Jim Rome Discusses “Level Of Respect” With Terence Crawford
With so much happening in the world of boxing these waning days of 2019, it’s easy to lose track of a man like Terence Crawford. There’s Ruiz-Joshua 2 right around the corner, after all. Plus, there’s Wilder-Ortiz 2 going down just next week, and even the odd matchup of Daniel Jacobs and Julio Chavez Jr just before Christmas. What’s more, Crawford is a soft spoken man. Some call him sullen, though that might be an overstatement. He can be mean in the ring, sure, but I found him respectful and cool to share a few words with on a call. Still, no one will confuse the Omaha native for a bombastic type. There’s no Tyson Fury antics here, no Deontay Wilder proclamations, no Adrien Broner stunts. There’s just the man and his body of work.
That body of work is impressive, though, so impressive that former world champion turned broadcaster Andre Ward has declared the 35-0 Crawford the best boxer on the planet. Yes, even better than the likes of Canelo Alvarez and Vasyl Lomachenko. While preparing for a December 14th bout against the 20-0-1 Egidijus Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden, the former undisputed junior welterweight champ turned WBO welterweight titlist took time to speak with sportscaster Jim Rome on Rome’s eponymous show.
“Andre Ward…declared you to be the best pound for pound fighter in the world until further notice,” said Rome. “How much does it mean to earn that level of respect from somebody like Ward?” Crawford, who was speaking over the phone, rather than from the set, was quick to express his gratitude. “Oh man,” said Crawford, “it’s a good thing coming from a fighter of his status, considering he was the pound for pound number one fighter in the world at one point in time. That just tells a lot.” Rome then brought up the fact that Carwford will be facing Kavaliauskas at Madison Square Garden, where countless greats have plied their trade. “It’s electrifying,” said Crawford, “being that you think about all the great fighters that fought in the same arena as you and made history at the Garden and me being in the prime of my career and doing the same as those greats have done in the primes of their careers. It’s just a good feeling.”
The Crawford-Kavaliauskas fight will air live on ESPN. It will be Crawford’s fourth fight at the famed Garden, having already bested Amir Khan, Felix Diaz, and Hank Lundy there previously.
Jim Jacobs Talks About World Champion Wilfred “El Radar” Benitez
By: Ken Hissner
In 1981 this writer wasn’t writing but was a big fan of boxing. I knew legendary trainer Cus D’Amato was working with Jim Jacobs. Jacobs was a former AAU Handball Champion who had the largest boxing film collection along with the largest comic book collection. He was also partners at the time with Billy Cayton. Jacobs at the time was managing world champion Wilfred “El Radar” Benitez.
When I arrived at Jacobs Park Avenue office I suggested West Philly’s Tyrell Biggs for D’Amato to train. Jacobs said “we have a heavyweight named Mike Tyson!” I replied “I never heard of him.” Tyson was 15 at the time. As it turned out Biggs was the first Olympic Games Super Heavyweight Gold Medalist in 1984 and Tyson lost back to back bouts to Henry Tillman in the heavyweight division at the Olympic trials. Of course Tyson crushed Biggs in the professionals.
Jacobs told me how the Puerto Rican people loved and respected him for not putting Benitez in with Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns in a money fight but instead had him fight and win the super welterweight title defeating Maurice Hope, an obviously, much lesser opponent. That was in May of 1981.
Jacobs would ask me why I kept looking at his bank vault saying “what did you think you were going to do come up here and watch old fight films?” I answered “I hoped to.” He laughed and said he had them moved to a real bank vault. He then took me to lunch and just before we got into the restaurant his wife Lorraine came along. He introduced me to her and she went on her way as we went to lunch. A class act of a person. D’Amato would later tell me “he could have been a good boxer.”
A year later I met D’Amato and then active boxer Kevin Rooney. I was instrumental in getting Rooney a rematch with Terry Crawley who he lost to in his last fight by suffering a bad cut. Cus said “I want to see how far back Kevin has gone.” They fought to a draw the second time around at the CYC in Scranton, PA, in a Bob Connelly Promotion.
Getting back to Benitez; he was the youngest boxer to ever win a world title at the age of 17, 5 months and 23 days. He defeated Antonio “Kid Pambele” Cervantes, 74-9-3, of VZ, a fighter I still believe Duran passed over going from lightweight to welterweight. It was a split decision for the WBA World Junior Welterweight title at the Hiram Bithorn Stadium in Puerto Rico. Benitez was 25-0 at the time and followed in the footsteps of two older brothers who boxed. Their father Gregorio trained all three sons.
After a pair of successful title defenses Benitez went to New York’s Madison Square Garden in a non-title bout that ended in a majority draw with Harold Weston. Benitez was stripped of his title due to not fulfilling a rematch with Cervantes due to a car accident.
Benitez won his second world title in January of 1979 defeating Carlos Palomino for his WBC Welterweight title. In his first defense he defeated Weston in a rematch. Then in November he lost to “Sugar” Ray Leonard by a technical stoppage. He had a bad cut on his forehead.
Benitez would win his next three fights and then knockout Hope in the twelfth round to become the first boxer in forty-three years to win three world titles in three different divisions. In his two successful defenses he defeated Carlos Santos, 23-0, and Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran, 74-2, both in Las Vegas, NV.
In 1984 Benitez finally met up with Hearns in December of 1982 losing a majority decision at the Superdome in New Orleans, LA. In 1983 his father would take over as his manager. Benitez was never the same after the Hearns fight. He won two of his next three fights and in getting knocked down by former champion Davey Moore he broke his ankle. In his next eleven fights he won seven of them before retiring in September of 1990 at the age of thirty-two, suffering brain damage. His condition was called post-dramatic encephalitis. His elderly mother took care of him until her death and his sister Yvonne. Their brother Gregorio, Jr. also suffered from brain damage from boxing.
Benitez made over seven million dollars in his career but that was all gone. He was inducted into the IBHOF with a final record of 53-8-1 with 31 stoppages.
More Boxing History
One Hundred and Eight Years Ago Jeffries and Johnson Fought
By: Ken Hissner
On the 4th of July in 1910 James J Jeffries was “forced” by his pastor during a sermon saying “we have a coward among us” and started a mistaking comeback. He had to shed 100 pounds and 6 years of inactivity. Who knows prime time to prime time what the then unbeaten Jeffries, 19-0-2, would have done to Johnson, 52-5-10.
Jeffries had drawn with Joe Choynski, 37-6-3, who had knocked out Jack Johnson in 1901. Jeffries was known as “The Boilmaker” and was from Carroll, OH, living later in Burbank, CA. Johnson was known as “The Galveston Giant” being from Galveston, TX.
The bout was scheduled for 45 rounds but ended in the fifteenth. Tex Rickard was the referee and promoter. President Taft declined to be the referee. There were 16,528 in attendance.
The “White Hope” era started with Johnson. Jeffries had beaten the first black to claim being a champion in Peter Jackson, 51-3-13, in 1898, knocking him out in 3 rounds.
Johnson would later be knocked out by big Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba, in 1915 in a fight many say he “fixed” as he lay on the canvas with his arms shielding his eyes from the sun.
More Boxing History
Yes, Floyd Mayweather Held Back Against Conor McGregor — And What Else Is New?
By Ivan G. Goldman
I disagree with Jim Lampley’s conclusion that Floyd Mayweather threw some rounds against Conor McGregor last August so he could set up a rematch and another easy payday. The scenario is plausible but almost certainly wrong.
It’s always a little delicious to wonder whether a complex, much bigger story lurks behind what seems so obvious.
That’s why plenty of otherwise sane folks agree with talented crackpot filmmaker Oliver Stone that Richard Nixon, LBJ, the FBI, the CIA, the Pentagon, and oh yeah, the Mafia, all worked together to assassinate JFK and blame it on a hapless Lee Oswald. But enough with science fiction.
One reason Lampley’s idea is actually worth considering is that Floyd calls himself “Money” for good reason. He wouldn’t be terribly opposed to scooping up another few hundred million dollars in exchange for another easy fight. There’s no doubt that in his last outing he wasted rounds just watching his opponent without launching much of an offense.
Yet there’s one big problem with Lampley’s view of events. Doing just enough to win is the way Floyd fights.
The only thing atypical about this one was that he actually went in for the kill and stopped his dog-tired opponent in the 10th. In fact, Mayweather poured on more pressure against McGregor than he usually does.
Cage-fighter McGregor had never fought a pro boxing match in his life and was used to the more abbreviated MMA form. So waiting for him to tire himself out before finishing him off arguably made pretty good sense.
Although most world-class fighters will go for an early knockout if they sense it’s to be had, Mayweather just doesn’t operate that way. If an opponent behaves himself, Floyd tends to make a silent deal that promises not too much violence in exchange for a civilized ending. There’s no reason to be shocked when that’s how the match turns out.
Eleven years ago the totally outclassed Carlos Baldomir was just too slow and heavy-footed to get anything accomplished, yet Mayweather, in complete control, was content to make every round look the same. None was thrilling. Fans not only booed but in many cases walked out early. When’s the last time you saw fans leaving a big pay-per-view championship fight before the final bell? It wasn’t the sport’s finest moment.
Six months later when Floyd defeated Oscar De La Hoya by split decision it was pretty much a repeat of his performance against Baldomir even though the diminished Oscar was approximately three times the fighter Baldomir was.
If you put up the cash to see him take on Andre Berto two years ago in what was advertised as Floyd’s farewell fight, you saw him follow the same plan there too. Sharp, stinging but not overwhelming shots and not much in the way of combinations. All combined with breathtakingly good defense. Robert Guerrero? Canelo Alvarez? Same story.
In all these instances Mayweather promised fireworks and ended up delivering snooze city. Against Manny Pacquiao he followed the formula against basically a one-armed fighter. It was another one of those fights of a century that wasn’t even the best fight that weekend.
Let me point out here that Floyd is in fact a tough, truly gifted boxer, one of the best ever. The man puts in his work in the gym and it shows. Come fight time, he handles whatever’s in front of him. And yes, he has on occasion been in some truly sensational contests. Diego Corrales, Miguel Cotto, and his first outings against Jose Luis Castillo and Marcos Maidana all come to mind. But because few opponents could test him, he generally switched to cruise control as he compiled his record of 50-0, 28 KOs.
So when Lampley or anyone else notes that Mayweather failed to do all he could, my question is this: What’s new?
Ivan G. Goldman’s 5th novel The Debtor Class (Permanent Press, 2015) is a ‘gripping …triumphant read,’ says Publishers Weekly. A future cult classic with ‘howlingly funny dialogue,’ says Booklist. Available wherever fine books are sold. Goldman is a New York Times best-selling author.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Lampley, Pacquiao, Horn, Lara, Trout, Farmer, and more…
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of October 3rd to October 10th; covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
HBO Sports Extends Agreement with Veteran Broadcaster Jim Lampley
HBO Sports has entered into a new multi-year agreement with acclaimed broadcaster Jim Lampley, who serves as the primary voice for its HBO Boxing franchise. Lampley will continue to serve on multiple HBO Boxing platforms, including the host and blow-by-blow voice for “World Championship Boxing®,” “HBO Boxing After Dark®” and HBO Pay-Per-View.® He also will continue to host the boxing studio program “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley.” The agreement was announced today by Peter Nelson, executive vice president, HBO Sports.
“For nearly three decades, Jim has been the most prominent television voice in boxing,” said Nelson. “His work is universally recognized as the standard in the sport and we are thrilled to know he will continue in this high visibility role for years to come. Jim’s high journalistic standards, historical knowledge of the sport and enthusiasm for sharing the backstories of the fighters who enter the ring enriches the broadcast experience for the HBO audience.”
A four-time Sports Emmy® Award winner, Lampley was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY on June 14, 2015.
Starting with his first HBO presentation, the “World Championship Boxing” fight between Mike Tyson and Tony Tubbs from Tokyo on March 20, 1988, Lampley has been at the helm for many of the most dramatic moments in HBO Boxing history.
“I’m very lucky to have spent nearly three decades working in HBO’s unique culture, and grateful for the chance to keep doing it,” said Lampley. “It’s always been my natural home.”
Lampley returns to HBO on Saturday, Oct. 21 when he calls the “HBO Boxing After Dark” tripleheader from Verona, NY at 10:05 p.m. (ET/PT). The next edition of “The Fight Game With Jim Lampley” premieres Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT).
Pacquiao’s Possible Retirement has Arum’s Support
Top Rank’s Bob Arum recently spoke to Steve Kim of the Undisputed Boxing Network and stated that he will one hundred percent support Pacquiao’s plan to retire.
Pacquiao was last seen in the ring when he lost a shocking defeat to Australia’s Jeff Horn in July. Pacquiao hasn’t made an official decision to retire yet, but Horn already has a title fight lined up and Pacquiao’s political duties make it difficult to schedule a fight inside the ring.
Arum also stated he would be happy if Pacquiao decided to retire. He mentioned Andre Ward’s recent retirement when he stated, “So I think Andre did a really smart thing in retiring and, if Manny decides to retire- which I don’t kow- but if he does, I’ll be applauding it.
Tevin Farmer to Receive Two Briscoe Awards Sunday
Streaking junior lightweight Tevin Farmer, 25-4-1, 5 KOs, will go home with two awards at Sunday’s 10th Annual Briscoe Awards on Sunday, October 15, 2017. The annual event will be held at Xfinity Live! in Philadelphia.
Farmer, currently riding an 18-bout winning streak, is looking toward a December crack at the vacant IBF 130-pound world title. However, before that milestone comes, he will stop by the Briscoe Awards on Sunday, to receive recognition for the “2016 Performance of the Year” and as the “2016 Prospect of the Year”.
Farmer was brilliant in his fight with Ivan Redkach last year, and his virtuoso performance will be honored as the best among all other Philly fighters for 2016. This is the second straight year that Farmer has won the award.
Overall, Farmer posted four victories in 2016, pushing himself up the rankings and in position for his upcoming title opportunity. That four-fight run earned him the nod as Philly’s best prospect. If he can wrest the title in December, he’ll surely be in the running for the “2017 Philly Fighter of the Year Award”.
ABOUT THE BRISCOE AWARDS ON OCTOBER 15 FROM 1-4 PM
The Briscoe Awards are named in honor of legendary Philly middleweight Bennie Briscoe and the trophies given away – the Briscoe Statue and the Briscoe Medal – all bear the deceased icon’s likeness. The event brings together the local boxing community, including the award winners, their families, past and present boxers, fight fans, other boxing people, and general sports fans.
This is the tenth year for the Briscoe Awards, which are presented by Philly Boxing History Inc., a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, dedicated to preserving and celebrating Philadelphia’s great boxing legacy. Past winners at the Briscoe Awards include Bernard Hopkins, Danny Garcia, Steve Cunningham, and many others.
The event returns to Xfinity Live! Philadelphia, the central hub of Philly’s sports stadiums, located at 1100 Pattison Avenue in South Philadelphia. Admission is $5, and tickets can be purchased at BriscoeAwards.com or by calling 609-377-6413. Everyone is welcome.
Jeff Horn to Face Gary Corcoran in December
Australian Jeff “The Hornet” Horn (17-0-1) is expected to take on Londoner Gary “Hellraiser” Corcoran (17-1) in the maiden defence of his WBO world welterweight title.
Promoter Bob Arum, who co-promotes Horn, has suggested that the WBO world title fight will take place at the SunCorp Stadium in Brisbane on Friday 15th December, televised live on ESPN.
Brisbane’s Horn, 29, won the WBO belt last July with a highly controversial decision against eight-weight world champion Manny Pacquiao.
“Pac Man” was expected to agree to a November rematch but pulled out due to his Senatorial duties in the Philippines taking priority.
Top Rank founder, Arum, is already looking ahead to that potentially lucrative return, “If Horn beats this kid, we could do the Pacquiao rematch in the first part of 2018 or go right to a fight with [Terence] Crawford. Pacquiao might not fight again. Who knows?”
Corcoran, 26, has been described as a fringe contender, whose biggest fight came in July 2016, when he suffered his only career defeat in a British super-welterweight title showdown with bitter rival Liam Williams.
Managed by Frank Warren and trained by Frank Greaves at the Peacock Gym in London, he dropped down a division after that sole loss and recently edged past unbeaten Prizefighter winner Larry Ekundayo by split decision on July 8 to claim the vacant WBO Inter-Continental welterweight strap.
Winning that belt placed him at no.10 in the WBO world rankings, seven spots below stable-mate Bradley Skeete, also signed with Warren, who many anticipated winning the shot at the world title.
Horn’s selection for his first defence has been criticised by some, but his pick of a top-10 ranked opponent with the same number of wins should make for a good contest, even though “The Hornet” has one eye on a bigger fight in 2018 with either Crawford or Pacquiao.
Corcoran beat off WBO #3 Bradley Skeete, #8 Luciano Veron and #10 Ray Robinson to land the world title shot down under.
Arum favoured Corcoran’s style over other possible contenders, “Corcoran at least will bring the fight to Horn,” he said.
“We are clearing a location in Brisbane and then we can go ahead with the fight, which will now take place in December instead of November, which is what we were originally planning,” Arum said the fight probably will take place on Friday 15th December in Brisbane.
“We are waiting for the guys in Australia to finalise the plans for the stadium in the next day or two. They’re finishing that up and then we’ll send out the contracts, but everything is done with (Corcoran promoter) Frank (Warren) for the fight,” said Arum, adding that the Queensland government is heavily involved in bankrolling the fight, as it was when Horn faced Pacquiao in one of the biggest bouts in Australian history.
Horn won a debatable decision against Pacquiao on July 2 before a crowd of 51,000 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in the first main event of Top Rank’s deal with ESPN.
Pacquiao, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, nearly knocked out the 29-year-old home fighter in the ninth-round but couldn’t put him away.
Most spectators thought Pacquiao, who had been bloodied by multiple cuts from accidental head-butts, was the clear winner, but he ended up losing his 147-pound world title by a unanimous decision on scores of 117-111, 115-113 and 115-113.
Pacquiao had the right to an immediate rematch and said he planned to fight Horn again in November, but changed his mind because of a busy schedule with his day job in the Philippine Senate.
He may return for the rematch in 2018 providing that “The Hornet” gets past the “Hellraiser” first.
Lara, Hurd, Gausha, Charlo, Lubin, and Trout Share their Thoughts on Fighting in New York
Six of the top 154-pound world champions and contenders will look to put on a show for the fans in New York as they prepare to enter the ring for a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING tripleheader Saturday, October 14 from Barclays Center, the home of BROOKLYN BOXING®.
The Premier Boxing Champions event is headlined by Erislandy “The American Dream” Lara defending against undefeated Terrell Gausha. Coverage on SHOWTIME begins at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT and features hard-hitting unbeaten champion Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo taking on top contender Erickson “Hammer” Lubin and “Swift” Jarrett Hurd making his first title defense against tough former world champion Austin “No Doubt” Trout.
The undefeated 2012 U.S. Olympian Gausha is the only fighter on the card who will be making his Barclays Center debut. However, the Cleveland-native has fought once in New York before and looks forward to a return, this time on its’ biggest stage.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to fight at Barclays Center and add my name to the list of great fighters who have competed there,” said Gausha. “There’s something special about fighting in New York. The energy from the fans is really unique. I think I’m the perfect guy to come in and handle that pressure and have it elevate my game.”
Gausha faces WBA Champion Erislandy Lara, who won a decision against Austin Trout in their 2013 title showdown at Barclays Center. This time, Lara looks forward to taking advantage of his elevated role as the main event of this show.
“My memories of fighting at Barclays Center were incredible,” said Lara. “I put on one of my best performances against a great champion in Austin Trout and I’m looking to be even better on October 14. To be headlining in New York is incredibly special and important to me. There’s no better time to be at my very best than in front of these fans.”
Both WBC Champion Jermell Charlo and WBC No. 1 contender Erickson Lubin delivered sensational knockouts to make their Barclays Center debuts in 2017. Charlo made his first world title defense in April by stopping Charles Hatley and wants nothing else but to take care of business when he returns to the squared circle at Barclays Center.
“I’m honored to be fighting in Brooklyn,” said Charlo. “This is another exciting fight card like the last time I was here. I did what I had to do in April. I let my opponent run his mouth and then I took care of him. I’m going to let that happen again. I can’t wait for another opportunity to grow my fan base here in New York.”
Lubin has the strongest connection to the city of the six fighters, as he has made his training camp in nearby Hackensack, N.J., and is frequently able to visit his mother, who is living in Queens. He delivered a one-punch knockout of Jorge Cota at Barclays Center in March on CBS to earn this title opportunity on October 14.
“My last fight was my first ever in New York as a pro or amateur, and it was a memorable one,” said Lubin. “I left the crowd satisfied and entertained them with my squat and hit him with an overhand to knock him out. New York is like my second home and I love it here.
“I love visiting my mom in Queens and eating all the Haitian food she cooks, but I have to wait until after the fight to enjoy it. I’ve really embraced training up here though. We didn’t want to break camp at all. So we came up here for the press conference and were able to get in a workout that day. I’ll be a thousand percent ready once fight week rolls around.”
For IBF Champion Jarrett Hurd and former champion Austin Trout, New York has been a place for career-defining moments. For Hurd, his March 2016 stoppage of Mexican Olympian Carlos Molina at Barclays Center buoyed him towards his world title shot and eventually championship triumph.
“When I beat an Olympian like Carlos Molina, that was definitely when I first thought that I was a fighter who could win a world title and it proved I could compete against anybody,” said Hurd. “I think I picked up some fans in New York between that and beating the ‘Brooklyn Rocky’ Frank Galarza. New York always shows me love, so I feel it’s my duty to give them something to cheer about.
“I’m excited to be in New York because it’s very close to my home in Maryland too. I’m organizing buses for my fans to come up and watch me so I’m expecting another great atmosphere on fight night.”
Already a world champion, Trout had the opportunity to face future Hall of Famer Miguel Cotto in 2012 in New York, and he was able to rise to the occasion that the stage demanded. He dominated Cotto over 12 rounds in his first start in New York and although he faltered in his return to New York against Lara, he remains fond of fighting in The Big Apple.
“New York is always a great place to be,” said Trout. “I had the biggest moment of my career in New York, but I want to make up for my last fight at Barclays Center, so fans can definitely expect fireworks on October 14. I’m coming to fight.
“My mother was born and raised in New York so I always look forward to the opportunity to compete here. My favorite thing to do is go to a Chinese restaurant on Avenue X after the fight with my family and I’m hoping to do that as a two-time world champion after this fight.”
Tickets to the event are on sale now and start at $50 (not including applicable fees). Tickets can be purchased at ticketmaster.com, barclayscenter.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Tickets can also be purchased at the American Express Box Office at Barclays Center. Group discounts are available by calling 844-BKLYN-GP.
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Johnson-Jeffries
Don’t Call It A Comeback: Johnson-Jeffries
By: Sean Crose
Jack Johnson was not only the first African American heavyweight champion of the world, he was also quite the character. A freewheeling womanizer, Johnson committed the – at the time – unforgiveable social sin of sleeping with white women. If that wasn’t bad enough for some Americans of the era, Johnson also liked to flaunt his wealth and fame. Stories still abound. My favorite? The time Johnson got pulled over for speeding. He offered to pay more for his violation than was required. The officer pointed this out to Johnson, but the champion replied that all was well – he’d be speeding again on the way home.
Needless to say, Johnson rankled some notable people, most especially the author Jack London. While London wrote some great stuff, he was not at all happy with Johnson being champion. Sure enough, London called for Jim Jeffries, the former heavyweight champ, to come out of retirement in order to beat the current champion. The thing about Jeffries is that he didn’t seem too eager to fight Johnson. Undefeated as a pro, the man simply appeared to be content in retirement. Still, there was no doubt a lot of pressure for him to face the current champ. There was undoubtedly a lot of money to be made facing Johnson, as well.
And so, Jeffries agreed to the bout. It’s understandable why it may have looked like an exciting match on paper for reasons that weren’t race related. For one thing, Jeffries had been some kind of fighter in his day. A former sparring partner of James J Corbett, Jeffries had gone on to best Gentleman Jim in the ring twice. He had also bested Corbett’s former conqueror, Bob Fitzimmons, twice as well. Word is that when he heard Fitzimmons might wear loaded gloves into one of their matches, Jeffries said that was fine with him – he was going to beat the tar out of Fitzimmons anyway. And indeed, he won the fight.
That was Jeffries….a man who was essentially fearless. Like John L Sullivan before him, however, Jeffries wouldn’t fight an African American for the heavyweight title. Oh, he’d fight black opponents – just not for the biggest prize in sports. One can’t help but get the impression that perhaps Jeffries was bulldozed by the opinion setters of his time. He’d fight African Americans, but not for the championship. He’d long been retired, but then came out and battled Johnson. Whether intentionally or not, the man looks like he may have had a tendency to head in the direction of the wind.
If that were in fact the case, the wind led him in the wrong direction when he signed on to face Johnson on the fourth of July, 1910. The bout was to be held in Reno, Nevada and it was to be an enormous deal. Papers from New York to San Francisco wrote about the affair, detailing the fighters in training and speculating on how the fight itself might go. The promoter, Tex Rickard, the eventual force behind Madison Square Garden, was a force to be reckoned with himself. Not that the bout would need more momentum than it already had.
Jeffries, to be sure, had his work cut out for him. The man hadn’t had a fight in around half a decade. What’s more, he reportedly had ballooned in weight. A good sized heavyweight in his time, Jeffries had apparently tipped the scales at or above the three hundred pound mark since retiring. It was a grueling training camp, no doubt, but Jeffries was able to shed significant weight. What of those missing years, though? Would ring rust be the story of the day?
Perhaps ring rust could, in fact, be blamed for what happened in the Johnson-Jeffries fight, but there’s just as strong an argument that the end result would have been the same. For Johnson dominated Jeffries. Dominated him. The man seems to have never stood a chance, much like Tommy Burns, the former champion who lost his crown to Johnson, never stood a chance. Jim Corbett, Jeffries old mentor and nemesis, was in Jeffries corner for the fight. It was arguable Corbett’s verbal battle with Johnson throughout the bout was more engaging than the bout itself.
For the once indomitable Jeffries couldn’t even land clean on his man. Once again, Jack Johnson made it look easy in a highly publicized battle. Things finally came to an end in the fifteenth round, when Jeffries crumbled on several occasions at the gloves of his clear better and the bout was stopped. People have referred to Jeffries as a great white hope. If that’s indeed how he was seen that July day over a hundred years ago, that hope was dashed in less than an hour’s worth of combat. Johnson was champ and there was to be no denying it.
An interesting take in all this is the behavior of Sullivan, the former champion, who witnessed the bout live and in person. Ironically enough for the man who had arguably created the color line, Sullivan was quick to let the world know that the day belonged to Johnson, that he was an excellent fighter and that he had won fair and square. This does not appear to have been an act of Sullivan hitching his wagon to a star. For there were clearly those who would have appreciated it if he had diminished Johnson’s performance.
Sullivan, though, simply called like he saw it, and was honorable enough to offer praise to where it was deserved. Not everyone would share Sullivan’s belated even handedness, however. London’s writing regarding the bout comes across as both disappointed and resigned – though he too made it clear Johnson was the better of the two fighters that day. Johnson may not have changed hearts by beating Jeffries (not that he had ever wanted to), but he seems to have changed some minds. The days of the Texan’s success being coughed up to a fluke were over. Jack Johnson was there to stay.