Jack Johnson vs. James J. Jeffries (1910)

The boxing newsreel: you can’t browse old black-and-white footage for a minute without running into one. Turn-of-the-century prizefighting predated the fifteen round limit and, largely, the padded glove mandate. Bouts turned savage, like the April 6, 1893 Andy Bowen/Jack Burke contest, a seven-hour ordeal spanning 111 rounds, during which Burke broke every bone in each hand. Bowen would be killed in a subsequent match with Kid Lavigne.

The 1910 Jack Johnson/James Jeffries newsreel is fascinating for historical reasons, but it is simply beautiful watching on its own. Shots of 1910-era Reno are amazing, and the images of crews building a wood-framed stadium in expectation of the fight are jaw dropping (the promoter invested $120,000…in gold). Jeffries came out of retirement and lost 110 pounds during training. That proved a fateful number as temperatures soared to 110F, and the bout came nowhere close to its 45-round limit. Johnson knocked down the challenger twice in the fifteenth round, and Jeffries’ handlers stopped the fight.

If you haven’t yet seen our trailer for C.E. Alexander’s The music and the spires, you can do so here. The promotional film for short stories Book of Constants, Bar Juchne and My Wounded Specular is coming soon. In case you were wondering about all of these scratchy old videos.

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