100th anniversary of the ‘Fight of the Century’,
Jack Johnson verse Jim Jeffries is being honored this holiday weekend. This event marked more than a
historical event in the sport of boxing, but had a sociological impact on race
relations in America.
It was July 4t, 1910, that the ‘Fight of the
Century,’ took place. This event
was billed out as an event that would gain more than worldwide attention from the sports community because it banked on white America’s racial tendencies. It is the greatest fight in boxing history. It was in Reno, Nevada and played off existing racial anxiety that
infected our nation from the east to west coast. The racial tension required the U.S. military to
monitor the situation, but even they were unable to prevent 8 deaths from
happening. Sons of Mills
Lane, the famous referee in the sport of boxing, Tommy and Terry are organizing
a festival this weekend that will commemorate this unforgettable night in
sports history. The Reno event
will include a boxing event and a discussion on its impact on the African
American community at the time. “Our
whole lives we knew we wanted to be part of the commemoration of the 100th
anniversary of the Johnson-Jeffries fight,” said Terry Lane.
The festival is intended to become a reminder of how
infectious racism has been in our country and its pressing destruction in the modern world – the United States. It is a cool event for boxing or fight
fans in general; but there is some historical context that I would like to
- A law was created specifically for
Jack Johnson, called the Mann Act of 1913. It was a true violation of humanism – where he was convicted
for transporting a white woman across state lines for immoral purposes. Keep in mind, it was his wife. Johnson flaunted his wealth at a time
when he was not given equality outside of the ropes and openly dated and
married a white woman.
- Johnson actually skipped bail
after his sentencing. He went to
Montreal and then fled to France.
He lives 7 years un exile skipping around form Europe to South
America. He came back to the US in
1920 and actually surrendered to US federal agents. He served his sentence until 1921.
- There have been several attempts
to grant Johnson a presidential pardon for the Mann Act. A bill was submitted to George W. Bush
in 2008 to pardon Johnson. It
failed to pass through the Senate.
- There is another bill being
proposed currently for President Obama.
Believe it or not, a pardon resolution was authored by Sen. John McCain,
it passed through Congress last year and awaits Present Obama approval.
- Jack Johnson was the son of former
- He was a super cool fighter with
an intelligent style that demonstrated patience. He was not overly aggressive and did not display a wild
approach which was expected at the time of African American fighters -because
of the racial views that African men had animalistic qualities. Johnson slowly became more aggressive
towards the ending rounds. Because
he didn’t knock out his opponents’ early on with his superior skills and
lengthen the fight to feed his ego and knowing that he was actually in control
of his world inside the ring, I consider Johnson to be one of the more
brilliant fighters of all time.
- He actually married 3 white women
in his life, yet no children.
- Johnson was clearly considered the
best in the world in his day, but James Jeffries kept dodging him who was the
current white heavyweight champ.
Although Johnson had fought many white men, no one wanted to see a
heavyweight championship fight that risked the title being relinquished to a
black man. It wasn’t until 1908
that he finally won the world title against a Canadian. This win increased intense racial tensions that already
- Once Johnson won the title, fight
promoters set him up to fight in bouts against several “Great White
Hopes.” A marketing ploy that was a blatant injection of disease into
already racially weak America.
- Finally Jim Jeffries came out of
retirement in 1910 to fight Johnson with this statement, “I feel obligated to
the sporting public at least to make an effort to reclaim the heavyweight
championship for the white race…I should step into the ring again and
demonstrate that a white man is king of them all.” This statement is still hard for me to read, no matter how
many boxing history books I have read or documentaries I have seen on the Great
Jack Johnson’s life. The words of
Jeffries are simply so evil and undermined the concept of equality.
On July 4, 1910, Jack Johnson beat Jim Jeffries via TKO
after 15 rounds. He was 51-5-9 at
the time. Johnson retired from the
sport of boxing in 1938 with a record of 73-13-10.