100 years ago today: “The Great White Hope” Fight between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries
A century ago today, the Fight of the Century was fought.
Today is the centennial of the fight between the first black heavyweight champion of the world, Jack Johnson, and the former heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries, who retired undefeated. The fight took place on July 4, 1910 in front of 20,000 people, at a
ring built just for the occasion in downtown Reno,
Jeffries came out of retirement to fight Johnson, saying, “I feel
obligated to the sporting public at least to make an effort to reclaim
the heavyweight championship for the white race… I should step
into the ring again and demonstrate that a white man is king of them
all.” Jeffries had not fought in six years and had to lose weight to get back
to his championship fighting weight. Johnson proved stronger and more nimble than Jeffries. In
the 15th round, after Jeffries had been knocked down twice for the first
time in his career, his people called it quits to prevent Johnson from
knocking him out.
The “Fight of the Century” earned Johnson $65,000 and silenced the
critics, who had belittled Johnson’s previous victory over Tommy Burns
as “empty,” claiming that Burns was a false champion since Jeffries had
If you’d like to know more about Jack Johnson, we are proud to present The Original Johnson. You can start from the beginning, or read the latest installment in our serialization online… and if you’d like to jump ahead to the Fight of the Century, Sports Illustrated has an excerpt available in this week’s edition of their iPad app.