Who was the greater fighter out of Jack Johnson and James Jeffries?

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by KeedCubano, Feb 16, 2021.

  1. KeedCubano

    KeedCubano Read my posts in a Jamaican accent Full Member

    Jul 21, 2019
  2. The Long Count

    The Long Count Boxing Junkie Full Member

    Oct 8, 2013
    Jeffries has the better title run imo. No fighter lost as much luster as Jeffries did with his ridiculous comeback after 6 years away from the sport. It would be like wiping away Sugar ray Leonard’s accomplishments for losing to Camacho. Having said that his style doesn’t look great to me in limited footage. (Johnson not much better but he at least parried, clinched and set traps)
  3. McGrain

    McGrain Diamond Dog Staff Member

    Mar 21, 2007
    Very very close. It's hard to understand how Johnson was really viewed as far as its accuracy in the early years though my sense is that he got his due later in his career.

    Jeffries on the other hand was as lauded as any heavyweight that's every lived. Honestly, you have to go to Tyson pre-Douglas to get the kind of praise that Jeffries received in his absolute prime, say 1903. He was seen as being more superior to his contenders than any heavyweight until Tyson IMO, and Tyson was a false dawn. Jeffries of course, retired in or around his prime then came back post-prime.

    In the end, I tend to think Johnson's deeper resume and victory over Jeffries, however hollow, edge him in front. But I have zero objections to Jeffries above Johnson, Jeffries was a sensation.
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  4. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

    Feb 15, 2006
    I have gone back and forth a couple of times.

    Johnson has got it for depth and longevity, but Jeffries had a much better title reign, and was more precocious and consistent.
  5. Bujia

    Bujia Active Member Full Member

    Jul 2, 2020
  6. Balder

    Balder Well-Known Member Full Member

    Nov 10, 2012
    Jeffries - He was better at peak and retired undefeated. If you take away the Johnson fight ( after 6 years retired and losing 100lbs) then he goes down easily as one of the greatest of all time.

    He is unfairly judged on that one comeback. Jeffires beats Johnson prime for prime.
  7. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti Boxing Hagiographer Full Member

    Oct 28, 2017
    I actually find Jeffries a lot easier to feel confident of my rating of than Johnson.

    They both beat a good share of names, but with some asterisks.
    For Jeffries, Corbett and Fitzsimmons had been inactive, while Goddard and Jackson were very past it.

    For Johnson, Langford, McVey and Jeannette were all early in their career. Especially Langford, who was pretty accomplished at the lower weights, but hadn't yet done anything at Heavyweight. Obviously Fitzsimmons was shot to bits too, but no one really talks about that one.

    Beyond the fights everyone remembers I think Johnson has a bit more depth to his resume.

    On the other hand Jeffries only blemishs are a couple pre-prime draws, and a loss after years of inactivity.
    Johnson has serveral pre-prime losses, and his losses to Willard when he was past his best.
    He has the loss to Marvin Hart, but that seems to have been entirely due to it being scored on agression, which made it basically impossible to win on points. He does also have the loss to Jeannette, and draws with O'Brien and Battling Jim Johnson (obviously he was injured for that one).

    In terms of footage for Jeffries we have nothing of any quality to really judge him much on in his prime.
    I will say he looks pretty quick on his feet in the footage Reznik cleaned up
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    Which matches what we see of him training.

    I think he maybe looks to be doing a good job of countering Sharkey in the footage, but honestly it's too much of a mess to say anything

    We have better footage of Johnson, but it's basically just him toying with overmatched opponets. The past prime footage of him against Moran and Willard helps get a better idea of him. I really wish we had footage of him against Hart, McVey etc.

    I'd give an edge to Johnson, but it's pretty close and I can certainly see the case for either.
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  8. Richmondpete

    Richmondpete Real fighters do road work Full Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    Jefferies beats johnson prime for prime has got to be one of the more interesting statements iive ever read considering the fact that a large part of johnson's prime he was actually shut out of title contention simply because he was so good. Add in the fact that Jefferies was protected from black fighters and very little prime footage of either actually even exists I'm interested to hear how you could be so certain about this in Jefferies favor
  9. Balder

    Balder Well-Known Member Full Member

    Nov 10, 2012

    Stamina - It would be a very long bout, and Jeffries in his prime matches or betters Johnson in Strength as well. Considering the early bouts like this involved alot of clinchng and wrestling, I see Jeffires wearing Johnson down. At some point late, Johnson wilts. Jeffries had everything you needed to win a long haul stretch. Johnson will not have the activity or power to stop Jeffries so this is all about conditioning and athletisism. Jeffries KO's Johnson although he would be losing on the cards from the eary rounds. Rounds 25+
  10. Richmondpete

    Richmondpete Real fighters do road work Full Member

    Oct 22, 2015
    And then you woke up to the fact that Jefferies fought only white fighters in an era when blacks were essentially considered wild animals and any observation about his supposed atheletism against procured opposition is essentially akin to tall tales. Please tell me your joking
  11. BitPlayerVesti

    BitPlayerVesti Boxing Hagiographer Full Member

    Oct 28, 2017
    He refused to defend his title against them, but he beat multiple black heavyweights before he won the title. Hank Griffin, Peter Jackson and Bob Armstrong, plus the unconfirmed reports of him beating Childs.

    There wasn't really any black heavyweights good enough for there to be any plausibility of him avoiding them, until 1903 or something, at which point Jeffries was wanting to retire anyway
  12. KasimirKid

    KasimirKid Active Member Full Member

    Jun 1, 2018
    All these things about Jeffries defeating Johnson are just wishful thinking. The best Jeffries would never have a chance against the best Johnson, IMO. Johnson would be too fast, too strong, and hit too hard. Johnson handled Jeffries in the clinches from the start with ease in 1910. That wouldn't have been any different six years earlier. I have no way to prove this conclusion, but it's my gut feeling.
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  13. Balder

    Balder Well-Known Member Full Member

    Nov 10, 2012
    He was retired for 6 years and lost 100 pounds -That is like expecting Ali with parkinsons to have beaten Holmes. If you think that was a prime Jeffries you are the one kidding yourself. - He was only a shell of what he once was, and even then he was competitive with Johnson to a degree.

    The reverse happened though, the old and out of shape Jeffries was worn down by the wrestling in the clinches and faded away until he got KO'ed.

    Take away 6 years, a soft retirement, and muscle not wasted away fasting, then the reverse would be true.
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  14. KasimirKid

    KasimirKid Active Member Full Member

    Jun 1, 2018
    Maybe, but that's not the way my mind rolls. There's nothing in the performance of Jeffries in the films we have of him against Sharkey or Ruhlin which makes me think of him other than he was more myth than fact. He was big and strong for his era, but how much could he really have known about boxing after 22 professional fights? He was big and strong and he outweighed every single one of his opponents by a great deal, often 20 to 40 pounds or more. Johnson at 205 could have whipped any version of Jeffries handily, IMO.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2021
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  15. ironchamp

    ironchamp Boxing Addict Full Member

    Sep 5, 2004
    Johnson on the basis of having a better and deeper resume, having better longevity and a dominant run as the Colored Heavyweight Champion and a decent run as the Heavyweight Champion.

    Jeffries had a fine title run, but he did draw the color line and while It's quite conceivable he could've beaten Denver Ed Martin or Sam Mcvey, Johnson actually did, multiple times. And while I don't count their head to head as the sole basis of the ranking, Johnson has him beat on that too.

    Incidentally I have Johnson at #3 on my ATG Heavyweight list behind Louis (#1) and Ali (#2) and I have Jeffries at #15 behind Liston (#13) and Langford (#14).
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