Joe Gans

Joseph Saifuss Butts was born in Baltimore City on November 25, 1874.  At a very young age, Butts was adopted by Maria Gant and took on her last name. The name "Gans" was a product of the media mispronouncing his name "Gant" during his illustrious career as a prizefighter. Joe Gans began boxing in Baltimore in his teens, fighting in venues like the Avon Club and Monumental Theatre. As a light heavyweight, Gans had a deadly combination of speed and power. As his reputation grew in Baltimore, Gans garnered more attention and larger purses for his fights. Over his career, he put a good deal of his earnings back into the community, opening a saloon, gymnasium, and a hotel. In 1902, Gans won the light heavyweight championship in Ontario, Canada. Although most know about Jack Johnson becoming the first African American to win the heavyweight title in 1909, because of his 1902 victory, Gans is considered the first African American world champion in the sport. Over a seven year span, Gans fought in three different weight classes, but defended and maintained his light heavyweight title in each of those years. One of Gans' most famous bouts came in 1906 against contender Oscar Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada. The fight lasted 42 rounds, but Gans came out the victor. After that fight, Gans opened his Goldfield Hotel in Baltimore City on East Lexington and Colvin Streets.  In 1908, Gans lost his title to Nelson in a rematch and failed to regain it in their third fight at the end of the year. By the time he fought his final fight in 1909, a no decision, Gans showed the effects of tuberculosis, a disease many say he contracted after his epic with Nelson in 1906. In 1910, "Baby" Joe Gans "The Old Master" moved back to Baltimore to be with his family, and died on August 10 of the same year. His all-time record in the ring was 120-8-9 with 85 knockouts and 18 no decisions. Many boxing experts consider Gans the greatest light heavyweight before the modern era. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.   

Joe Gans Death Certificate

Photo of "Baby" Joe Gans

December: Donald Gaines Murray (1934)

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