James J. Jeffries

James J. Jeffries

James J. Jeffries, born April 15, 1875 in Carroll was a World heavyweight Boxing Champion.

His greatest assets were his enormous strength and stamina. Using a technique taught to him by his trainer, former welterweight and middleweight champion Tommy Ryan, Jeffries fought out of a crouch with his left arm extended forward. He was able to absorb tremendous punishment while wearing his opponents down. A natural left-hander, he possessed one-punch knockout power in his left hook.

Jeffries stood 6 ft tall and weighed 225 pounds (102 kg) in his prime. Though he would not be thought of as a particularly big Heavyweight by modern standards, he was considered a giant in his time. He could run 100 yards (91 m) in just over ten seconds, and could purportedly high jump over 6 feet (180 cm).

In 1891, his father moved his family from their Ohio farm to Los Angeles, California. James worked for a while as a boilermaker before going into boxing., and this became one of his professional nicknames in later life.

As a powerfully built and athletic teenager, Jeffries boxed as an amateur until age 20, when he started fighting professionally. On his way to the title in 1898, Jeffries knocked out Peter Jackson, the great black boxer whom John L. Sullivan had refused to fight, in three rounds. On June 9, 1899 in Brooklyn, New York he defeated Bob Fitzsimmons to win the Heavyweight championship of the world. That August, he embarked on a tour of Europe putting on exhibition fights for the fans. Jeffries was involved in several motion pictures recreating portions of his championship fights. Filmed portions of his other bouts and of some of his exhibition matches survive to this day.

Jeffries has the record for the quickest KO in a heavyweight title fight ever, which was 55 seconds against Jack Finnegan. During his reign as champion, Jeffries defended his title seven times, including two knockout victories over former champion James J. Corbett. He won a 25 round decision over Tom Sharkey. Jeffries broke the ribs of three opponents in title fights: Jim Corbett, Gus Ruhlin, and Tom Sharkey. Jeffries retired undefeated in May 1905. He served as a referee for the next few years, including the bout in which Marvin Hart defeated Jack Root to stake a claim at Jeffries’ vacated title.

An example of Jeffries’ ability to absorb punishment and recover from a severe battering to win a bout came in his rematch for the title with Fitzsimmons, who is regarded as one of the hardest punchers in boxing history. The rematch with Jeffries occurred on July 25, 1902 in San Francisco. To train for the bout Jeffries’ daily training included a 14-mile (23 km) run, 2 hours of skipping rope, medicine ball training, 20 minutes sparring on the heavy bag, and at least 12 rounds of sparring in the ring. He also trained in wrestling.

For nearly eight rounds Fitzsimmons subjected Jeffries to a vicious battering. Jeffries suffered a broken nose, both his cheeks were cut to the bone, and gashes were opened over both eyes. It appeared that the fight would have to be stopped, as blood freely flowed into Jeffries’ eyes. Then in the eighth round, Jeffries lashed out with a terrific right to the stomach, followed by a left hook to the jaw which knocked Fitzsimmons unconscious.

Sam Langford, the great light-heavyweight fighter, advertised in newspapers his willingness to fight any man in the world, except Jim Jeffries.

Six years after retiring, Jeffries made a comeback on July 4, 1910 at Reno, Nevada. He fought champion Jack Johnson, who had staked his claim to the heavyweight championship by defeating Tommy Burns at Rushcutters Bay in Australia in 1908.

The fight, which was promoted and refereed by legendary fight promoter Tex Rickard, and became known as “The Fight Of The Century“, soon became a symbolic battleground of the races. The media, eager for a “Great White Hope”, found a champion for their racism in Jeffries. He said, “I am going into this fight for the sole purpose of winning the title for whites.”

Jack Johnson won however by vicious TKO after the 15th round when Jeffries’ corner threw in the towel. Jeffries made no excuses for his humiliating defeat.