The Latymer School History Magazine - page 46

Jeffries sags to the canvas in
the 12th round
sweltering summer heat
Jeffries proved unable to
impose his will on the
younger champion and
Johnson dominated the
fight. By the 15th round, after
Jeffries had been knocked
down twice for the first time
in his career and bleeding
heavily from the mouth and
nose, his corner threw in the
towel to end the fight and
prevent the old champion
from having a knockout on
his record. Johnson later
remarked he realised the
fight was over in the 4th
round when he landed an
uppercut and saw the look
on Jeffries. ‘I knew what that
look meant. The old ship was
sinking.’ Afterwards, Jeffries
was humble in defeat ‘I could
never have whipped
Johnson at my best,’ he said.
‘I couldn't have hit him. No, I
couldn't have reached him in
1,000 years. Old Smoke was
just too quick for me’ he
added in the language of the
day.
The Johnson victory
triggered race riots that
evening which was the
Fourth of July, across the
United States, with twenty
two recorded deaths.
Johnson's victory over
Jeffries had ended white
America’s dream of finding a
"great white hope" to defeat
him. Many whites felt
humiliated by the result.
Black Americans, in contrast
were jubilant, and celebrated
Johnson's win as a victory for
black America and racial
advancement. The black
poet William Waring Cuney
wrote of the black reaction to
the fight in his poem "My
Lord, What a Morning."
Around the country, black
Americans held spontaneous
parades and gathered in
prayer meetings. The
Chicago Tribune described
Johnson as 'the greatest
coloured man who ever
lived.'
Significantly once he
became champion, Johnson
refused to fight any of the
outstanding black boxers
who had been his rivals such
as Joe Jeanette and Sam
Langford, because he was
convinced there was little
money to be made from a
fight between two black
fighters. While saluting
Johnson's achievements it is
difficult to view him as an
early champion of black civil
rights. His main interest was
always promoting the
interests of Jack Johnson.
Even more significantly, from
the time of the Jess Willard
fight in 1915, until 1937
when the black Joe Louis
beat James Braddock, ‘The
Cinderella Man’ no black
boxer fought for the
championship. Once again a
generation of fine black
heavyweights, such as Harry
Wills, had to be content with
fighting each other for very
small purses while the big
money fights were held
between white boxers.****
Despite this Johnson
remains a revered and
hugely influential figure in
sporting and black history:
he was a man who lived life
on his own terms.*****
On June 10, 1946, Johnson
died in a car crash near the
town of Raleigh in North
Carolina after angrily leaving
a diner that refused to serve
him because of his race
.
He
was 68 years old at the time
of his death and still fighting
exhibition fights. He is buried
at Graceland Cemetery in
Chicago, his gravestone
bearing only the name
"Johnson."*******
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