From February 1st to March 1st, each year, we celebrate Black History month. A time to celebrate and remember the important achievements by African Americans and to recognize their pivotal role in American history.
This year during the month of February, we chose one important African American athlete each week that was a pioneer - the first African American to accomplish a major achievement in their sport. Although there are many who deserve recognition we chose these men and women based on their ties to combat sports, or because their stories are under reported and deserve to be told.
The following athletes all have the qualities of a true champion - skilled, dedicated, hard working, perseverant. But they also all have incredible amounts of HEART. The ability to continue when the world is against you. The courage to look adversity in the eye and persevere.
Join us in celebrating the accomplishments of these amazing men and women as we wrap up the month of February.
Jack Johnson was the first African American World Heavyweight Boxing Champion and is widely regarded as one of the most influential boxers of all time.
Johnson held the title from 1908 to 1915, during the height of the Jim Crow era, and was thought to transcend the sport of boxing, becoming part of the culture and history of racism in the United States.
Claressa Shields is the first African American female boxing Olympic gold medalist, and the first American boxer, male or female, to win consecutive Olympic gold medals. Shields is one of only eight boxers in history, female or male, to hold all four major world titles in boxing—WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO, simultaneously.
Arguably the best female pound-for-pound boxer in the world, Shields has begun training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, working with JacksonWink MMA, and will make her MMA debut in 2021.
Long before there was Tiger Woods, there was Charlie Sifford, who's been referred to as the Jackie Robinson of golf.
For much of his early career, Sifford was confined to compete in all-Black golf tournaments, but upon the invitation of boxer Joe Louis he sought to enter the PGA-sponsored Phoenix Open in 1952. His presence at the event was not taken too kindly, and he received many death threats. Still, Sifford was not to be intimidated. He continued to perfect his game, and in 1961 entered the PGA Tour, becoming the first African American golfer to do so.
His career totaled 422 tournaments, over 50 top 10 finishes and 22 professional wins.
Germaine Martha de Randamie
Germaine Martha de Randamie is a Dutch mixed martial artist and former kickboxer. She competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and was the first UFC Women's Featherweight Champion, as well as the first black female champion.
De Randamie competed in kickboxing with an undefeated record of 46–0 including 30 knockouts and is a multiple time kickboxing and Muay Thai world champion.
De Randamie also has the fastest knockout in UFC Women's Bantamweight division at 16 seconds, tied with Ronda Rousey.