Crowning Fight of Ring’s History, Jack London Says

New York Herald/July 2, 1910

Present Generation Will Never See Another Combat Like That of Next Monday

Jeffries and Johnson Alone Among Men

There is no Third of Their Type at Present in the Human Race

Six Heavyweights There

Besides These One-Time Champions, Best Known Figures in Sportsdom Will Be in the Arena

I am glad I’m here. There was never anything like this Reno at the present moment, with the great impending event only three days away. I should hate like poison if some Croesus should offer to pay me to stay away from the fight, telling me to fix my own price. Surely, there is a money price that would keep me away from the fight, but the attempt to calculate the amount would be very fatiguing. In lieu of the Croesus, all that I am afraid of now is that I’ll be run over by a Reno electric car and miss the fight. However, when I consider the Reno street car I take heart of courage and think I shall have a fair chance.

Seriously, no man who loves the fighting game, has the price and is within striking distance of Reno should miss the fight

Viewed from every possible angle, there has never been anything like it in the history of the ring, and there is no chance for anything like it to occur in the future—at least within the lifetime of those alive today. Even if no more stringent legislation is passed against the game, even if every state threw itself wide open to prize-fighting, still there can be nothing like this fight for a generation to come.

In the first place, never have two men like these ever faced each other in the ring. In all the contests of its long history, no two comparable giants have ever locked in combat. And in their own generation there is no third man who approaches them. It has taken not only a generation, but two races to produce them.

Johnson is a dusky wonder. For his size there has never been so clever a defensive boxer. Nor has there ever been a cooler-headed boxer. This coolness of his is one of his most remarkable attributes. So cool is he that his fighting at times seems lackadaisical, while at the same time it never has the seeming of brutality. In action there is very little hint of the fighting beast about him. There are hints of it, true, when sudden fierce moments come upon him and his face and force become tigerish. But it is not genuine. He simulates it. He is a play-actor deliberately playing a part. He is not mastered by this tigerishness. He is manufacturing it. Back in that cool brain of his he decides he needs this display of tigerishness in his business, and so he displays it.

Another of his remarkable attributes is an instinct for a blow that is positive genius. Locked in a clinch, body relaxed, his mind elsewhere, his gaze fixed on someone off to the side and outside the ring, himself talking to that outsider, say, about the disposition of the contents of a certain suitcase—at such a moment his opponent starts a blow for his jaw, and he, without seeing or gauging or thinking, by some automatic divination, knows all about that blow, its force, sweep and direction. He merely rolls his head or pulls it back just far enough and not a fraction of an inch farther, and all the while, without a break, keeps up his conversation about the contents of that suitcase. A wonderful fighter, indeed, is Johnson, utterly unlike any other fighter, a type by himself.

And against this man will stand Jeffries, an even more remarkable man, a grizzly giant, huge and rugged, of a type we are prone to believe was more common in other days when the world was young. And, despite his hugeness and ruggedness, he is so well proportioned from heel to head that the combination is startling. His is a perfection of symmetry that is the fruit of the highest organic development. And, if science tells aright, we are justified in believing that no such symmetry obtained among those giants of the younger world. The human in those days was in the process of becoming. It was muscular efficiency minus beauty of form and line. This big modern Jim Jeffries has both.

So far as the boxing game is concerned the contest next Monday is well named “the fight of the century.” These two men, in a class by themselves so far as other fighters go, yet so radically different from each other as to have practically no salient characteristics in common, will fight a battle in a setting like unto nothing the ring has ever displayed. For the first time, two undefeated heavy-weight champions battle, and each goes up against the most dangerous and formidable man he has ever tackled. And they will fight in the presence of four other and earlier heavyweight champions. Again are all the records broken, for next Monday, in the ring and the arena, will be six men who have held the honor of being world champion heavy-weights. Think of it—Sullivan, Corbett, Fitzsimmons, Burns, Jeffries and Johnson.

From the standpoint of the sporting world, there has never been so amazing a gathering. Almost every champion and ex-champion of every class will be at the ringside. There will be the famous trainers and conditioners of athletes, men like Muldoon and Murphy. There will be the athletes themselves, victors and leaders in all the games. And as for the noted and notorious sport followers, they will all be here. Every figure of sportdom, from Billy Jordan, the well beloved veteran announcer, down to the latest and youngest fight promoter, they will all be on the ground.

And they will watch these two strangely diverse heavy-weights battle, beside whom all other heavies look like middle-weights. Johnson, the fighting boxer, will go up against Jeffries, the boxing fighter. Both are cool, both are experienced, both are terrible. It will not be a short fight. It will be a great fight.

And so I say again to all you men who love the game, have the price, and are within striking distance of Reno—come. It is the fight of fights, the crowning fight of the whole ring, and perhaps the last great fight that will ever be held. Also, to you lovers of the game, who desire to see in flesh and blood the celebrities of the game, I say come. It would take years of traveling and fight following to see all the figures of sportdom that can be seen here in Reno in one day, and no admission charged. I, for one, hope for a toothless old age, when nothing is left but to mumble reminiscences, and in that time one of my greatest joys will be to maunder over all the wonderful details of the great fight at Reno—“yes, sir; in 1910, at Reno. I was there and sat by the ringside.”

The works of Jack London and other American journalists are now freely available at The Archive of American Journalism.