By David Martinez / Boxing Historian / dmboxing.com
A highly successful boxer from the past was certainly Jack Root, born on May 26, 1876 in Frahelz, Bohemia, Czech Republic.
He was not only a top ranking middleweight, but he was the first to win the light heavyweight title. This division came about in 1903 when Root’s manager, Lou Housman, conceived the idea that a weight class should be established between middleweight and heavyweight.
On April 22, 1903, Root defeated Kid McCoy by ten round decision to win that new title. But he wouldn’t last long as the 175 champion; in less than three months, on July 4th, he would be knocked out by George Gardner in twelve rounds.
Root started his professional career in 1887 and, until the championship loss to Gardner, he had only lost one fight in his prior forty-five bouts. He and Gardner fought twice before, in 1902, each winning once. During that fight streak Root’s most signature bout was a draw with a once beaten great middleweight, Tommy Ryan, who had only lost one bout in seventy-two himself prior to the Root fight.
In 1905, after undefeated Jim Jeffries retired, a bout was arranged between Root and Marvin Hart for the vacant heavyweight championship. That fight was held on July 3, 1905 in Reno, Nevada and the referee was Jim Jeffries. Root was stopped by Hart in the twelfth round.
Following that bout Root only fought one more time, the following year in February 1906, defeating Fred Russell in a ten round decision.
Jack Root had a ring record of 47 wins, 3 losses, 3 draws, and 2 no contests, with 28 by knockout. He was inducted into the Ring Boxing Hall of Fame in 1961 and International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2011.
During World War I, Root served as a lieutenant in the United States Army. He was the first President of Boxing for the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, serving in that position during 1925 and 1926.
In February 1926 Root resigned from his duties at the Olympic Auditorium and went into show business. He bought several movie houses and after that industry began to thrive, he sold the establishments and became a wealthy man.
I personally rank Jack Root in my top 10 of the greatest light heavyweights of all time, and the late Ring Magazine founder and editor Nat Fleisher ranks him #5 among all the light heavyweights of all time. In my younger days back in 1970 at the Jeffries Barn Museum, Boxing Historian Al Nelson, who lived in the Root era, told me “Root was lanky like Bob Fitzsimmons and a very crafty boxer, but not the puncher as Fitz.”
Jack Root died in Los Angeles on June 10, 1963 at the age of 87.