On This Day: James J Jeffries emerges from almost certain defeat to knock out Bob Fitzsimmons in their rematch

Matt Christie tells the story of a sequel that proved the quality of both James J Jeffries and Bob Fitzsimmons on July 25 1902

1. BEFORE challenging world heavyweight champion, Bob Fitzsimmons, in 1899, James J Jeffries placed a $5,000 bet against himself. He had no intention of losing but should the worst happen he would need the money. If he won, his stake was cash he could afford to lose. Jeffries hammered ol’ Bob into 11th round submission, but the fight was competitive enough to warrant a return.

2. IT was a fight both parties wanted to happen sooner but, not unlike today, there were accusations of the other running scared as they squabbled over the contracts. It was eventually set for July 25 1902, in San Francisco, with 39-year-old Fitzsimmons giving away 13 years to his fresher rival. Some even suggested that Bob was as old as 47, but the balding boxer insisted he had been born in Cornwall, in 1862.

3. FITZSIMMONS had spent a long time in training, longer in fact than Jeffries. But Jeffries, who had defended five times, and won a non-title fight, since he beat Fitzsimmons, had trained to the “notch of perfection” according to trainer Billy Delanay.

4. THERE were rumours that Fitzsimmons, also a former world middleweight champion, was so determined to win he was going to load his gloves with Plaster of Paris. “Let him,” James J Jeffries replied to the gossip, “I’ll flatten him anyway.”

5. JEFFRIES, broad with thick muscles, outweighed the comparatively spindly Fitzsimmons by more than 40lbs. He was expected to repeat his success against the old man, but it was “Ruby” who started like the younger. Boxing beautifully, Fitzsimmons handed out painful lessons to the champion during the early rounds.

James J Jeffries
Broad and thickly muscled, Jeffries was a formidable specimen

6. BY round four, Jeffries was obviously agitated with the punishment coming his way. Fitzsimmons’ left jab was accurate, and the blasts from his right mitt suddenly opened the champion’s skin. Jeffries was a mess and he was visibly anxious at the end of the round as he listened to his trainer.

7. GOING into the eighth round (scheduled for 20) Fitzsimmons looked on course for spectacular revenge. Jeffries was in a torrid state with cuts on both cheeks and over each eye. But according the New York Times, Fitzsimmons suddenly stepped in to talk to his battered opponent and was knocked out by a left hook. The fight was over.

8. THE finish was so sudden and unexpected, ringsiders cried ‘fix’ as Fitzsimmons was counted out. But the loser dismissed the claims saying: “The fight was won fairly and to the best man belongs the laurels.”

9. JEFFRIES was also full of respect, saying to Fitzsimmons: “You’re the most dangerous man alive.” He had a point. Thought to be finished, Bob dropped down to light-heavyweight and won his third world title – becoming the first man in boxing history to achieve such a feat.

10. THE champion would defend his title twice more before retiring undefeated in 1904. He was regarded as the greatest heavyweight of all-time for a while, in fact right up until the point he was hauled out of retirement, virtually kicking and screaming, to be beaten up by Jack Johnson under infamous circumstances six years later.

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