Author: Robert Edgren. Published in New York Evening World, February 22, 1908. JEFFRIES OR SULLIVAN--YOU CAN TAKE YOUR CHOICE -------- 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. -------- 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.