In Sydney, Australia, in 1908 the brash and talented black fighter Jack Johnson won the heavyweight championship of the world from the Canadian Tommy Burns. There was an immediate storm of protest. Writers, including Jack London, and politicians feared the accession of the fearless and outspoken Johnson would threaten white supremacy. It was predicted - accurately - that his reign would lead to civic unrest and race riots. Over the next seven years, more than 30 fighters lured by the prospect of fame and a quick buck, tried to beat Jackson. This book tells the story. In this era boxing was unregulated. In many areas of the world it was illegal. It occupied the uneven ground between popular spectacle and criminal underworld, and the story of Johnson and the White Hopes occupied its shadiest corners. This is a bizarre, extraordinary and often uncomfortable story of sport, racism, corruption and larger-than-life characters.