Jess Willard (December 29, 1881 – December 15, 1968) was a world heavyweight boxing champion known as the Pottawatomie Giant who knocked out Jack Johnson in April 1915 for the heavyweight title. He was known for his great strength and ability to absorb tremendous punishment, although today he is also known for his title loss to Jack Dempsey.
Willard held the championship for more than four years. Today his reign is considered the 11th longest in the heavyweight division. He lost the title to Jack Dempsey in 1919 in one of the most severe beatings ever in a championship bout. Willard was knocked down for the first time in his career during the first round and another six times before the round was over; he suffered broken ribs, shattered jaw, broken nose, four missing teeth, partial hearing loss in one ear along with numerous cuts and contusions. Jess fought for two more rounds before retiring on his stool because of the injuries he received in the first round, relinquishing the title.
At 6 ft 6 1⁄2 in (1.99 m) and 235 lb (107 kg), Willard was the tallest and the largest heavyweight champion in boxing history, until the 270 pounds (120 kg) Primo Carnera won the title on June 29, 1933, and the 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) Vitali Klitschko won the WBC title in 2004 and the 7 ft Nikolai Valuev won the WBA title in 2005.
By Dean Hanley
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