Jack Johnson vs. James J. Jeffries July 4, 1910
The Fight of the Century or the Johnson–Jeffries Prize Fight was a boxing match between the first African American World Heavyweight Champion of Boxing Jack Johnson and the previously undefeated World Heavyweight Champion James J. Jeffries on July 4, 1910, US Independence Day.
It was highly significant in the history of race relations in the U.S., and led to the Johnson–Jeffries riots in which more than 20 people died.
It was one of the most eagerly anticipated boxing matches of all time, with betting odds significantly favoring Jeffries,who had come back from retirement for the fight.
The lead-up to the bout was peppered with racist press against Johnson; author Jack London described Jeffries two days before the fight as "the chosen representative of the white race, and this time the greatest of them", whilst a New York Times editorial wrote: "If the black man wins, thousands and thousands of his ignorant brothers will misinterpret his victory as justifying claims to much more than mere physical equality with their white neighbors."
Johnson beat Jeffries in the fifteenth round, approximately one hour after the fight began at 1:30 pm PST. Jeffries—who boasted that he had never been knocked down in a fight—fell three times to Johnson’s punches, and was being counted out when his manager called the fight.
Race riots broke out across the country over the following week—the first truly nationwide race riots in the United States.
A crowd of 18,020 attended in a stadium built for the fight, and telegraphed reports were followed across the nation. Johnson and Jeffries both made over $100,000 from the purse, bonuses, and the sale of film rights.
The film – The Johnson–Jeffries Fight – received more public attention in the United States than any other film to date and for the next five years, until the release of The Birth of a Nation, and was subsequently censored in many states and cities – the first movement for racist film censorship in history.