By Tracy Callis

Peter Jackson was tall, smooth, and elusive on the order of the modern boxer yet he possessed the ruggedness that typified the “Old School”. He had size, quickness, and strength accompanied by great ring science.

Jackson was among the first of the heavyweights to fight up on his toes. A perfectionist in his style, he developed as fine a “One-Two” sequence as the ring has ever known. His punches had the kick of a mule with either hand.

Grombach (1977 p 45) stated “While he was of the old school, he used a powerful one-two punch in various combinations which made him a tricky adversary”. Fleischer (1938 p 150) said Jackson threw his punches with lightning rapidity while Lardner (1972 p 78) wrote “Jackson’s two blows landed almost simultaneously”.

Always in a position to hit, Peter could feint, counter, block, or slip punches by a few inches and avoid a blow by the narrowest of margins. He was a master boxer and a stinging hitter.

He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and yet, John L. Sullivan, the man generally recognized as Heavyweight Champion of the World at that time, would not fight him. Fleischer (1949 p 103) wrote that Sullivan drew the color line in order to evade a match with Peter Jackson and adds it was well he did because Jackson probably would have won decisively just like Corbett did a few years afterwards (also see Langley 1974 p 20 and Fleischer 1942 p 34). Grombach (1977 p 44) said Sullivan ducked the fight by using the color line as an excuse.

Jim Corbett called Jackson one of the most intelligent pugilists that ever stepped into the ring and said it didn’t matter whether it was a box or slug affair, Peter could adapt himself to it. He [Corbett] often said Jackson could defeat any fighter he had ever seen (see Corbett 1926 pg 132 145 326). Corbett lived until 1933.

In describing Jackson, Lardner (1972 p 77) wrote “He is considered by many experts to have been the greatest heavyweight who ever lived”. He added, “Corbett ranked him with Jeffries as one of the two greatest heavyweights of all time”.

Corbett related that he once saw speedy Joe Choynski spar with Jackson and not manage to touch him with a glove. He added that on another occasion Jackson boxed with Bob Fitzsimmons in an exhibition and it was like a professor giving a pupil a lesson (see  Fleischer 1938 p 123).

 Corbett and Jackson fought sixty-one rounds in 1891 in one of the ring’s greatest battles. Jackson entered the contest with a cold and a sprained ankle. These two conditions caused him to stop training ten days prior to the fight. Yet, it was Corbett who was more hard pressed during the contest.

Frank “Paddy” Slavin, a hard-hitting scrapper of the modern Jack Dempsey mold who fought Jackson in another of the ring’s great fights, called Peter “unbeatable … the greatest of all masters” (Langley 1974 p 60).

Bob Fitzsimmons refused to meet him in an official fight, calling him the greatest fighter who ever breathed. Fitz said that Jackson was the daddy of them all and that he [Fitz] did not care for the fight (see Fleischer 1938 p 124).

Jim Jeffries once commented on the stiffness of Peter’s punches – short, crisp, and hard. Lardner (1972 p 77) said “Jeffries later used the memory of a punch Jackson had thrown at him as the basis for comparison with all the other single devastating punches he had received”.

Lord Lonsdale of England, early president of London’s National Sporting Club and namesake of the Lonsdale Belt, said that although Jack Johnson was the best heavyweight of his time, he [Johnson] never equaled Jackson for science and skill (see Langley 1974 p 61).

Carpenter (1975 p 30) called Jackson “one of the great fighters of the time”. Durant (1976 p 30) said Jackson “may have been the greatest ringman of any age”. Burrill (1974 p 95) wrote “One of his time’s most feared and popular boxers”.

Fleischer (1938 p 159) said Jackson was “regarded as the greatest boxer of his era”. He went on to say that few fighters could be rated superior to Jackson and described him as a sharpshooter and two-fisted scientific hitter. Nat described him as having a powerful left, an excellent jabbing and hooking game, and a wicked right-hand chop.

Arthur Chambers, the man most often credited with developing the Marquis of Queensberry rules and perhaps the foremost boxing authority in America at the time,  (see Lardner 1972 p 79) said, “He’s a wonder, make no mistake about his ability. He is one of the finest specimens of fighting man I’ve ever seen” (see Fleischer 1938 p 141).

Farnol (1928 p 177) elaborated on Jackson “Perhaps for his size the most finished and beautiful boxer ever seen; magnificently shaped from head to foot, his every move was graceful; also he was incredibly quick and very sure”.

Lardner (1972 p 78) described Jackson in battle as moving out carefully, throwing punches with a pumalike grace, stalking his man about the ring, avoiding blows with ease, and hitting his adversary so hard it took a quart of whiskey to revive him.

He added Jackson was like a hurricane tearing through the ranks of the Australian heavyweights, knocking out everyone and later turning to “right-hand barred” exhibitions in which he was not allowed to hit with his right.

Eugene Corri, who was considered by many to be the greatest referee of modern times (see Grombach 1977 p 183), called Peter Jackson the best boxer he ever saw (Farnol 1928 pg 179 180). In other articles, Corri called Jackson the greatest heavyweight he had ever seen.

Jackson was a Muhammad Ali “look-a-like”. He boxed rather than slugged and moved gracefully, quickly, and easily about the ring avoiding punches. He was almost the same physical size as Ali but never allowed himself to get as heavy as did Ali in his later career. He even looked enough like Ali in his facial features to be his brother. His personality was likeable and almost everyone who met him developed a genuine affinity for him. He, perhaps, was not as quick as Ali (but almost) and he hit a little harder.

Jackson was like Sam Langford in that he was so good the champions of his time would not risk their titles against him. These two powerhouse fighters were probably the greatest pugilists never to fight for the Heavyweight Championship of the World.

In summary, Jackson was more scientific than Jack Johnson, was faster and smoother than Joe Louis but hit just as hard, and possessed footwork similar to Muhammad Ali. In the opinion of this writer, Jackson was one of the greatest fighters in the history of the heavyweight division and deserves to be ranked among the all-time best men in this weight class.


Burrill, B. 1974. Who’s Who in Boxing. New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House

Carpenter, H. 1975. Boxing: A Pictorial History. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company

Corbett, J. J. 1926. The Roar of the Crowd (James J. Corbett). New York: Garden City Publishing Company

Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers

Farnol. J. 1928. Famous Prize Fights. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company

Fleischer, N. 1938. Black Dynamite (Volume I). New York: C. J. O’Brien, Inc.

Fleischer, N. 1942. Gentleman Jim – The Story of James J. Corbett. New York: The Ring, Inc.

Fleischer, N. 1949. The Heavyweight Championship. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons

Grombach, J. 1977. The Saga of Sock. London : Thomas Yoseloff Ltd.; Cranbury, New Jersey: A.S. Barnes and Company, Inc.

Langley, T. 1974. The Life of Peter Jackson. Leicester, England: Vance Harvey Publishing

Lardner, R. 1972. The Legendary Champions. New York: American Heritage Press

Return to Top
Peter Jackson Record
Tracy Callis All-Time Rankings
Callis Archive