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From Randy Roberts, Papa Jack: Jack Johnson and the Era of White Hopes (New York: Free Press, 1983), 85-111.

The 1910 Jeffries-Johnson Fight and Its Impact

RANDY ROBERTS

Few if any fights in history generated as much interest as the 1910 Johnson-Jeffries match. . . . From the very first, it was advertised as a match of civilization and virtue against savagery and baseness. As early as April 1909 the Chicago Tribune realized what was at stake. It printed a picture of a cute young blond girl pointing a finger at the reader; underneath was the caption: "Please, Mr. Jeffries, are you going to fight Mr. Johnson?". . . Humanity needed Jeffries. He had inherited the White Man's Burden and he could not plead retirement to cloak his weariness. . . .

The money, the success, the fame, the smile, the body—women now more than ever were attracted to Johnson. In New York he met Etta Terry Duryea, whom he would eventually marry. She was a sporting lady, though technically not a prostitute. Born in Hempstead, Long Island, and brought up in a fashionable section of Brooklyn, Etta had married Charles C. Duryea, an Eastern horse-racing patron.  The marriage did not last long, but even after the two separated Etta continued to attend the races. One afternoon at the Coney Island track she met Johnson, and shortly thereafter the two began living together, Etta taking the unofficial title "Mrs. Jack Johnson." About her there was a certain sense of sadness. Her beauty was of a haunting sort—cold, distant, aloof. Her hair and eyes were dark, her chin pointed and dimpled. She had a beautifully shaped mouth, but one that appeared unused to smiling. In pictures her lips are always locked in a perpetual pout. But it was her eyes that registered the real sadness. They seemed to stare without seeing, as if they knew all too well that sight was not worth the effort of focus. It is difficult to look at pictures of Etta and still be surprised that she committed suicide.

When Johnson left New York for Philadelphia, Etta went along. So too did Belle and Hattie. The two prostitutes were used to the arrangement, but Etta was not. There were several scenes, but nothing Johnson could not handle. The three stayed in separate hotels and waited for Johnson. That was his normal procedure when traveling with more than one woman. At any time in the day or night he might make a brief appearance for the purpose of intercourse, but he usually left after a short stay. Belle and Hattie, as prostitutes, were accustomed to such behavior. He treated Etta differently. She stayed at the hotel where he stayed. She was, it soon became clear, the number one Mrs. Jack Johnson. . . .

. . . The Ketchel fight had dramatically enhanced his reputation and he was sought after by several vaudeville agencies. In December 1909, while in New York, he signed for a tour with Barney Gerard's "Atlantic Carnival" show. For the tour, which was due to start in early 1910, Johnson was guaranteed $1,300 per week. It was a star's salary, and initially Johnson seemed satisfied. As he left to begin the tour, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune noted that Johnson was "his usual happy self." He was expected only to be himself, or what whites perceived was his true nature. He was told to dance about the stage, shadow box, sing a bit, and tell a few amusing stories.

He was also supposed to accept the indignities that came with being a black performer. Even the top black vaudevillians were treated shamelessly. Bert Williams, one of vaudeville's greatest stars, . . . was never supposed to mix socially with the white members of the tour, and a clause in his contract specified “that at no time would he be on the stage with any of the female members of the company."...

Johnson was also expected to live with the inconveniences. Frank Calder, a stage manager, recalled working with Johnson at the Cleveland Star Theatre and the Indianapolis Empire Theater, Even though it was bitter cold, Johnson was not allowed in the heated dressing room that the other performers used. Rather he was forced to change clothes in the cellar. Unlike Williams, Johnson rebelled against such treatment. At the Fairland Theatre in Terre Haute, he refused to perform. It was too cold, he said, to go on stage in just boxing tights and gloves. An argument with the management followed, and Johnson angrily left town....

Money was no longer an immediate problem. Ahead of Johnson was a rainbow, and beyond it the pot of gold. The rainbow was Jeffries, the pot of gold their proposed match. Toward the end of 1909 Jeffries succumbed to the pressures of race and dollars. Hundreds of letters were sent to Jeffries with a single theme: it was incumbent upon him as a white man to shut Johnson's smiling mouth once and for all. White Americans doubted not that Jeffries was up to the task. They believed the Jeffries mythology—that he cured himself of pneumonia  by dringking a case of whisky in two days, that with a broken leg he was still able to knock out a leading heavyweight contender, that upon inspection a physician told him that he was simply not human. Across America white bartenders told customers that if Jeffries fought Johnson, he would "probably kill the Negro." After more than a year of such stories Americans—and, more important, Jeffries—believed that he probably would kill Johnson.

It was left to the business managers to work out the details. Sam Berger negotiated for Jeffries, George Little and Sig Hart for Johnson. They told reporters that the fight was open for bids and that the person who offered the most money could stage it. The leading promoters in America handed in their bids, which were supposed to be opened in public at the Hotel Albany in New York City. However, both boxing and the promotion of boxing matches were illegal in New York, and at the last minute the scene for the opening of the bids was shifted across the Hudson River to Meyer's Hotel in Hoboken, New Jersey. . . .

The bids were opened. They were all attractive, but George L. “Tex” Rickard’s was the best. He guaranteed the fighters $101,000 and two-thirds of the movie rights. In addition, he promised a cash bonus of $10,000 for each fighter upon signing. It was money unheard of in the boxing world, but it was not just talk. Rickard was backed by Thomas F. Cole, a Minnesota millionaire who owned silver and gold mines across the United States and Alaska.

In an age when a laborer still might earn only a dollar a day, the amount Jeffries and Johnson stood to make struck some observers as disgraceful. Not only would the winner get 75 percent of the $101,000 guarantee, and the loser, 25 percent, but additional revenues would be gained through their percentages of the film rights and vaudeville contracts. Edward R. Moss, sports editor for the New York Evening Sun, estimated that if Jeffries won, the white fighter would make $667,750 and Johnson would earn $358,250. If Johnson was victorious, the film rights would be worth less and he would make only $360,750 to Jeffries's $158,000....

Behind the new era and manipulating the million dollar match were Tex Rickard and Jack Gleason, who was brought in on the promotion to please Jeffries. Rickard was a new sort of promoter. He did not know much about boxing, and in 1910 he had few connections in the pugilistic world. . . . As a teenager he moved to Texas and worked as a horse wrangler and later a frontier marshal. In 1895 his wife and baby died and he left Texas, drifting north to Alaska. It was a time for making money and getting rich, and Rickard panned for gold, tended bar, and gambled. He managed the Northern Saloon in Nome but lost everything he earned at the poker and roulette tables. Tired of Alaska, he drifted south, this time ending up in the gold fields of South Africa. Back in the United States, he opened the famous Northern Saloon in Goldfield, Nevada, where another gold rush was under way. There in the hot, dirty-rich town of Goldfield Rickard tried his hand at promoting boxing matches. He did it not for the love of boxing or even the love of money, but to draw the nation's attention to Goldfield. He matched Joe Gans, the magnificent black lightweight champion from Baltimore, against the rugged Battling Nelson, and for forty-two rounds the two men butted and kicked, sweated and bled, and occasionally punched until Nelson sank a left hook in Gans's groin and lost on a foul. But the scheme worked. Overnight Goldfield became famous and Rickard became a success as both a promoter and an advertiser. ...

In Johnson and prizefighting [rural-based] reformers saw the incarnation of everything they opposed, feared, and hated. They embraced traditional, rural, puritanical values, the values that at least in popular theory had accounted for everything pure and great about America. The world of prizefighting, they argued, was as alien to those values as an illiterate Jewish immigrant from Russia. Professional boxing was viewed as an immigrant sport that attracted Irish and Polish Catholics, Russian Jews, and other undesirable sorts. . . . It was also quite correctly seen as having close ties with saloon keepers and Democratic urban machine politics. And the epitome of the evil of the prizefighting world was Jack Johnson. He drank, supported prostitutes, and threatened the very social and racial order of America. He was not the type of man rural Anglo-Saxon Protestants felt comfortable with. Instead he was a constant reminder of the powerful threat to the traditional American order.

When the site of the Johnson-Jeffries fight was announced as San Francisco, reformers strapped on their swords. It was an affront to civilization, they said. In Cincinnati a million postcards were distributed among the faithful for signing and posting. They were addressed to the governor of California and contained the simple message: "STOP THE FIGHT. THIS IS THE 20TH CENTURY." Other protests were staged in California. Fifty ministers formed a prayer session on the capitol's steps in Sacramento. They prayed for Governor J. N. Gillett to see the light of civilization and reason. . . .

Up until then Gillett had steadfastly supported the match, claiming that it in no way conflicted with the laws of California. The potential obstruction of the Panama-Pacific Exposition, however, made him reread the statutes. After some soul-searching he concluded that the Johnson-Jeffries contest would not be a boxing exhibition, which California law permitted, but a prizefight, which state statutes forbade. In an open letter to the attorney general of California Gillett claimed, "The whole business is demoralizing to the youth of our state, corrupts public morals, is offensive to the senses of the great majority of our citizens, and should be abated, as a public nuisance, and the offenders punished."

Moral outrage and economic pressure had won for the reformers. Although Mayor Pat McCarthy opposed the governor's decision, the fight was pushed out of San Francisco....

To Rickard fell the task of finding another city to stage the fight. He had already sold $133,000 worth of tickets and had invested between $30,000 and $50,000 in the stadium, licenses, and various political payoffs. Now he had only two weeks to find another city, build a stadium, and complete the many other arrangements. He received offers from Reno, Goldfield, and Salt Lake City. He chose Reno because of its superior railroad facilities and because the mayor of the town assured him that a 20,000-seat stadium could be constructed there within the  two-week deadline. Further incentives were offered by Governor Denver S. Dickerson. He told the promoter that no reform movement had any power in Nevada and no amount of protest could force him to cancel the fight. Thus guaranteed, Rickard, Jeffries, Johnson, and everyone else involved in the match boarded a train for Reno....

For American reformers, however, the site was important. They wanted to prevent the match from being staged anywhere in the United States. . . . Across the nation protest was intense, and in the end useless. Dickerson refused to budge. For many godfearing Americans, Reno became a national disgrace. . . .

This strident tone of the reformers' protests revealed their true objectives. To be sure, they opposed boxing matches in the past and would do so again. But their opposition had never been so angry and forceful. The difference between the Johnson-Jeffries match and the other prizefights they opposed was the problem of race. The Reno fight was not simply another brutal and demoralizing prizefight; it was a battle that was widely perceived as a struggle for racial supremacy....

. . . Just to allow the fight to take place was to admit a sort of equality. It implied that blacks had an equal chance to excel in at least one arena of American life. . . . White reformers, therefore, considered the fight a no-win proposition. Win or lose, if the fight took place Johnson would achieve a symbolic victory for his race.

And in that victory whites saw disturbing possibilities. They were sure that if Johnson won, the result would be race war. "If the black man wins," a New York Times editorialist noted, "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.". . . This prediction was echoed throughout the United States, especially in the South. Southern Congressmen "talked freely of the danger of the negroes having their heads turned" by a Johnson victory. . . . Southerners believed a Johnson victory would increase the possibility of physical contact between young, proud blacks and white women. This haunting specter led naturally to thoughts of racial warfare.

Whites were not alone in predicting that the fight would beget violence. Conservative blacks feared the same possibility. Black admirers of Booker T. Washington had never felt comfortable about the implications of Jack Johnson. . . . They feared that Johnson challenged an order they wished to placate and that his emancipated life-style eventually would cause a violent white reaction. . . .

For many Americans Reno was a moral as well as a physical desert. They assumed that most of the town's population of 15,000 was to some degree associated with vice and sin. There was the gambling—not normal secretive gambling, conducted behind locked doors and pulled blinds, but illuminated, unabashed gambling. In Reno gambling was legal. . . . And there was the drinking. In a four- or five-block area there were more than fifty saloons. . . . Most notoriously of all, there were the divorcees. Reno even then was the divorce capital of America. . . .

According to most observers the more than 20,000 people who traveled to Remo for the fight did nothing to upgrade the town's reputation. It was a sporting crowd—boxers, ex-boxers, prostitutes, saloon owners, gamblers, pickpockets, hoboes, profligate sons of the wealthy, and high rollers of every kind. They came to drink, spin the roulette wheel, and talk about the upcoming fight. They talked addressed loud. Bright plaid vests, thick black cigars, and large diamond rings were the order of the day. There were sporting men from England, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, and all over the United States. There were black sports as well as white sports. It was an atmosphere rife with tall tales, hard luck stories, big dreams, and grandiose plans.

Perhaps at no time before had so many reporters descended upon so small a town. Upwards of 500 correspondents were present to report the town's celebrations. Every day in the week before the fight between 100,000 and 150,000 words about the fight—enough for two popular novels—were sent out from Reno. Some of the reporters were leading writers. Jack London, Rex Beach, and Alfred Henry Lewis, three of the leading writers cum Sports, detailed the activities. But far more famous were the boxers and wrestlers cum reporters. Covering the fight for various newspapers were John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett, Robert Fitzsimmons, Abe Attell, Battling Nelson, Tommy Burns, Frank Gotch, William Muldoon, and a host of others....

Another faction well represented in Reno was the criminal class. Thieves of all types roamed about the town's streets, and "if a hand was not dipped into your pocket sooner or later it was almost a sign of disrespect. . . . Nor were all the criminals there to work. Some of the more famous and prosperous had come just to watch the fight and wager a few thousand dollars. . . . Even the notorious Sundance Kid was reported to be on his way to Reno. . . .

By the Fourth of July the entire nation was a bit nervous. Henry Wales of the Chicago Tribune, reviewing his long career as a reporter and an editor, said that no event so captured the public mind until the Lindberg flight seventeen years later. It was fitting that the fight was scheduled for the national holiday, for the celebration and the excitement were intense. Never had so illustrious a group of Sports gathered in one spot. . . .

And everyone had an opinion about who would win. The betting was ten to six or seven on Jef fries, but as Arthur Ruhl wrote, the talk was 1,000 to 1 in favor of the white fighter: "You couldn't hurt him—Fitzsimmons had landed enough times to kill an ordinary man in the first few rounds, and Jeffries had only shaken his head like a bull and bored in. The negro might be a clever boxer, but he has never been up against a real fighter before. He has a yellow streak, there was nothing to it, and anyway, let's hope he kills the coon.'. . .

Most boxers and intellectuals also predicted a Jeffries victory. John L. Sullivan, James J. Corbett, Robert Fitzsimmons, Tommy Burns, Abe Attell, Battling Nelson—the list is extensive. They all favored Jeffries. Even black boxers like Sam Langford and Joe Jeannette picked the white. Perhaps Jeannette, who had fought Johnson more than any other man, spoke for them all: "Why, Jeffries can lose half of his strength, have his endurance cut in two, carry a ton of extra weight and still whip Johnson. He has the 'head' and the 'heart' to do it." The head and the heart: it was a common theme among intellectuals too. A psychologist writing for the London Lancet remarked that Jeffries's brain should be the deciding factor. . . .

Even America's churches were not immune to the excitement. In Hutchinson, Kansas, the Colored Holiness Church announced that it would hold special services during the fight to pray for Johnson. To counterbalance this plea for divine help a Midwestem white minister said he would pray for Jeffries. . . . Although some ministers disagreed with such statements, most did agree that there was something much greater at stake in Reno than a championship belt.

On the Fourth of July the nation was ready. Every section of the country was connected electrically with Reno. . . . Outside newspaper buildings in every major city crowds gathered to follow the progress of the fight. At Tuskegee Institute Booker T. Washington, who declined to cover the bout as a reporter, set aside a special assembly room to receive telegraphic reports from Reno. If the fight was a racial Armageddon as everywhere it was advertised, then the results would be known to everyone as soon as it concluded.

"The day dawned spotlessly clear, one of those still crystalline mornings which come in the thin dry air of the mountain desert country." Because of the shabbiness of the event that was to follow, reporters in Reno remembered the beauty of the morning. They recalled the order with which the drunken mob, 15,000 to 20,000 strong, moved toward the stadium on the outskirts of Reno and checked their firearms at the gate; how they poured in through the four tunnel-like entrances into the huge eight-sided arena; how their voices rose strong and clear into the hot afternoon air; how a brass band climbed into the ring and played "All Coons Look Alike to Me" and other "patriotic" selections. ...

Johnson was the first into the ring, wearing a gray silk robe and blue trunks with an American flag for his belt. A litany of racial slurs greeted him, but as always he seemed not to notice. Beach watched for some sign of fear, but Johnson merely "grinned and clapped his hands like a boy." Jeffries was greeted like an emperor. He looked nervous, chewing gum rapidly and glaring across the ring at Johnson. . . .

Jeffries looked big but also old and tired. A few days before Jeffries had told reporters, "I realize full well just what depends on me, and I am not going to disappoint the public. That portion of the white race that has been looking to me to defend its athletic superiority may feel assured that I am fit to do my very best.". . .

Tex Rickard, who had named himself as referee, also felt the "vast concentration of thought," and he feared it might erupt into violence. In order to cool the heated racial feeling, Rickard called on William Muldoon to give a speech.  Muldoon, the once great wrestler, was a pompous, humorless man who genuinely believed in such notions as honor and fair play. In a forceful voice he told the spectators so. It was necessary, he said, not to judge Johnson too harshly just because he was black, and regardless who won, the verdict must be accepted in a sense of fair play. Muldoon's speech and the lemonade, which was the only beverage served in the arena, seemed to sober the crowd.

During the preliminary activities not all of the tradition of the prize ring was observed. Certainly all the ex-champions were introduced. . . . However, by prearranged agreement Johnson and Jeffries did not shake hands before the fight. No detail more clearly illustrated the symbolic importance of the match. Not to observe such a fundamental ritual, the very expression of sportsmanship and fair play, indicated that this was not simply another championship fight.

No fight could do justice to such an extended buildup. This one did not even come close. "It was not a great battle after all, save in its setting and significance," wrote Jack London. Johnson established the tempo of the fight in the first round—slow and painful. He waited for Jeffries to lead, then threw straight right and left counters. . . . For all the talk of Jeffries's grizzly strength, Johnson was by far the stronger of the two men. He tossed Jeffries around with alarming ease. . . .

In the second round Johnson started talking to Jeffries. "Don't rush, Jim," he said as he pushed Jeffries across the ring. "I can go on like this all afternoon," he exclaimed as he hit the challenger with a solid right hand lead. Jeffries's famous crouching, rushing, wild-swinging style was useless against the grace and economy of Johnson's defense. . . . During the clinches Johnson would talk to Jeffries or to the challenger's comer. ...

Most of the reporters believed that Johnson could have ended the fight in an early round. They said he did not because he was a good businessman and a vengeful person. Financially a quick fight would have been disastrous. It would have destroyed the potential of the film as a revenue source. But beyond the money question, reporters believed Johnson enjoyed watching Jeffries suffer. By round twelve Jeffries's mouth was cut inside and out; his nose was broken and bleeding; his face and eyes were bruised and smeared with blood. Even Johnson's chest and back were covered with Jeffries's blood. There was no reason for the fight to go on. But it did. . . .

In the fifteenth Jeffries's face was bleeding and swollen, and his movements were languid. But he continued to move toward Johnson. The round-by-round report accurately, if unemotionally, reflects the horror of the scene: "He shambled after the elusive negro, sometimes crouching low . . . and sometimes standing erect. Stooping or erect, he was a mark for Johnson's accurately driven blows. Johnson simply waited for the big white man to come in and chopped his face to pieces." Finally a combination of rights and lefts forced Jeffries onto the ropes. There Johnson landed fifteen or twenty punches to Jeffries's head and face. Jeffries fell to the canvas for the first time in his career. He was dazed, and Johnson stood over him until Rickard made the champion move back. At the count of nine Jeffries struggled to his feet. Johnson charged and landed another combination of punches. Again Jeffries fell to his knees. At the count of nine he once more arose. At this stage ringsiders shouted, "Stop it, stop it. Don't let him be knocked out." But the fight continued. Jeffries was helpless. A left-right-left combination knocked Jeffries into the ropes. He sprawled over the lower rope, hanging half outside the ring. Rickard picked up the timekeeper's count. At seven one of Jeffries's handlers rushed into the ring, and Rickard stopped the fight. The "fight of the century" was over.

Silence. Insults and cheers were few. The spectators accepted the end as they might the conclusion of a horse race where the favorite broke a leg and had to be destroyed. Johnson was clearly superior, so there was nothing to argue about. Jeffries was old and tired and should never have attempted a comeback. More than talking or yelling, the sad boxing fan wanted to leave the arena as quickly as possible and find a bar that served something stronger than lemonade. Across the nation thousands of other men who crowded around newspaper offices for news of the fight experienced similar reactions. And so they went to the saloons, and when they finished drinking and brooding about the fight they expressed their displeasure in spontaneous outbursts of violence. The emotions exposed by the Johnson-Jeffries fight were quite sincere and, once uncovered, were deadly.

In Greenwood, South Carolina, close to the border of Georgia, Benjamin E. Mays was almost 2,500 miles from Reno. Only fourteen in 1910, the future educator remembered clearly how white men in his town reacted to the news of Johnson's victory. They could not accept the outcome. Because a black boxer defeated a white boxer in faraway Nevada, whites in Greenwood beat up several blacks. Fear swept through the black population, and in the presence of whites they dared not discuss the fight. The match, which prompted random violence and brutal deaths, touched every section of the country. Compared with many cities, Mays's Greenwood was tame....

. . . The rioting claimed other casualties. In Houston, Charles Williams openly celebrated Johnson's triumph, and a white man "slashed his throat from ear to ear"; in Little Rock, two blacks were killed by a group of whites after an argument about the fight on a streetcar; in Roanoke, Virginia, six blacks were critically beaten by a white mob; . . . Other murders or injuries were reported in New Orleans, Baltimore, Cincinnati, . . . and many other smaller cities and towns. The number of deaths and injuries is unknown. ...

Many of the riots followed a similar pattern. They were started by blacks who, inspired by Johnson's example, refused to shuffle and briefly lifted their heads and raised their voices in pride. In New York City, Nelson Turner, a black, was almost lynched for yelling to a crowd of whites, "We blacks put one over on you whites, and we're going to do more." ...

Participants in the riots also displayed similar traits. Most striking was the class element. The rioting largely saw lower-class whites attacking lower-class blacks, although occasionally a middle-class black might also be assaulted. Often white sailors or soldiers were to blame. . . . Just as common were attacks by white laborers on black laborers. . . . In larger cities organized gangs caused the most harm. In New York City "roving bands of white hoodlums" like the Pearl Button Gang and the Hounds of Hell roamed through the city beating every black they could catch. In the districts known as the Black and Tan Belt and San Juan Hill, tenement houses inhabited by blacks were set ablaze and attempts were made to lock the tenants inside. The match, then, not only initiated widespread race warfare but also caused racially motivated class conflict....

It was this theme—disorder—that was stressed by most commentators on the match. Editors warned that the result of the fight would disrupt traditional race relations: "In spite of occasional lynchings in the South, the social adjustment between the white and the black races was coming to a better status than ever before when along came the Jeffries and Johnson prize fight and put the conditions back at least forty years." Translated, such comments meant that race relations were most stable when blacks remained in their clearly defined, circumscribed place and when there was no nonsense about equality. Johnson's victory proved that in at least one arena blacks were not inferior. . . . Nowhere is the effect of Johnson's accomplishment on the psyche of the black community better expressed than in the folk ballad that was written after the match:

Amaze an' Grace, how sweet it sounds,
Jack Johnson knocked Jim Jeffries down.
Jim Jeffries jumped up an' hit Jack on the chin.
An' then Jack knocked him down agin.
The Yankees hold the play,
The White man pull the trigger;
But it makes no difference what the white man say;
The world champion's still a nigger.

For whites, the fact that the world champion was black made a great deal of difference. It challenged the old notion of the blacks as an inferior race and raised once more the specter of black rebellion. A cartoon in Life magazine graphically portrayed white fears. In the middle of the page stands a large, apelike Johnson. He is smiling, and a halo circles his head. Beneath his right foot is Jeffries's head; he is pushing the white fighter's face into the dirt. No longer the respectful darky asking, hat in hand, for massa's permission, Johnson was seen as the prototype of the independent black who acted as he pleased and accepted no bar to his conduct. As such, Johnson was transformed into a racial symbol that threatened America's social order....

Disorder, sensationalism, shabbiness—such were the terms white observers used to describe the title bout. They doubted not what had taken place. But what was to be done? The most obvious solution was to prevent a repetition of the sordid affair. Their effort to do so, an attack on Johnson's world, was launched on two fronts. First, there was a widespread feeling that boxing should be abolished. Prominent magazines like The Nation denounced the "disgusting exhibition" and suggested that hereafter newspapers should refuse to cover such an uncivilized sport. This by itself was not unusual: genteel and reform journals had long been opposed to prizefighting. For the first time, however, they found support in surprising places. Ardent defenders of boxing like Theodore Roosevelt turned against the sport. In a classic Progressive appeal Roosevelt wrote, "I sincerely trust that public sentiment will be so aroused, and will make itself felt so effectively, as to guarantee that this is the last prize fight to take place in the United States....