Jim Jeffries vs John L. Sullivan

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by Senya13, Aug 27, 2008.


  1. Senya13

    Senya13 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    Author: Robert Edgren.
    Published in New York Evening World, February 22, 1908.

    JEFFRIES OR SULLIVAN--YOU CAN TAKE YOUR CHOICE

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    Discussion as to Which of the Two Would Have Won Will Never Be Settled-Old-Timers Say John L. Men of To-Day James J.

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    John L. Sullivan being in town and playing at the Murray Hill, there is naturally a lot of Sullivan talk going the rounds. Old timers are intensely loyal to the great John L. And they should be. John L. is a big man in many ways. He was a champion among champions in his day. Even now that he has been long retired from the ring the old gladiator's eagle eye and his deep throated roar can send a thrill of respect through any audience. John L. has a trick. He tells a good funny story and then stops short and waits for the laugh. If it doesn't come quickly enough he glares out over the crowd. He intends to get that laugh, and he gets it before he goes on. There's something compelling about John L.

    If John L. Sullivan in his prime could have fought James J. Jeffries in his prime, which of the champions would have won? That question has been causing endless discussion ever since Jeffries retired from the ring and became, like Sullivan himself, an ex-champion.

    It is a foolish discussion, for no amount of talk can settle the question. The old guard will stick out for John L. and the newer generation that has followed Jeffries from fight to fight can see nothing but the great Californian.

    John L. was master of them all in his generation, but he stuck too long and met defeat. Jeffries has never been beaten. In his last fights he outclassed his rivals so far that he had to retire for want of opponents. There was no man in the world to give him a fight. When it was fully realized that Jeffries intended to stay in retirement there was some yelping in the pack, especially from one A. Johnson, who was quietest of the lot while Jeffries was still in harness.

    In my judgment Jeffries was the greatest champion in all the history of the ring. Sullivan was supreme in his time. He was a magnificent physical specimen. But remember one thing. Sullivan, if he had been fighting during Jeff's reign, would have been outclassed in size by the giant just like all the rest. In his best fighting days John L. Sullivan weighed just 195 pounds. When Jeff was at his best he could train down to 240, and not a pound lower. He was at least forty-five pounds heavier than Sullivan. John L. was 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall; Jeffries, 6 feet 2 inches. There was another tremendous advantage for the more modern champion. Jeff's reach was inches more than Sullivan's.

    You might just as well compare Alexander and Napoleon. Alexander, in his time, was champion of his class. He whipped the whole ancient world. He was the master fighter of the century to which he belonged. Just as Napoleon was the master fighter of the nineteenth century. But what could Alexander's famous soldiers have done against Napoleon's? In a hand-to-hand, rough-and-tumble scrap they might have had a chance, for their ancient weapons were nearly as good for that sort of milling as Napoleon's bayonets.

    But Napoleon wouldn't have allowed Alexander to come to a hand-to-hand tussle. He would have used his artillery.

    That's just what Jeffries would have done if he had met Sullivan.

    In Sullivan's day the art of boxing was studied very little by the heavyweights. When Jim Corbett fought Sullivan his work in the ring was considered almost miraculous.

    Jeffries in his last fight with Corbett actually outboxed and outfooted him. I saw that fight. Jeffries made Corbett look slow, and if there was any advantage in science Jeffries had it.

    Jeffries had all the modern artillery of the ring.

    It is decidedly unfair to Jeffries, when comparing him with Sullivan to consider his novice fights with Bob Armstrong (only his tenth ring engagement) and Tom Sharkey. Later in the game he became the real Jeffries. Sullivan himself had scores of fights be-fore he became the invincible champion of the world.

    Fitzsimmons, before going West to fight Jeffries for the last time, told me that he would "either whip Jeff or take hold of him after the fight and make him the greatest champion the world ever saw." He failed to whip the giant--in fact, was knocked out himself after a most desperate battle. Then he made good his promise. For nearly a year Jeffries and Fitzsimmons travelled and worked together. Fitzsimmons, the greatest fighter of his weight that ever lived, taught Jeffries everything. The result was seen when Jeff met Corbett again and actually played with him until he was ready to deliver the knockout.

    With his marvelous and modern skill Jeffries would surely be able to beat a man like John L., who fought with main strength and fury in the old milling style.

    But you can't take away from the glory of Alexander, the world conqueror, greatest man of his day by comparing him with generals who had the advantages of modern weapons and modern science. Neither can you detract from the glory of Sullivan by comparing him with the greatest of modern scientific masters of the ring.
     
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  2. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Good find Seyna. I have a two minute clip of Jeffries talking about his career. Jeffries said as a boy he and his father used to rough it, and little Jim was so strong his father told him he'd make another John L. Sullivan!

    Outside of a right hand, I think Jeffries did everything better than Sullivan. I have a Corbett article written by Corbett than compared Jeffries to all the older champions including Sullvian, and Corbett says one of the reasons Jeffries was the best because he had speed, and power in both hands.
     
  3. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    It seems that the "newer and bigger is better argument" is the oldest in the history of boxing.

    The article shows some misconceptions which tend to prevail among later observers such as the idea that older fighters are "primitive".

    Sullivan at his peak was a scientific fighter under the rule set of his day perhaps moreso than the younger Jeffries.

    The article makes a couple of interesting points. It states that Jeffries peaked in his last two fights and that the influence of Bob Fitzsimmons on his late development was considerable. The former point I have always maintained and the latter is eminently believable.

    Verry hard to say how a match between these two would have unfolded since we rely mainly on anecdotal evidence for Sullivans style. I would suggest however that Sullivan was a teir above Tom Sharkey and would be by far the most formidable puncher Jeffries had ever faced. I would also suggest that he was a lot more dangerous early.
     
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  4. mcvey

    mcvey Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    There is some **** in this article ,which dissapoints me I had thought better of Edgren.Jeffries 240lbs in shape ? Bollocks! Jeffries heaviest weight in his prime was 220 for the second Corbett fight ,which he describes in ringing tones ,omitting the fact that Corbett was well past it .Johnson quiet ,while Jeffries was Champion? I don't think so he challenged him repeatedly ,koing his brother in an effort to goad him into a fight.Fitz wasl over the hill and down the otherside when Jeffries beat him the second time,yet Jeffries had his face turned into hamburger.I pick Jeffries to beat Sullivan in a brawl ,but this article is hero worship ,not factual reporting.
     
  5. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Sullvian to me struggled a bit with gloves vs the best fighters he faced. While most think Sullivan is better than Sharkey, Sharkey to be beat better heavies than Sullivan did.

    IMO, Sullvian should have fought Jackson, Slavin, Maher, Goddard, Choynski....one of those guys. A win vs anyone one of them might be considered his best win.

    Sharkey, got the better of Goddard and Choynski. In fact, he got the better of Corbett!

    I think Fitzsimmons hit harder than Sullivan. Every one says so, so John L would not be the best puncher Jeffries faced.

    I do agree with the author, that Jeffries peaked just before he retired
     
  6. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    The article was wirtten in 1908. Fitz, was smashing on his come back trail, McVey. Check the records, or news reads. He was not past it in the 2nd fight for Jeffries. It is beleived that Fitz did something to his gloves in the 2nd fight too to creat those cuts.

    Johnson really did not make nosie until, say 1903, and Jeffries last fight as Champ was 1904. The nosie Johnson made was toward the tail end, not in 1899-1902.

    I do agree that Jeffries was not 240 in shape. His walk aorund weight was about 240-250. The author is mistaken there.
     
  7. Senya13

    Senya13 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    I can't say I like the article much either, but thought it's still good to hear some contemporary opinions (of people who had seen them live, and are not going by what they heard or read from other people). Edgren had also an interesting series of weekly articles entitled 'Champions I have known" (published in late 1907 to early 1908):

    1. Joe Gans
    2. Jim Jeffries
    3. Bob Fitzsimmons
    4. Jim Corbett
    5. Terry McGovern
    6. Young Corbett
    7. John L. Sullivan
    8. Abe Attell
    9. George Dixon
    10. Tommy Burns
    11. Frank Erne
    12. Kid Lavigne
    13. Charley Mitchell
    14. Tommy Ryan
    15. Peter Maher
    16. Joe Walcott


    There was also a weekly series of articles, published before Jeffries' meeting with Johnson, Jeffries' auto-biography (I suspect it's the one that was published as a book, "Jeffries, James J. My Life and Battles. 1910").

    And in early 1918 there was a series of articles written by Corbett, entitled "John L. as I knew him".

    Some good read there.
     
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  8. mcvey

    mcvey Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    Do you pick Jeffries to beat Sullivan M? ,Sullivan may have had more kick in his right ,but I think James J was a level above him really.Choynsky seems to have had problems in the chin department ,which is not uncommom with bangers.
     
  9. he grant

    he grant Historian/Film Maker Full Member

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    Jefferies weighted 208 to 212 for most of his big fights ..the 240 stuff is simply innacurate ...They leave out Sullivan was much faster and a much sharper hitter. In addition, Sullivan had exceptional stamina ... with all respect to Jeffries, he fought for his life against Sharkey, a poor man's Sullivan. He never fought a man that hit like Sullivan ... not even Fitz ... I like John L.
     
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  10. mcvey

    mcvey Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    M , Fitz hadn't had a fight in 2 years when he rematched Jeffries ,lets not go down this road again ok?
     
  11. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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  12. mcvey

    mcvey Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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  13. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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  14. pugilist_boyd

    pugilist_boyd BUSTED UP PUG Full Member

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    i respect sullivan,and his toughness but jeffries is constantly rated for the shell who fought johnson,wich is like judging louis by his rocky fight utterly bull****,jeffries could walk thru sullivan,and 90% of todays best heavys in the same night i.m.o.
     
  15. Mendoza

    Mendoza Hrgovic = Next Heavyweight champion of the world. Full Member

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    Fitz was blazing on his come back trail. He lost the title in 1899 to Jeffries, then KO'd 5 guys in a row, including contenders in Sharkey and Ruhlin.

    If you are referring to Fitz's inactivity in 1901, that is box rec's mistake. Fitz had exhibition matches with Sharkey and Ruhlin in 1901. He also had an exhibition match with Corbett in 1902, before the re-match fight with Jeffires in 1902. My point here is Fitz was not out of the ring for 2 years. In fact, he went on tour and beat many local fighters that history failed to record.

    Though Fitz lost to Jeffries in 1902, I do not think he was over the hill than. Indeed, he had enough in 1903 to beat a very good Gardiner for the light heavyweight title, and then fight a prime O'Brien to a draw in 1904.

    Cheers.
     


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