Exactly one hundred years ago on this July 4, the whole world was watching Reno, Nevada, in perhaps one of the most important events in American Boxing History. 20-thousand boxing fans from around the world poured into Reno to witness the “Battle of the Century”. (That was 5-thousand more people than Reno’s population at the time!) It was a match up between Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson, the first African American to hold the World Heavyweight Championship. Johnson was an intimidating boxer and was considered a pariah amongst white America because of his refusal to live his life according to the bigoted social norms prevalent during 1910.
Jeffries, the former champion who had retired undefeated three years earlier, never having agreed to face Johnson – had come out of retirement as the “Great White Hope” to take back the heavyweight championship for the white race.
A fight anticipated like no other, before or since, the Johnson-Jeffries match is still cited as one of the most important sporting events of all time.
The fight, which was promoted and refereed by legendary boxing promoter Tex Rickard, was originally scheduled to take place in San Francisco; however, one year before the fight was scheduled to take place, California Governor James Gillette withdrew his support for the fight, making Rickard scramble to find another venue to host the event.
At the time, Nevada was the state most friendly to boxing, and Reno was conveniently located on the railroad, allowing for thousands of fans to be brought in easily from both coasts. A ring, with seating for 20,000, was built in downtown Reno for the event.
Johnson defeated Jeffries in 15 rounds to retain his heavyweight crown on the custom-made boxing ring in downtown Reno. The 1910 victory sparked race riots across the nation, and changed boxing forever. Until Johnson took the heavyweight crown, boxing had never let a black boxer compete for the heavyweight title.
And now, exactly 100 years later, the city of Reno will honor the legacy of this most famous of fights with a three-day celebration, July 2-4, 2010, featuring boxing celebrities, family members of those involved in the original fight, as well as live professional boxing at the Grand Sierra Resort, which will be aired by Fox Sports Net.
The list of professional boxers includes Reno native and super middleweight Joey Gilbert (19-2, 15 KOs), former Jr. flyweight champion Ulises Solís (30-2, 21 KOs) and undefeated up-and-coming middleweight Brandon “Flawless” Gonzales (12-0, 9 Kos).
“We’re very excited that family members representing all four of the principle parties involved in making the original fight happen – Jack Johnson, Jim Jeffries, promoter Tex Rickard and acting Governor Denver Dickerson – will be able to attend the 100-year anniversary celebration,” said Terry Lane of Let’s Get It On Promotions, which is helping organize the celebration.
Visitors to the 100-year anniversary celebration will have the opportunity to tour the original fight site as well as the locations of both Johnson’s and Jeffries’ pre-fight training camps.
Dates, times and more details about these and other events planned for the Johnson-Jeffries 100-year anniversary celebration can be found online, along with more history of the original fight and information about lodging packages available for the weekend.