International Boxing Hall of Fame
James J. Jeffries
|James J. Jeffries|
|Real name||James Jackson Jeffries|
|Birth date||April 15, 1875(1875-04-15)|
|Birth place||Carroll, Ohio, U.S.|
|Death date||March 3, 1953 (aged 77)|
|Death place||Burbank, California, U.S.|
|Wins by KO||14|
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 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 225 pounds in his prime. Despite his bulk, Jeffries was a trained sprinter who could run 100 yards in just over ten seconds, and could purportedly high jump over six feet.
In 1891, his father moved his family from their Ohio farm to Los Angeles, California where the powerfully built and athletic teenager boxed as an amateur until age 20 when, he started fighting professionally. On his way to the title, 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 Finnegan. During his reign as champion, Jeffries defended his title seven times, including two knockout victories over former champion 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 of 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 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, 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 proving that a white man is better than a Negro." A furor was created at the fight, as a ringside band played, "All coons look alike to me" and promoters encouraged an all-white crowd to chant "Kill the nigger".
Jeffries' belief in his own white superiority was destroyed, as he was almost knocked out in the 15th round. The fight was stopped in the 15th round, as Jeffries' corner would not allow him to get knocked out by Johnson. Johnson, who was not a big puncher by heavyweight championship standards, proved a stronger adversary. This was not the same Jeffries who had reigned as champion. Jeffries was unable to bull Johnson around, as he had every other ring opponent he faced. Jeffries, who had been known for his stamina, faded under the midday Reno heat. Aside from a few flashes of the Jeffries of old, the results of the fight were never in doubt.
Jeffries made no excuses at the time. However, later in his biography he implied that he had been drugged prior to meeting Johnson. Johnson, in his own biography, named Jeffries as the greatest heavyweight of all time. After the bout Jeffries acknowledged, however, that not even in his prime could he have defeated Johnson
In his later years, Jeffries trained boxers and worked as a fight promoter. He promoted many fights out of a structure known as "Jeffries Barn." Jeffries Barn is now part of Knott's Berry Farm, a Southern California amusement park. On his passing in 1953, he was interred in the Inglewood Park Cemetery in Inglewood, California.
James J. Jeffries was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.
Heavyweight boxing champion