Is James J. Jeffries the most underrated HW champ?

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by Dorrian_Grey, Apr 24, 2024.



  1. Pugguy

    Pugguy Ingo, The Thinking Man’s GOAT Full Member

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    Johnson was more than eligible for a shot during 03/04.

    Johnson was considered more than good enough.

    Atop that, a number of contemporary articles indicate that many gave Johnson a good chance of giving Jeffries a very tough fight, if not in fact actually beat Jeffries.

    Jeffries flatly precluded Johnson from getting a shot.

    Publicly, Jeffries stated that he, as Champion, barred himself from defending the title against any black man.

    We can try to break down the exact whys and wherefores - like, was Jeffries a flat racist?, did Jeffries literally fear Johnson?, did Jeffries simply fear the possibility of losing the title to any black man and the associate public fallout ?, etc?

    The above are all fair considerations but we shouldn’t get lost in them at the expense of understanding the simple fact that Jeffries did bar his # 1 challenger - that fact remains and it has to impact on and take from Jeffries’ perceived dominance during his title reign.

    He didn’t dominate all of his outstanding contenders. I don’t think Jeffries held any literal fear - but I do think, at the very least, he feared losing the title to a black man and being vilified for it.

    I believe retired Jeff was highly critical of Burns for agreeing to defend against Johnson - and of course, he was that much more critical again after Tommy lost to Jack.

    Speculative of course, but I think Jeff might’ve had an inkling that, if the title passed hands to Johnson during Jeff’s retirement, Jeff might be called upon to regain it.

    It began with Jack London immediately after the Johnson - Burns fight - and just for that fact alone, I could guess Jeff wasn’t impressed with Burns defending and losing the title to Johnson - the outcome immediately shifting the onus onto Jeffries to comeback and “put things right”.
     
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  2. Melankomas

    Melankomas Prime Jeffries would demolish a grizzly in 2 Full Member

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    If Jack Munroe got a shot, there's no real excuse for saying Johnson didn't deserve his.
     
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  3. Pugguy

    Pugguy Ingo, The Thinking Man’s GOAT Full Member

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    Well, that’s a good point but there are some who disagree with the invoking of a Champions worst (or among the worst) challenger to support the eligibility of a superior fighter the Champion didn’t fight.

    That argument is often dusted off in defence of Patterson’s first reign - a defence that I don’t necessarily agree with.

    Apparently, Floyd had the right to fight the likes of Rademacher but he also had the right to preclude more deserving challengers. Illogical.

    Of course, Johnson didn’t need to be simply better than Munro to support his eligibility, Jack was the outstanding contender absolute, in his own right.
     
  4. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Nah, what I've said probably a dozen of times is that Floyd is singled out while this also is a feature of many more reigns such as Louis, Charles, Frazier, Ali, Holmes etc. They all defended against unworthy challengers when there were many more worthy ones, but don't get anywhere near the stick for it that Patterson does.

    That is the simple point I've made time and time again. And I think it's that you refer to because that is the "defense" or what you want to call it of Patterson that's been made on this board pretty much. Just a call for consistency.

    Why it's so hard to take in, I don't know. Maybe because actual counter arguments are difficult to come up with.
     
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2024
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  5. Saintpat

    Saintpat Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    “Unworthy challengers” who were actually professional prizefighters. Floyd giving a shot at the most important title in all of pro sports to an amateur to me was a disgrace … moreso when you consider he had to get off the canvas to win.
     
  6. Pugguy

    Pugguy Ingo, The Thinking Man’s GOAT Full Member

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    I wasn’t singling you out Boke - others have plied the same “defence” for Patterson - we’ve done the dance on this before and we’re cool - just different opinions - but I’ll also add that Floyd isn’t being unduly singled out.

    The counter arguments are, at least imo, very solid.

    If Floyd actually fought the other more deserving guys also, then pundits might perhaps afford him a soft defence or two. Floyd clearly left several glaring stones unturned during his reign.

    To name two cited examples that obviously don’t compare at all to Floyd - Ali and Louis fought everyone they had to fight - they earned a softie here and there - they didn’t take them as a matter of course and they weren’t in lieu of other outstanding challengers (as reasonably understood).

    Floyd had a Rademacher (who else defended against a guy on his pro debut?) and a London to name two but not a Machen and Folley, with Liston blatantly put on the back burner - and no coincidence that Liston crushed Floyd - in so far as assigning motive for delaying Liston until he couldn’t be delayed any longer.

    You know somethings “up” when a contender like Liston, had to literally clean out the division before getting a shot - very much similar to the path, colour barred Jack Johnson had to take.

    And the names that should’ve been on Floyd’s Championship resume but weren’t - well of course, they were on Liston’s record instead.

    I also find it strangely concessional and unique to Floyd to actually credit him for having the courage to have finally faced Liston - that’s exactly what he was supposed to do - actually fight the best available challenger(s) as and when those challengers deserved it.

    Floyd himself parted ways with D’Amato post Liston fights - he felt Cus didn’t have confidence in him and Floyd wanted to take the fights he felt he should take - not those carefully prescribed to him.

    For going his own way, Floyd became a much better fighter and posted a number of highly creditable performances against tough competition during his post title career.

    What I don’t understand is how anyone could not see or admit that Floyd’s reign was clearly protected (all the whys and wherefores have been broken down in detail before) - and Floyd also wasn’t fighting anywhere nearly as frequently or for as long as Louis and Ali did when they held and defended the title against all comers -
     
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  7. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Floyd's reign was certainly not among the best, but that has never been claimed by anyone I think. And I've addressed the notions that he ducked Folley, Liston and even Williams many times before (he should have faced Machen, though) and won't take up this thread with it.

    Can just say that London was ranked fourth and was a replacement for second ranked Cooper (who had beaten Folley) who couldn't make the fight with Patterson due to the injuries he sustained when beating said London.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2024
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  8. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Boxing Addict Full Member

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    "Floyd also wasn't fighting anywhere nearly as frequently or for as long as Louis and Ali when they held and defended the title"

    In fairness to Floyd, the tax system from WW2 until the JFK tax cuts made it difficult to have a lot of fights if you were a draw and getting substantial purses, as Floyd was.

    Other than that, much of the criticism of his reign is warranted, but it should be pointed out that Jackson and Johansson were the #1 contenders, and Harris was an undefeated and highly rated contender.
     
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  9. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Boxing Addict Full Member

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    Just on the comparison between Marciano and Jeffries which I first brought up.

    1--Marciano decisively defeated all his opponents. Fights with Lowry and LaStarza were disputed, but Marciano dominated the rematches. Jeffries lost to Johnson and drew with Choynski. Jeff did not win 3 of his 23 fights.

    2--Marciano unquestionably beat the best of his era. Not fighting Johnson in 1904 puts a cloud over Jeff for me. And his reason was ugly.

    3--I don't buy the "weak era" stuff. Boxing has progressed over time, and from the Jeff era both in popularity and globally. Impossible for me to take seriously that Jeff, or for matter Dempsey or Tunney, fought in tougher eras than Marciano.
     
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  10. Dorrian_Grey

    Dorrian_Grey It came to me in a dream Full Member

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    But the 1910s and 1920s were the golden era of boxing in America, Dempsey's era is demonstrably better than Marciano's because Dempsey had a deeper pool of fighters to draw from, whereas Rocky only had the remnants of the pre-WWII HW division (and some LHW stragglers) to fight. I'd argue Corbett, Fitz (in the 1st fight), and Tom Sharkey were all closer to their athletic primes than Louis, Charles, or Walcott were when Rocky fought them. Boxing was one of the three biggest sports in the U.S. during the time of Jeffries, Dempsey, and Tunney, the divisions were packed full of HOF talent and plenty of good, young, up-and-coming contenders populated the divisions, which can't exactly be said of Marciano's era (admittedly no fault of his).
     
  11. Melankomas

    Melankomas Prime Jeffries would demolish a grizzly in 2 Full Member

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    I feel like there's more of an emphasis on Dempsey and Tunney's era being the golden age, rather than Jeff's. I don't think boxing lost that level of popularity after Sullivan retired, and wouldn't reach that level until Dempsey.
     
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  12. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    The Johnson loss doesn't really factor in for me. He was 35 and had gained a massive amount of weight during his retirement. If Rocky made a comeback in 1960, I'd expect him to also lose to the best.
     
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  13. Ney

    Ney Well-Known Member Full Member

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    We are never going to run out of people who are so short-sighted that they are appalled a man lived by the conventions & beliefs of his time, while they themselves do the exact same thing, are we?
     
  14. Bokaj

    Bokaj Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Yeah, Firpo and Carpentier. Those were the days.

    Seriously, though, whatever one thinks of an era, it becomes much weaker if you take away the two best contenders and Dempsey never faced his two best, Wills and Greb.
     
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  15. Pugguy

    Pugguy Ingo, The Thinking Man’s GOAT Full Member

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    But Ney we don’t have to judge Jeffries’ morally to objectively state that his generic drawing of the colour line saw him not face his outstanding # 1 contender nor any other black fighters who might’ve been eligible for a shot.

    As to conventions of the time - the public and press were not rock solidly behind Jeffries refusing to fight Johnson.

    Many believed that, at least in the sporting arena, the best should fight the best - colour notwithstanding.

    Those same people might’ve held their own racist views otherwise in general life but they still made it clear that they felt Jeffries should fight Johnson.

    Jeffries was also lampooned in cartoons, one depicting Jeff sitting under an umbrella with colour line written on the umbrella. Jeff and his perceived misuse l of the colour line (as interpreted by many) was definitely being put out there in the press as at the time.

    Remember, Jeff also played the line that a fight between he and Johnson “wouldn’t draw flies” - and I think he said this at some point after his own brother had been emphatically levelled by Johnson in just 5 rounds - and Jeff actually cornered his brother during that fight.

    Jeff could’ve played a “revenge” angle to make the fight happen but the main point is that Jeff also used a false, non racist angle to side step a fight with Johnson.

    Just 3 or so years (not long) after Jeffries retirement Burns did actually face Johnson which saw a huge live audience, elaborate filming and massive takings in play.

    Prior to the Johnson fight, even Burns himself said he couldn’t call himself a true champion unless he was willing to fight all comers without any preclusions. In actually fighting Johnson, Tiny Tommy showed Jeff up - big time.
     
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