Dec. 29, 1881 Saint Clere Pottawatomie County Kansas, USA
Dec. 15, 1968 Los Angeles Los Angeles County California, USA
Boxer. Heavyweight Champion of the World 1915-1919. Jess "The Pottawatomie Giant" Willard was born on December 29, 1881 the youngest of 4 brothers. In his youth he worked in the livery stable business then started boxing in 1911. Willard used his height of 6 feet 6 inches tall to full advantage working behind a stiff jab. He progressed steadily through the ranks defeating the likes of Jack Moran, Frank Bauer and Ed Smith. On April 5, 1915 Willard faced Heavyweight Champion Jack Johnson on a sweltering day in Havana, Cuba and scored a 26th round knockout. Willard mostly fought exhibitions over 4 years time but did defend his title once over Frank Moran. On July 4, 1919 he faced Jack Dempsey on a sweltering day in Toledo, Ohio. Bobbing and weaving, Dempsey closed the gap on the much taller Willard and knocked him down 7 times in the first round. The carnage continued for 2 more rounds until the fight was stopped because Willard couldnt answer the bell for the fourth round. Although Willard lost the title he was praised for showing tremendous courage against the Dempsey onslaught. Willard would continue to box mostly exhibitions for several more years and finally retired from boxing in 1926 with a record of 28-6-1 with 21 knockouts. He then dabbled in many ventures afterwards including refereeing wrestling matches and performing with the USO. Willard died on December 15, 1968. In 2003, Willard was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.