James J. Jeffries vs. Tom Sharkey (2nd meeting)

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Jim Jeffries (facing the camera) vs. Tom Sharkey.
Tom Sharkey (facing the camera) vs. Jim Jeffries.

1899-11-03 : James J. Jeffries 215 lbs beat Tom Sharkey 183 lbs by PTS in round 25 of 25

  • Location: Coney Island A.C., Brooklyn, New York, USA
  • Referee: George Siler

The New York Times, Nov. 3, 1899:
James J. Jeffries of Los Angeles, Cal., who wrested the heavyweight championship of the world from "Bob" Fitzsimmons of Australia at the Coney Island Athletic Club on June 9, successfully defended his title tonight in a twenty-five-round bout for the championship of the world with "Tom" Sharkey of Ireland. The battle was probably the fiercest that the American fight-going public ever witnessed, for it was between men both of whom are of gigantic physique, both game to the core and masters at the game of boxing.

The battle was a notable one, for the reason that for the first time since John L. Sullivan reigned supreme the title was contested by two oldtime fighters, whose stock in trade is brawn and muscle. Not that tonight's battle was devoid of the element that boxing instructors define as the science of self-defense, but it was essentially a "slugging match," in which each of the principals made strenuous efforts to put his opponent out of the fight.

That it went to the limit of twenty-five rounds was evidence of the wonderful condition and vitality of both men, for during the hour and forty minutes, blows hard enough to have felled an ox were given frequently. Both men were badly punished-Sharkey, showing a cut ear and a badly cut eye, while Jeffries was pounded on the neck with Sharkey's vicious left hand until the flesh there was as raw as a piece of beef. When the cheers that greeted the announcement that Jeffries had earned the decision of Referee Siler subsided, three enthusiastic cheers were added for the sturdy ex-sailor, who had taken manfully such a terrible beating from an opponent who had height, reach, and weight on his side.

Sharkey did most of the leading during the early part of the contest, but the Californian had the sailor almost out at the finish. In the last round, after the men had been fighting about two minutes, Jeffries's glove became entangled in the sailor's arm and was pulled off. Sharkey kept away for about twenty seconds and then sailed into his antagonist while the referee was making frantic endeavors to readjust the glove. Jeffries parried his blows, and closed with him, in which position they remained until the gong sounded.

They entered the ring at 19:15 o'clock, and for more than two hours they banged and battered each other in a fashion that was highly approved by the 19,000 spectators who witnessed the bout. It was a battle of giants, and two more magnificent specimens of physical manhood it would be difficult to find. Tom Sharkey was the first of the principal pair to enter the ring. He was attired in green trunks, with the Stars and Stripes as a belt, the whole hidden from view for a moment by a shabby brown bath robe. Jeffries looked determined as he advanced to the centre of the ring to shake hands with the sailor. He towered far above his opponent, despite his crouching position. Marquis of Queensberry rules governed the contest. [1]

The Breckenridge Bulletin, Nov. 4, 1899:
The big fight between Jeffries and Tom Sharkey was pulled off as per schedule, and although the sailor put up the fight of his life, the big Californian was too much for him in the science of boxing. Both men were in perfect trim and each entered the ring with that confidence that confidence that implies victory.

From the first round to the twenty-fifth the sailor put up a battle that plainly demonstrated that he was a "pug" of no mean ability, and the greater science, alone, of his opponent is all that won him the big fight on points.

The club house was filled to its utmost capacity, and with few exceptions the decision was considered fair and equitable. [2]

Film of the Fight

The arena on the day of the fight.

Following the great commercial success enjoyed by the Veriscope Company of America in filming the world heavyweight championship bout between champion James J. Corbett and challenger Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company secured the rights to film the title match between Fitzsimmons’ conqueror, James J. Jeffries, and challenger Tom Sharkey in 1899 at the Coney Island Athletic Club in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company employed a unique 70mm film system, which could only be exhibited by its own projectors. The quality of the image achieved has been called "extraordinary, and with none of the tiresome flicker that sadly drives some people away from the cinematograph shows."

Once a decision was made not to remove the roof of the Coney Island Athletic Club, it was necessary to film under artificial lights. The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company employed eleven electricians to operate 400 specially built arc lights, which generated colossal heat. The heat was so intense that the scalps of the fighters were singed, and each suffered from great weight loss as the fight progressed.

Despite the fact that The American Mutoscope and Biograph Company secured an exclusive agreement with the promoters to film the fight, there were some renegade operators — among them Albert E. Smith of the Veriscope Company of America and James H. White of the Edison Manufacturing Company — who smuggled cameras into the crowd, eluding the attention of security hired specifically to prevent such piracy. Unfortunately, Vitagraph’s film is the only surviving footage of the fight. It has been called "a wretched record of only a small portion of the fight." [3]

Film of the Jeffries-Sharkey fight on YouTube