Sound Off

Somebody told me there used to be a heavyweight champion of the world who lived in Lawrence. Is that true? Who was it?

Jess Willard, a boxer known as the "Pottawatomie Giant" and sometimes described as "The Great White Hope" before he took the title from Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion, was born in St. Clere, Kan. As an adult, according to a brief biography written by his grandson Jim Mace, he and his wife and children lived in Lawrence. But Willard sold his Lawrence home in 1921 and moved to the Los Angeles area, where he died in 1968 at age 87.

Willard, in 1915, defeated Johnson in a 26-round bout in Havana, Cuba, to win the heavyweight title. He lost the title in 1919 to Jack Dempsey.


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