This week in boxing history, PBC honors two heavyweight legends, a pair of Hall of Famers defending their super featherweight titles and a middleweight championship rematch for the ages.
July 4, 1910 – Jack Johnson stopped James J. Jeffries in Round 15 of their scheduled 45-round fight to retain his world heavyweight championship before an estimated 20,000 spectators in Reno, Nevada.
Billed as the “Fight of the Century,” the bout was moved from San Francisco to Reno after California’s governor was pressured to stop the event on moral and religious grounds. The fight also had racial undertones as the 32-year-old Johnson, the first black world champion who had won the title by beating Tommy Burns in December 2008, was defending it against the white Jeffries, an undefeated former world champion who was pressured to come out of retirement at age 35 after nearly six years out of the ring. Johnson used his defensive excellence to frustrate Jeffries throughout the fight before knocking him down three times in the 15th to end it.
The film of the fight was so controversial at the time that it prompted Congress two years later to enact legislation banning the interstate distribution of boxing films—a law not repealed until 1940. The film was ultimately selected for preservation and entered the United States National Film Registry in 2005.
July 4, 1919 – Jack Dempsey stopped Jess Willard in three rounds to become the world heavyweight champion before a crowd of 19,500 at Bay View Park Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
The 6-foot-6½ Willard, who was making his second title defense at age 37, was knocked down seven times in the first round by the 24-year-old challenger and didn’t come out for the bell in Round 4. Dempsey would retain his world championship until losing to Gene Tunney in September 1926.
July 5, 1909 – Stanley Ketchel defeated Billy Papke in 20 rounds to retain his world middleweight title at the Mission Street Arena in Colma, California.
It was the fourth and final meeting between the fighters, with Ketchel coming away with a 3-1 edge. Papke claimed the title in their second bout in September 2008 with a 12th-round TKO before Ketchel became the first man to regain the middleweight championship two months later via an 11th-round knockout.
July 7, 1985 – Julio Cesar Chavez stopped Roger Mayweather in Round 2 to retain his WBC super featherweight title at the Riviera Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Mayweather went to the canvas four times in the second round, although referee Richard Steele deemed just two of them knockdowns before waving an end to the bout. Chavez, who made the second defense of the 130-pound championship he won in September 1984, would go on to beat Mayweather in a rematch in a super lightweight title bout in May 1989.
July 8, 1979 – Alexis Arguello stopped Rafael “Bazooka” Limon in Round 11 to retain his WBC super featherweight title at New York’s Felt Forum.
Arguello, making his fifth title defense, opened a cut over the right eye of Limon in Round 1 and battered the challenger throughout the fight until referee Tony Perez stopped the bout because of the severity of the cut.