Heavyweight tome knocks out book judges

Unforgivable Blackness, the biography of Jack Johnson, the world’s first black heavyweight champion, was today declared the winner of the 2006 William Hill Sports Book of the Year.

Author Geoffrey Ward won critical acclaim for his perceptive and moving account of Johnson’s life, creating a vivid portrayal of this complex character. Based on new material and with a historian’s eye for detail, his depiction of Johnson captured the essence of quality sports writing.

Ward was named the winner at an awards ceremony at Waterstone’s Piccadilly. Ward’s previous books include The Civil War and Jazz.

The judges for the award was twice Sports Journalist of the Year, Paul Hayward, broadcaster and writer John Inverdale, broadcaster Danny Kelly, Alyson Rudd and the only sports journalist ever to win the Journalist of the Year award, Hugh McIlvanney.

Chairman was the founder of the Sportspages bookshop, John Gaustad.

Graham Sharpe, Media Relations Director at William Hill. said: “The winner had to fight off a very stern challenge from an extremely strong shortlist and is a thoroughly worthy addition to the Award’s roll of honour. The book is a great tribute to a man who changed the sporting world forever a century ago.”

First staged in 1989, founded by the Sportspages book shop, the William Hill Sports Book of the Year Award is the world’s longest established and richest sporting literary prize. Not only does the winner receive the £18,000 cash prize, but also the opportunity for untold wealth in the guise of a free £2,000 bet and a designer bound copy of the book, created by David Sellars.

Previous winners :
2005 : My Father and other Working Football Class Heroes, Gary Imlach
2004 : Basil D’Oliveira, Peter Oborne
2003 : Broken Dreams, Tom Bower
2002 : In Black & White, Donald McRae
2001 : Seabiscuit – The True Story Of 3 Men & A Race Horse, Laura Hillenbrand
2000 : It’s Not About the Bike – My Journey To Life & Back, Lance Armstrong
1999 : A Social History of English Cricket, Derek Birley
1998 : Angry White Pyjamas, Robert Twigger
1997 : A Lot Of Hard Yakka, Simon Hughes
1996 : Dark Trade, Donald McRae
1995 : A Good Walk Spoiled, John Feinstein
1994 : Football Against The Enemy, Simon Kuper
1993 : Endless Winter, Stephen Jones
1992 : Fever Pitch, Nick Hornby
1991 : Muhammad Ali, Thomas Hauser
1990 : Rough Ride, Paul Kimmage
1989 : True Blue, Dan Topolski

View the 2006 shortlist