No ‘Lucky Punch’ Likely at Reno, Says Jack London

New York Herald/June 28, 1910

Neither One of the Heavyweights is Expected to ‘Blow Up’

Combat May Run Beyond 30 Rounds

Calls Johnson a ‘Mouth Fighter’ Who Will Have No Chance for Repartee with Jeffries

Negro Won’t Rush Battle

Both Men are Now Well Settled in Training Camps and Hard at Work

A lot of moot points will be threshed out in the Reno arena a week from now, or may be threshed out if the fight is not a quick one. Three things only can make it a quick fight. First, a lucky punch; secondly, the blowing up of one or the other of the fighters; and thirdly, a display of the hypothetical yellow streak on the part of Johnson.

One is justified in forecasting that there will be little liability of a lucky punch being landed in the opening rounds. Both men, in their fighting history, have managed to avoid receiving lucky punches, while neither has made a record of delivering lucky punches. Also, as the fight progresses and the men lose their velvet vigor there is less and less chance of a lucky punch.

Again, viewed in the light of their fighting history, neither man has ever blown up. They have always displayed a condition that enabled them to last. It is argued that the high altitude will have a strong tendency to make them blow up. It certainly would if it were 14,000 feet, or even 7000 or 8000 feet, but 4000 feet will have little effect, especially when it is taken into consideration that both contestants will have had quite a number of days to accustom themselves to the lighter air. It must also be remembered that some pretty long fights have occurred in Nevada between sea-level dwellers, as for instance, the forty-two rounds between Nelson and Gans under the blistering Goldfield sun.

Now, concerning that yellow streak. Bob Armstrong has put himself on record as being certain that his brother in color will very speedily flaunt that pennon when he faces Jeff in the ring. Perhaps this is a case of projected psychology on Bob’s part. At any rate, he has no fact in Johnson’s career on which to base such a notion. The one thing to bear in mind is that this yellow streak is purely hypothetical. It may be that Johnson may lack in physical stamina and succumb to punishment. But this would be a very different thing from being yellow, from lying down in abject cowardice without receiving any punishment to speak of. A cat can have both barrels of a shotgun emptied into it and still struggle on, while a single sharp rap with a lead pencil can kill a rabbit; yet the rabbit cannot be called yellow because it so easily succumbs, and so with Johnson. It remains to be seen whether he is yellow and whether he possesses as extraordinary power for assimilating punches as he has for delivering them.

And so, by all the tokens, one is led to believe that the Reno fight will not be settled in short order. The chance is large that it will be a long fight, with ten or twelve rounds as the very minimum. The chance is even large that it may go to twenty rounds, and there are many expert fight dopers who would not be surprised to see it run to thirty rounds and even beyond.

It is contended when Jeff begins landing his awful rips that Johnson will speedily and genuinely, after very few rounds, go down for the count. In reply to this let it be pointed out that he has first of all to land those awful rips, and that he will have to land them on one of the cleverest defensive fighters the ring has ever known. Johnson is not going to rush the fight, and, no matter how much Jeff may want to rush it, Johnson will be able for a goodly time to rob those rushes of their effectiveness. It is contrary to Johnson’s famous loafing tactics, which, I do believe, are very little deliberate and largely temperamental. It is his way. He has always done it, and there is not one chance in a million that in this forthcoming fight he will revolutionize his whole method.

An opposite contention is that Jeff will be speedily undone because of the mental effect produced by the negro’s cleverness. It is urged that Jeff, after vainly trying to land a few of his rips, and after being rapped soundly in return, may lose his temper and rush wildly. This would certainly be peaches and cream for Johnson. The only thing against it is that Jeff has never shown real temper in the ring. In his own way he has always been a cool-headed fighter. One has only to remember how, in his battles with Corbett and Fitzsimmons, those men put it all over him round after round. Yet he kept cool and fought on and on, with but one thing in his mind, namely, the putting out of the man opposite him who temporarily was making a dub of him.

Another thing is that Johnson is a past master at mouth fighting when in the ring. In his battle with Tommy Burns, Johnson engaged in mouth fighting with Tommy, with Tommy’s seconds and with the whole Australian audience, and the honors of every exchange belonged to him. It must be added as well that not one vile word or harsh epithet fell from his lips. Everything he uttered was pure fun, genuine wit, keen-cutting and laughter-provoking. Because of this ability of Johnson’s it is argued that he may say things that will cause Jeff to lose his head and deliver the peaches and cream. In this connection all that has to be pointed out is that Jeff is a silent fighter. He has never indulged in verbal tilts in the ring, and, no matter how hard Johnson wanted to, he would find it impossible to engage in witty repartee with a man who won’t open his head.

Nevertheless, there will be seconds in Jeff’s corner and ringside outlookers who will venture remarks and who will have it put over them by the colored wit. Unless Johnson is quickly in a bad way at the hands of Jeff there will be more than one good sally and general laugh at the ringside.

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