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Steve Farhood has been working in the journalism field for over 40 years in both print and on-screen mediums. Farhood, former editor in chief of The Ring magazine, delivered a presentation for Hofstra University students about the historical impact of boxing in the context of racism in America. Farhood examined the historical impact of three significant boxing matches: Jack Johnson vs James Jeffries, Joe Louis vs. Max Schmeling, and Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. Farhood began his presentation by explaining how boxers Johnson, Louis, and Ali changed the reputation of blacks in America and had a significant impact on the racial hostilities between the blacks and whites.

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Photo Credit: The Daily Mail

Johnson grew up in Galveston, Texas, which is located approximately 50 miles from Houston. The people in this city had a common similarity in which they were all from poor backgrounds. Johnson first worked on boat docks, local racetracks, and then made his way into boxing rings. On July 4, 1910, Johnson engaged in what was considered to be the biggest event of the times. Johnson vs Jeffries occurred in Nevada, and not only did Johnson hurt Jeffries, but he humiliated him. Since Jeffries had lost the match, it was implied that the rest of the whites failed as a race. This event led to extreme racial violence throughout parts of the country and the whites were determined to chastise Johnson. Ultimately, Johnson died at age 68 years old from a car accident in which no other boxers expressed their sympathies at his funeral.

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Photo Credit: BoxRec

The next match that Farhood explained to the audience was Joe Louis vs Max Schmeling. Louis was born in Alabama, but he was in Detroit when he learned about his knack for boxing. Louis was knocked out by Schmeling during a match in Germany, and this led to the notion of Aryan supremacy in society by the Nazi’s. It was not until the match at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938, where Louis won against Schmeling. This win had society reconsidering their views of white supremacy as they knew it. Louis and Schmeling ended up becoming friends and caused  racial hostility between blacks and whites to decrease. The end of 1952 marked a single year without any lynchings in America. At age 66, Louis died from cardiac arrest and mental health problems, but his impact on society was one that has shaped society today.

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The last match that Farhood discussed was Ali vs Frazier. Ali had a profound impact on how blacks were viewed in society in the late 20th century. Ali practiced Islam despite coming from a Christian background and believed that black was truly beautiful. Ali fought against Frazier in 1971 at Madison Square Garden during their heavyweight title fight. Ultimately, Frazier ended up winning the fight, but Ali gained a newfound respect among the public which was critical in shaping the racial relations between whites and blacks.

Farhood demonstrated to the audience his overwhelming knowledge and passion for boxing through his in-depth presentation and analysis of the material. Farhood spent time at the end of the presentation to answer questions from students in which I was able to get a couple of words from him about working in the journalism field:

“What do you think the biggest difference is when covering boxing for print and for television?”

“There’s a big difference. As an analyst on live television, when its out of my mouth there is nothing I can do about it. When you write, you know how it is when you write, you don’t like it, erase and fix it again. When I write, I write something and I go away and come back an hour later and touch it up. The urgency of live television is the exciting part and the amount of people you’re reaching at one time.”

Farhood can now be seen as an on air analyst for Showtime’s “ShoBox” series, Showtime Championship Boxing, and the syndicated Broadway Boxing series. Follow Farhood on Twitter to stay up to date with the latest boxing news: @SteveFarhood.

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