James J Jeffries

The Fighting Boilermaker

World HeavyWeight Champion 1899-1904

Born in Carroll, Ohio USA on April 15 1875, he won 18 fights with 15 KO's lost 1 drawn 2, he weighed in at 206-227lbs and was heavyweight champion from 1899 to 1904, he had actually retired from the ring undefeated until public pressure (brought about by racism) convinced him to step into the ring one more time, although he earned a lot of money it was too cost him his place in the record books, it also tarnished his reputation.

 

With an ability to absorb punishment he would wear his opponents down until he landed the killer blow. Standing at over 6ft 2in his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a child he sught to supplement his income as a boilermaker with the income from prize fighting.

Jeffries had been a sparring partner for Gentleman Jim Corbett, he had learned to take punishment from Corbett and was developing a belief that he too could be champ. He had to bide his time but finally Fitzsimmons picked him to have a fight with believing that the lumbering Jeffries would be no match for him. On 9 June 1899 he stepped into the ring with Bob Fitzsimmons and made history beating Fitzsimmons in the 11th round.

 

Unlike the other recent champions Jeffries wasn't frightened to get back into the ring and risk his title, his first defence saw him outpoint Tom Sharkey, but his second fight was against his one time paymaster Gentleman Jim Corbett, Corbett was confident that he could put away his old sparring partner and win back his crown, again the fight was held at Coney Island on 11 May 1900 it was a 25 round contest, once again Corbett was too hand out a boxing lesson, Corbett had Jeffries chasing shadows, it looked like he was going to win comfortable on points but in the 23 round Corbett made one mistake and that's all it took Jeffiies caught Corbett with a big left hook and retained his title, however the fight did help Corbett who was hailed for the masterclass in boxing he had given that day.

 

Bob Fitzsimmons Again

 

After the Corbett fight James gave Bob Fitzsimmons a rematch the year was 1902 and Fitzsimmons had come to the ring on the back of some notable victories. Once more Bob threw everything he had at the champ, this time he was doing some damage but James just shrugged and knocked Bob out in the eighth round.

 

James defended his title five more times after this and at 30 years of age decided that it was time to retire to his farm in California. He reasoned that he had beated all the best fighters and that was it. Now it was true that he had beaten the best white fighters but he refused to step into the ring with a black man.

 

Five years later when Jack Johnson became the first Black Heavyweight Champion of the world Jeffries was talked into stepping back into the ring, some say it was the huge purse being put up that convinced him while others say that it was the deafening clamour from White America that wanted Jeffries to put this uppity black man in his place, I guess we will never know but either way it made no difference because it was a total mis match, the fight took place in Reno on 4 July 1910 Johnson destroyed Jeffries over 14 rounds before smashing him too the canvas in the 15th.