Born: August 26, 1879
Died: July 2, 1958
Town: Union City, New Jersey
Jeremiah "Joe" Jeannette was born August 26, 1879 in West Hoboken, which is now a part of Union City. Joe worked as his father's apprentice and as a coal truck driver until 1904, when he began his boxing career. He was dared to fight Arthur Dickinson in Jersey City with only the knowledge and experience of childhood street brawls behind him. Although he lost, he decided to make boxing his career.
After just two years, Joe was considered one of the best heavyweights in the U.S. He stood 5'10" and weighed 190 pounds. He modeled his style after another African-American fighter Sam Langford, adopting elusive and very effective defensive techniques and an inside punching strategy. Joe was considered dangerous and very few wished to fight him. Since black boxers rarely got the opportunity to fight against white boxers, Joe was forced to fight the same few people over and over again.
Joe fought heavyweight Jack Johnson a total of ten times, and Johnson considered him the toughest man he ever fought. After Johnson became the first African-American Heavyweight Champion of the World on December 26, 1908, he never fought Joe again.
On April 17, 1909, Joe fought the longest boxing match in 20th-century history, a three-and-a-half hour, 49-round bout against another black fighter Sam McVey in Paris, France. Joe was knocked down 27 times and was almost knocked out in the 16th round. Though greatly weakened, Joe took control after the 19th round by knocking McVey down 19 times. At the 49th round, McVey could not get up from the stool in his corner, and Joe won with a technical knockout, receiving the "Colored Heavyweight Chamionship."
In his 18-year boxing career, Joe had 106 wins—68 by knockout—and 20 losses. After his retirement, Joe became a referee and trainer for young boxers, including James J. Braddock, in the gym he owned. He later converted his gym into a garage for a limo rental service, and later a taxi company. He died July 2, 1958. Joe was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1997. Union City's first historical marker was dedicated at the corner where Joe's former residence and gym once stood.