22 February 2021 | springfieldrental
Historically, the Most Important Fight Of The Century Filmed
Major racial overtones surrounded the Jack Johnson/ James Jeffries boxing match before and after the fight in Reno, July 4, 1910. Jeffries, an ex-heavyweight champion who hadn't fought in six years, was enticed with a huge paycheck to come out of retirement, with an arranged match against African-American boxer Johnson, the reigning champion. Jeffries, 35, never lost a fight, but was totally out of shape before accepting the challenge.
Labeled the "Great White Hope," Jeffries had to lose 110 of his overweight 330 pounds before the fight. Johnson was in superb shape, but this match, on the basis of Jeffries' untarnished record, was labeled the "Fight of the Century."
Nine movie cameras were set up to capture the scheduled 45-round action. In sweltering 110 degree Nevada summer temperatures, the fight went 15 rounds before Jeffries was declared a technical knock out loser to the superior Jackson. When word went out of the match's results (this was before radio or TV, yet through instantaneous telegraph cables, the news hit the public quickly), African Americans raced onto the streets dancing with jubilation. Whites, humiliated, attacked those celebrating, igniting nationwide riots.
Compounding all the chaos, when the movie of the Jackson win was subsequently scheduled to be shown throughout the U.S., the potential of additional race riots was evident. Such threats of death and destruction from the playing the film was so great that the two-hour movie was banned throughout the South. So jarring were the riots on that early-July period Congress took action to prohibit boxing films to be shown across state lines, beginning in 1912. Congressional action on the ban lasted nearly 30 years, until 1940 when it was permissible to view out-of-state boxing films.