Jeffries Never Wasted Energy, Says Jack London

New York Herald/July 3, 1910

Author Analyzes Condition of White Fighter from Standpoint of Histology

Not Only Can Come Back, But is Here

Training is Now Finished and Reno is in a Fever of Expectancy over Tomorrow’s Combat

It seems to me that in this discussion about Jeffries coming back, several little points have been ignored. For instance, there is a little science called histology, which has a whole lot of bearing on Jeff’s case. Men are intricate and complicated fabrics woven and budded out of cells. All the tissues, nerves, muscles and organs are composed of enormously interrelated colonies of cells. The muscle cells store up energy and release it into action. This is at work, and this work breaks down the cells, burns them up, destroys them, and new cells take their place.

These cells have a way of reproducing themselves, and according to the number of times they can reproduce themselves is the life of the individual or the average life of a species. Thus, parrots possess such cell reproductiveness that their tissues go on renewing for 100 years. There are certain flies whose cell reproductiveness is so small that they live for an hour or two.

Each creature, be it bug, beast or bird, is born with so many potential cell generations. When these generations are used up the creature dies. Its organism disintegrates, because of the simple fact that it can no longer renew itself. There are no more new cells out of which to manufacture new tissue. The tissue breaks down and there is a funeral. It is the same with men. Each man, at birth, comes into the world with so many potential cell generations. Barring accidents and excesses, one man will break down and die of senile old age at 65. Another man will live to 90 before the same thing happens. The difference between the two is the difference in their cell potentialities when they were born.

Each man has only so many cell generations, which means that each man has only so much work in him. Now, a man can use up quickly or slowly these cell generations that are the life of him. The more quickly he uses them the shorter the time he lives. A hard manual worker wears out quicker than an easy office worker. The manual worker will look stronger, healthier, ruddier, but he won’t live as long. This is no place to consider exceptions. We must deal with averages. The life insurance companies, who are past masters in handling averages, will tell you that the average life of a laborer is shorter than the average life of an office worker. And now the argument leads up to the fighting game and gets near the old Jeffries. Every man is born with just so much work in him, which he may expend quickly or slowly. Each fighter is born with so many fights in him. When he has made these fights he is finished. He may try to fight more, to come back, but he is doomed to defeat. His spirit is willing, but his flesh is weak. His flesh is weak because it can no longer reproduce itself with the old vim. The cell generations come more slowly and in dwindling numbers. The man is fading, passing, moving toward the final cessation.

Prize-fighting is a terrific destroyer of cells. A man in a hard fight will lose pounds and pounds of weight and he will shorten his life correspondingly—both his entire life and his fighting life. Let us consider two prize-fighters. Each is born with a potential cell reproductiveness that will permit him twenty fights. In short, he is born with twenty fights in him. When they are fought, he is finished. There is no come back. There can be no come back. Now one of these two men is lucky. He goes against opponents whom he puts away easily. He has no hard, long, grueling fights wherein he burns himself up to the uttermost pitch of human endurance. The second man is unfortunate. His opponents are more formidable. Fight after fight is long, hard and grueling. As a result he uses up his cell generations at a terrific rate, and he is a has been, out of the ring, for a long time before the first man follows him.

What has happened to this man? The fight fans say he has lost his stamina. This is an abstraction and a confusion. For there is a stamina that is residual to the brain and that is called gameness. This particular man can be as game as ever, and yet be unable to come back. Then what has happened? He has lost the stamina of his flesh. He has consumed the vitality of his tissues. When he exercises and breaks down cells, they break down more quickly. Also new cells are built up more slowly, and they come in decreasing numbers. He can’t go the twenty fast rounds, or the ten fast rounds, he used so easily to go.

And now we come to Jeff. He was born with so many cell generations in him, with so many fights in him—how many only time can tell. What has he done with those cell generations? What have his fights been, and how many are they? Right here the investigation shows its straight aim at the problem whether or not Jeff can come back.

How has Jeff dealt with those cell generations of his? How often has he fought? How long has he fought? How hard has he fought? His record is a short and easy one. In 1896 he knocked out Dan Lang in San Francisco. In 1904 he knocked out Jack Munroe in San Francisco. Both were two-round fights. His fight career has thus been only eight years.

But when it is considered that Jack Munroe was a joke, and that the fight of 1903 with Corbett was an easy one of only ten rounds, his fighting career may be said to have ended in 1902, when he knocked out Fitzsimmons for a second time. This means, to all practical purposes, that he was fighting for only six years.

All told, he has fought twenty battles. In the light of cell consumption, all analyses of these twenty battlers are worth while. Then we may know better how many of the fights he was born with have been used up. One of the fights was a single round. Four were two-round affairs. Two went to three rounds. There were two fights of four rounds, one of five rounds, one of eight rounds and one of nine rounds. Already twelve of the twenty fights have been disposed of, and they cannot be called long, hard and grueling fights. They never strained Jeff, never unduly consumed his cells. There remain eight fights. Two of these were of ten rounds and one of eleven rounds. Nothing exciting there in the way of wearing out his tissues. And finally, he fought three twenty-round battles, one of twenty-three rounds and one of twenty-five rounds. None of these fights was long and hard and grueling. None of his opponents ever compelled him to fight at topmost pitch. Never was he in a bad way, fighting for time, and life, and the gong. Never once has he been knocked off his feet. He has never been seriously hurt. He has never been really jazzed. His endurance can scarcely be said to have been tested. He has never burned up tissue at that prodigious rate that practically all other pugilists, at one time or other, have been compelled to burn theirs up. What he is capable of no one knows. He has never been put to the test. He has never had the chance to put up a soul-breaking, heart-breaking, body-breaking, cell-destroying battle.

The point of all which is that of the fights Jeff was born with, very few at all have been used. He still has them. They are there, alive in his muscles, now, along with the goodly cell generations which he never consumed. Can Jeff come back? It would be remarkable if he could not. He brings back with him what he took away with him, and that is pretty near everything he was born with. And don’t forget that he has not tried to come back in a hurry. Beginning lightly, and steadily increasing his training, he has been coming back for a heroic year and a half. Can Jeff come back? Pardon me. He is here. Can he whip Johnson? This is another story.

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