"The Last Great Prizefight", by Steven Frederick - A Review
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Jan 8, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
The Last Great Prizefight
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: Regardless of one's knowledge of the events that occurred on July 4, 1910, author Steven Frederick’s compelling account will inform, enlighten, and entertain as the author tells the true life story of THE LAST GREAT PRIZEFIGHT, JOHNSON Vs. JEFFRIES, RENO, JULY 4, 1910.

Frederick’s knowledge of his subject is obvious from the first page as his arching prose reaches across the culture of the times. His decision to include the history of early Americana adds depth to his telling.

The most important people in Frederick’s book are ultimate honest gambler Tex Richard, retired undefeated former champion James J. Jeffries, and last, but certainly not least, controversial heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. The controversial aspect of Johnson is his skin color. He’s black, and he’s proud of it. The masses can’t fathom a black man beating a white man in anything. The racist media wants to dismiss Johnson as a slow-witted clown but can’t due to his immense talent inside the ring.

In 1910, prizefighting was schizophrenic in scope and popularity, with just as many people wanting to attend the fights as outlaw them. For awhile it looked like the Jeffries/Johnson fight might never happen. Jeffries was happily retired, so for a time he resisted calls to challenge Johnson. But the pressure though was unbearable. Promoter Tex Richard had wanted the big fight to take place in San Francisco. The fact that Richard was even promoting the fight was more a testament to his honesty, then the amount of money in his wallet.

Both fighters trusted Tex.

Frederick writes expertly about the behind the scenes maneuverings and how the super bout ended up in Reno. As the fight draw’s closer, rumours abound that the fix is in. Frederick addresses these claims by allowing the reader to decide the likely truth. The chapters fly by as Frederick moves from the boorish and apprehensive Jefferies, to the witty and confident Johnson.

Other legends brought back to life are John L. Sullivan and his old nemisis, James J. Corbett. The two are brought together to support Jeffries, though it would be Sullivan who would correctly predict the outcome of the fight. Frederick explains that some of the confidence in Jeffries camp is for show, to help the ex-champion believe in himself. Jeffries false front is exposed by a lack of real confidence.

Showing the contrast of the two men, Frederick writes of Johnson’s love of music and Jeffries fondness for fishing.

THE LAST GREAT PRIZEFIGHT is a fascinating read set in the history of the times.The author also brings the event alive by using newspaper articles and quotes written before and after the bout. He also includes CALL OF THE WILD author Jack London’s full text of the contest.

The history lesson Frederick provides the reader is powerful and uncompromising. The fight’s outcome further divides the nation. The match also devours both Jeffries and Johnson, one losing his invincibility, and the other his hunger.

For more information on how to purchase a copy of this outstanding book, please follow this link.


Recent work from Raspanti:
David Rodriguez: "I thank God I’m alive" - "The blood was squirting out like a sprinkler" John J. Raspanti

-- Questions/comments johnboxing1@hotmail.com

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