ESB Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2006
Re: Sam Langford vs James Jeffries 1910
I don't know about Langford really ever having Johnson badly hurt in their one and only fight but I've come to be convinced that he did at least knock Johnson down once during the fight. I can't remember the first source right now. But, as a result of re-reading some memoirs of their mutual Australian trainer, Duke Mullins, recently I found the following:
Dec. 4, 1937 – The Sporting Globe – Duke Mullins memoirs
Johnson was never anxious to talk about Langford. I tried on many occasions to open him up but he changed the subject quickly.
Just before his fight with Burns for the world’s title on Boxing Day, 1908, I asked Johnson if the punch that put him on the floor in his fight against Langford hurt.
“No, Dook,” he said, “I was caught off my balance.”
I bring this up only because I seem to remember arguments taking place from time to time as to whether or not Johnson ever went to the canvas in that fight. Maybe the other source was that book 'Mes Combats', in fact I think it was but I believe some have disputed the accuracy of the account in that booklet.
On the subject of Ketchel's plan to deck Jeffries right before the fight with Johnson I am anxious to hear more about Ketchel's role during the fight. Here's an excerpt from a book written in 1935 by Edward Sullivan titled 'The Fabulous Wilson Mizner.'
"Spectacular as was Ketchel's brief and tragic career, one of the most amazing incidents ever included in the annals of the ring would have been added to it but for the intervention of Wilson Mizner at Reno, Nevada, the night before Jack Johnson defeated Jim Jeffries.
"Stanley knew Jeffries well and liked him, but when we went out to Jeff's camp to see him, Stanley, who had fought Johnson, knew instantly which way this fight 'to maintain White Supremacy' was sure to go. Jeff had been out of the ring for six years and looked it. Further, the pressure of this tricky responsiblity in which he was literally accountable to the white race for the proper defense of it's alleged group superiority, weighed so heavily upon him that he was walking around in a daze. He had done everything possible to get into good condition, but the old boy was simply not there, and knew it.
"Johnson, the Galveston roustabout, was a cagey, able fighter. Whatever his actual abilities, they had been magnified in Jeff's mind so that, uncertain of his own comeback prowess, he was licked before he ever got into the ring.
"When we came away from that visit Stanley was completely preoccupied. We walked along in silence.
"What do you think? I asked Ketchel finally, although I was pretty sure of the answer.
"He's licked,' said Ketchel.
"I thought no more of it as we passed through the hectic scene that was Reno in those pre-fight days. There was a strange and ominous spirit in the throngs that literally chocked all that the town had to offer in service and hospitality. A vast multitue of negroes had come to see this fight and it was freely predicted that, if Johnson won, all these negroes would not get safely home.
"This type of depressed and determined atmosphere, added to the fact that no one could get decent accomodations and were therefore irritable, made that fight crowd like none other I ever encountered. So desperate was the situation about food for example, that places fit for the accomodations of 400 people frequently held 4,000. Gunmen stood at the doors of these joints to see that waiters, who worked for 24 hours, did not escape further and continued service.
"In all of this confusion, a strange determination had come over Ketchel. In the atmophere of that time it was not so wierd as it will sound now, but it was wild enough to give me a terrific start, knowing that Ketchel said only what he meant.
"I've figured this whole thing out,' he said to me the last thing before bedtime, the night before the fight. 'Jeff's going to be disgraced in that ring and I'm going to prevent it.'
"I had the devil of a time drawing any further information from him, but finally he came out with it.
"I'm going to be introduced from that ring tomorrow' he said, 'and I've been over in the arena today, just seeing how my plan will work out. I'll go over to Jeff's corner to shake hands and I'll knock him out cold.'
"There was not the slightest question in the world but what he planned to do it, either. He was absolutely determined.
"I don't care what they think about it,' Ketch said. 'It will save old Jeff from the worst hole he's ever been in - or any fighter has. I can say that he insulted me or threatened me, but I've figured out just how to get out of that arena in the excitement and I don't care what happens about it."
"I was not in the habit of repeating confidences but without any hesitancy, after unavailing argument, I told Rickard and others about Stanley's intention. We deliberately arranged that he could get nowhere near Jeffries when being introduced. I told him I had done so. Tex Rickard would have been in a fine hole if 'Steve' had saved Jeff's honor.
"To his death Ketchel contended that his plan had merit."
So, now I'm wondering if anybody can confirm one way or another if Ketchel ever got anywhere near Jeffries when he was introduced in the ring that day.