1910-07-04 Jack Johnson w rtd 15 (45) James J. Jeffries, The Amphitheatre, Reno, Nevada, USA - WORLD

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1910-07-04 Jack Johnson w rtd 15 (45) James J. Jeffries, The Amphitheatre, Reno, Nevada, USA - WORLD. Referee: Tex Rickard. The former champion was coaxed out of retirement on the grounds that he was expected to win for the white race and put Johnson (208) firmly in his place. Unfortunately for his supporters, after six years out of the ring and at the age of 35 the weary Jeffries (227) was just not up to the task. Systematically beaten, at the end of the 11th round Jeffries’ corner wanted to retire him but he would not hear of it. With Johnson taunting Jeffries while hitting him at will it could not last, and in the 15th the latter was dropped three times, the final occasion seeing the towel thrown in as the count reached ‘nine’.

Following what had been an unedifying slaughter, from that moment on many people involved in boxing, whether it be administering, organising or reporting, felt that it was imperative that America found a ‘white’ champion to supplant the arrogant Johnson. With men such as the famous author and boxing fan, Jack London, beating the drum, thus began in earnest the period which came to be known as ‘The Era of the Great White Hope’, with tournaments springing up around the country to find a successor to Johnson. Men who were either already claiming the ‘white’ title or were likely candidates included Luther McCarty, Al Palzer, Fireman Jim Flynn, Jim Barry, Frank Moran, Carl Morris, Arthur Pelkey, Gunboat Smith, Tom Kennedy, Jess Willard, Al Kaufman, and Bombardier Billy Wells. The Fort Wayne Indiana Sentinel even reported that a ten-round no-decision contest between Palzer and Kennedy at the Royal AC, Clermont Rink, Brooklyn, NYC, New York on 29 November 1911, was billed for the ‘white’ title. The fight went the distance, with Kennedy credited by the press as being the winner.

On 6 September 1910, at the Armory AA, Boston, Massachusetts, Sam Langford outpointed Joe Jeannette over 15 rounds, and in doing so was generally recognised as the ‘black’ champion. Langford then went on to successfully defend against Jeff Clark (w rsc 2 at the Businessmens’ AC Auditorium, Joplin, Missouri on 10 November 1910), Morris Harris (w co 2 at the Armory AA, Boston on 6 December 1910), Jeannette (w pts 12 at the Armory AA, Boston on 10 January 1911), Fred Atwater (nd-w rsc 3 at the State Armory, Utica, New York on 16 January), Sam McVea (drew 20 at The Circus, Paris, France on 1 April 1911), Ralph Calloway (nd-w rsc 4 at The Alhambra, Syracuse, New York on 30 May) and Jeannette (nd-drew 10 at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York on 5 September 1911) before losing to McVea (l pts 20 at The Stadium, Sydney, Australia on 26 December 1911). However, Langford soon regained the ‘black’ title, outpointing McVea over 20 rounds at The Stadium, Sydney on 8 April 1912.

Earlier, a title fight proposed for 5 August 1911 between Johnson and PO Curran in Belfast, Ireland was called off after the former refused to box in Ireland. That was followed by another championship fight set for 2 October 1911 at the Empress Hall, Earls Court, London, England between Johnson and Wells being called off just days before. This came about after the Home Secretary and a London County Council representative intervened, having taken into account protests by an anti-boxing lobby. The official objection, despite lawyers pointing out the legality of boxing, was against a white man meeting a black man for money.