April 5 - 1915 - Jess Willard Defeats Jack Johnson for the World Heavyweight Championship
Jess Willard won the World Heavyweight Championship in Havana on April 5, 1915, but his win was much more than the usual title victory, largely because of who he beat. Jack Johnson had become the first black World Heavyweight Championship in 1908 and subsequently became one of the most infamous, notorious, and controversial figures in American culture. The fact of a black champion made many people look for a "Great White Hope" that could beat him for the championship. He was brash and flashy, spending huge sums on clothing and cars, but more problematically for white America was the fact that Johnson consistently dated white women. After his first wife committed suicide, he was targeted for violating the Mann Act, which prohibited transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes, while pursuing his second wife. That charge didn't stick, but a different, related charge did. So from 1912, Johnson was a fugitive, traveling around the world. He would lose his belt to the giant Kansan Jess Willard in 1915, going down in the 25th round in Havana, Cuba.