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The Eyes Of The World Are On You...

Joe Gans was a revered American professional boxer known as the "Old Master" for his tactical and scientific approach to the sport. Born in Baltimore City, Gans made history by becoming the first African American to win a world title in boxing, securing the world lightweight title by knocking out Frank Erne in one round at Fort Erie, Ontario. His strategic brilliance and early adoption of the "scientific" approach to boxing solidified Gans as one of the greatest lightweight fighters of all time. 

Joe Gans Life & Legacy

Joe Gans (1874 - 1910), was a pioneering American professional boxer hailed as the "Old Master" for his tactical prowess and scientific approach to the sport. Raised in Baltimore, he embarked on a remarkable career becoming known as one of the greatest lightweight fighters of all time


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Joe Gans, born Joseph Saifus Butts, entered the world on November 25, 1874. He was adopted at a young age by Maria and James Gant. Records indicate that he spent his early years in the vicinity of Eastern and Central Avenue, situated on the western edge of the Fells Point neighborhood in Southeast Baltimore City.



Gans learned how to box as a young boy while working at the central Fish Market, manning the fish stalls of Caleb Bond. His talent quickly caught the eye of  local promoter, Al Hereford, who became Gans's manager and played a pivotal role in shaping his future career.

Gans secured the world lightweight title by delivering a knockout blow to Frank Erne in just one round at Fort Erie, Ontario, on May 12, 1902. This victory marked him as the first African American World Champion Boxer and the second African American World Champion in any sport.



Joe Gans wasn't just a boxing legend; he also showcased his talent on the baseball field. His athletic prowess attracted throngs of spectators to Oriole Park, where the Middle Section Giants (or Gans's 9) played across  color lines. In 1905, the Washington Post hailed the "Middle Section Giants of Baltimore" as "the strongest team south of Philadelphia."

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On September 3, 1906, Joe Gans defended his world title against Oscar "Battling" Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada. Despite the scorching heat, they battled for an astonishing 42 rounds. Gans emerged victorious, claiming an $11,000 purse.



Gans used his winnings from the 1906 Nevada fight to purchase the Goldfield Hotel, which opened its doors on October 29, 1907. The hotel, located on East Lexington and Colvin Streets welcomed all people regardless of race. Gan hired a young  Eubie Blake as one of his piano players at the resturant, helping to launch the piano player’s  famous career.

Gans reigned as champion from 1902 to 1908, successfully defending his title on several occasions. However, he eventually lost the title in a rematch against Battling Nelson in 1908.


Joe Gans passed away at his mother’s home on Argyle Avenue on August 10, 1910, finally succumbing to tuberculosis. Newspapers reported that over 35,000 people attended the funeral, lining the streets for over three miles as the procession led Joe Gans to his final resting place at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Gans had a final professional record of 145 wins with 100 knockouts, 10 losses, 16 draws, 6 no contests and 19 no decisions 


In 2010, Friends of Joe Gans spearheaded a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Gans's death. Governor Martin O'Malley's office presented a citation, paying tribute to "celebrate and commemorate the life of Joe Gans – a boxing legend and a beacon of hope for the African-American community."


The inaugural mural of Joe Gans was unveiled in Baltimore City as a component of The Wisdom Wall Mural Project led by artist Iandry Randriamandroso. The mural is located on W. North Ave. between N. Warwick Ave. and Wheeler Ave.


Joe Gans 150th Celebration
(November 2024 - November 2025) 

2024 - 2025

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