone is chipped but still presents nicely, remaining firmly housed in the intricately designed eighteen karat gold pendant. Approximate dimensions are 1.125x1.75", but as a key relic from one of the most socially significant athletes in history, the appeal is immeasurable.
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2017 June 29 Premium Sportscard Catalog Auction - Dallas