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1910 Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Souvenir Boxing Pennant.
NOTE: I was born and raised in Reno Nevada, and probably the most significant prize fight of the 20th century was held here on July 4th 1910. I am referring to the Jim Jefferies-Jack Johnson heavyweight title fight on that date. My grandfather attended the fight, and three generations later, we have decided to sell off several artifacts from this incredible fight. Our family has photographs, tickets, pennants, advertisements , broadsides, and an incredible autographed program signed by both fighters, along with fight promoter Tex Rickard(only known signed copy to exist). Some of the items have come directly from the event, while others have been meticulously collected over the past 109 years.
Thisheavyweight title fightis rankedNumber 1 by Ring magazine as the most significant prize fight in history. Arguably no boxing match has ever held greater importance than the first “Fight of the Century,” an ugly affair which drew the attention of millions not for sporting reasons, but because this contest was, first and foremost, about the supposed superiority of the white race. Jeffries initially had no interest in coming out of retirement to face Johnson but many viewed it as his social duty to put “The Galveston Giant” in his proper place. Eventually the former champion bowed to public pressure and the much anticipated clash took place in a specially built stadium where Jeffries, the expected victor, was completely dominated. To the deep dismay of the crowd, Johnson toyed with his opponent before the one-sided battering was finally stopped. The result led to race riots in virtually every major American city and the social repercussions were felt for decades.
This exceedingly rare pennant announces one of the most noteworthy matches in boxing history, as slumbering giant James Jeffries came out of retirement to face the Heavyweight Champ Jack Johnson, who had assumed the title with his 1908 victory over Tommy Burns at Sydney, Australia. Jeffries made no bones about the reasoning behind his return to the squared circle."I feel obligated to the sporting public at least to make an effort to reclaim the Heavyweight Championship for the white race. I should step into the ring again and demonstrate that a white man is king of them all."Of course, things did not go as Jeffries had hoped, and in a surprising show of humility he admitted after the fight that he could not have defeated Johnson in his prime.
The reaction to Johnson's victory was immediate and violent. Across the country white gangs descended upon celebratory gatherings of African-Americans, leaving twenty murdered in their wake. Films of the fight, expected to generate thousands in extra revenue for both fighters, were impounded at ringside. And a calculated campaign against Johnson, and his "Unforgivable Blackness," would begin, forcing the Heavyweight Champion into exile and, ultimately, the penitentiary. No black man would again be given an opportunity to compete for the Heavyweight title until 1937, when Joe Louis claimed the belt.
A magnificent memento from a landmark moment in boxing history, this felt souvenir pennant dates to the World Heavyweight Championship bout between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries on July 4, 1910. The pennant itself measures 10x24" not including tassels, and is nicely framed to 18x34". This extremely rare issue has an actual image of the combatants in a circle in the middle, it lists the purse at $101,000, and has the date with "Reno" reading down the pennant. There's some creasing in the image but nowhere else; the tassels are intact and the overall appearance is incredible with its bright and vibrant colors. Johnson, who had become the first African-American Heavyweight Champ, faced former champ Jeffries, who came out of retirement for the fight and was dubbed "The Great White Hope." Johnson dominated the aging Jeffries, and rioting after the knockout spoke strongly to the racial tensions of the times. One of only three known examples to survive. A must have for the Jack Johnson collector. Remarkable display!!