Fighter With the Quality of the ‘Abysmal Brute’ Will Win the Great Battle of July 4 at Reno, Says Jack London

New York Herald/June 27, 1910

Endurance is Capacity to Assimilate Punishment and to Keep on Administering It

Finds Parallel in Britt-Nelson Fight.

‘Quality of Muscle’ is the Thing That Counts, Says Novelist in Commenting on Outlook for Battle

Will the Black Fail?

Question Whether He Can Make Jeffries Put Up the ‘Fight of His Life’

In considering the relative merits of the two big men who are to try conclusions a week from to-day, it must be remembered that neither man has ever been compelled to endure to the uttermost. Barring a lucky punch in the opening rounds, endurance will play a large part in determining which man is the better. And by endurance is meant the capacity not only to assimilate punishment, but the capacity to administer punishment and to keep on administering more and more punishment.

This question of endurance is worthy of analysis. Men are made differently. Some have but a slight life-grip in their bodies and muscles. Others are apparently impossible to kill. One man can walk seventy-five miles in a day, and walk a second seventy-five the next day. Another man will collapse at the end of a twenty-mile jaunt and be a lame and groaning wreck for a week to come. Yet both these men will be organically sound, of the same size and weight, and their chance of passing a life insurance examination would be equal. Then what makes the difference? In the fibers of the one resides a primitive vigor and capacity for exertion that the other lacks. Their muscles may look alike, may be of the same size and density, yet the protoplasmic, energy-generating quality is different.

Take a professional weight lifter. He may tip the scales at 160 pounds. He can elevate a 200-pound dumbbell with one hand. Another man, tipping the scales at the same mark, cannot elevate 100 pounds. He is as sound and healthy as the other man, yet he cannot do it. He can faithfully train and exercise for five years, or ten, and yet he will be unable to elevate 200 pounds with one hand. Nor has will anything to do with it. He may have ten times more will power than the other, but will power can’t lift the 200 pounds for him. He lacks in the quality of his muscle; that is all.

This protoplasmic vigor may be our brute heritage, but whatever it is it is a good thing to have whether one is a prize fighter or not. It was in describing the fight at Colma with Jimmy Britt that I pointed out the possession of this muscular quality by Battling Nelson. I called him an abysmal brute, and he never forgave me. Yet I meant it as a compliment.

Of two boxers, equal to look upon in every way, equally well trained, with equal organs, equal gameness and equal will power, one will reach his limit in five or ten rounds; the other, fighting just as severely, will be able to last thirty or forty rounds, or even fifty. It was this peculiar quality that Battling Nelson possessed to such an extreme degree. Jimmy Britt did not possess it. He could outspar and outpunch Nelson, but he could not keep on sparring and punching as long as Nelson could. At the Colma fight he was not knocked out by Nelson. He was merely exhausted. He had reached his limit. He could not move any more. He lost the fight because he knocked himself out by his own exertions.

Corbett lacked this abysmal brutishness to any considerable degree. Choynski had far more of it. So did Sharkey and Fitzsimmons. But when it comes to Jeffries and Johnson there is no line on them at all. They have never been called upon to demonstrate it. Neither knows that he possesses it. Neither has ever engaged in a long, hard, grueling fight, round after round, striking and being struck, consuming energy at an enormous rate and still going on fighting furiously, on and on, endlessly.

Of the two men Jeffries has thought more about himself, studied himself more, and he has hinted that he believes he possesses it. He has called it reserve power, a sort of second wind that does not depend on the lungs, but resides in the muscles themselves. But seeing and believing are different, and he has yet to show it to the world. Nevertheless, I venture a shrewd guess that he has it. Also, he may be called upon to show it on the Fourth of July.

Nor does the world know that Johnson possesses this abysmal brutishness or lacks it. Johnson does not know himself. He has never had a chance to find out. And in this connection it is not a question of yellow streak or will power.

No matter to what superlative degree Johnson possesses this protoplasmic vigor, it will go for naught if he proves yellow. On the other hand, he has never shown any hints of yellowness, and, it must be added, he has never been in a fight that forced a test of this particular quality.

There is one quality in which Johnson has the advantage over Jeffries, and that is in relaxation. Jeffries, while cool and keen, is always more tense. The tensing of a muscle consumes energy. Boxing calls upon the use of all the muscles in the body and five minutes of unnecessary tension out of thirty minutes of fighting of all these muscles means a serious consumption of energy.

This is one of Johnson’s great assets. He has the art of relaxing perfectly. His fiercest rallies are always followed by intervals of repose. In a clinch, except when he is punishing, he invariably rests. It is because of this relaxing so continually that he is notorious with the sporting public as a loafing fighter. And he seems to relax in mind as well as in body. He seems to stop thinking and perceiving even, and in a clinch he goes into a sort of resting trance. His very flat-footed way of fighting takes off from the tension of the legs. It is far less tiring to shuffle about flat-footedly than to spring and poise with the muscles tensed from the hips down.

One thing is certain. A week from to-day Johnson will be compelled to put up the fight of his life. He has never in his career faced so formidable an antagonist. With Jeffries it remains to be seen whether Johnson can make him put up the fight of his life.

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