History | Jul 04 2019

On This Day: Jack Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries in the Fight of the Century

Jack Johnson thrashed James J Jeffries in one of sports truly defining moments

FROM the moment author Jack London called upon former undefeated heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries to come out of retirement and “wipe that golden smile” from the face of Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight champion, their meeting at Reno, Nevada on July 4, 1910 was destined to become: “not merely a boxing contest between two champions, but a gigantic trial of strength between the white and coloured races.”

Details of the “the greatest ring contest in history” were cabled from ringside directly to London and, as editor J. Murray explained: “As fast as the messages arrived, they were handled and passed on to the compositors seated at 12 linotype machines, who were busy tapping out the details as fast as they received them.”

Over a three-day period copies of Boxing – as this paper was then known – containing news on the big fight were printed at the rate of 15,000 an hour, yet still struggled to cope with demand, such was the overwhelming interest.