The original “Fight of the Century” between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries occurred on July 4, 1910. While the boxers measured up in size, the importance of the fight was unmeasurable. Johnson, the world’s first black heavyweight champion, battled the former champion Jeffries who was charged by a racist contingency. The fight is regarded as the most culturally significant sporting event in modern American history and it took place at the corner of 4th and Toano in Reno.
A last second change brought the bout to Reno. The town was ideal; Prizefighting was legal in Reno and several railroads and roadways met in the town’s center. Nevada Governor Denver Dickerson demanded an assurance that the fight be fair, not fixed. Scheduled for 45 rounds, the fight drew 20,000 spectators.
Johnson dominated the fight. By the 15th round, after Jeffries had been knocked down twice, his corner threw in the towel. Johnson’s victory spurred unrest across the Nation, a precursor to the Civil Rights Movement. This was a significant moment in the cultural growth of the United States.
Some have paralleled the importance of Johnson’s triumph to Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a busy Montgomery bus. This bout in Reno was so monumental there are hundreds of books, memorabilia, and museum exhibits displayed throughout the Nation.
It’s amazing that this historic moment in American history happened in Reno. What do you think about this?
NOTE: The thoughts and opinions expressed by Paul Klein in this blog are personal and not that of the City of Reno.