By John J. Raspanti
Forgotten by some, but revered by others, former undisputed world heavyweight champion James J. Jeffries will be inducted into the National Boxing Hall of Fame February 17 at Knotts Berry Farm Theme Park in Buena Park, CA.
On hand to witness the Jeffries induction will be former champions Raul Perez, Rodolfo Gonzalez, and Danny “Little Red” Lopez. Also scheduled to attend are popular local fighters Armando Muniz, Frankie Duarte, and Ruben Castillo.
“I consider Jeffries to be one of the greatest heavyweight champions who ever lived,” said boxing historian and National Boxing Hall of Fame board member Tony Triem to this writer last week. “I’m thrilled that he’s being inducted.”
Jeffries, who was born in 1875, began boxing in his teens—turning professional at 20. His climb to the top of the heavyweight division was arduous. But four fights into his pro career, Jeffries caught a break.
He was hired by heavyweight champion James J. Corbett as a sparring partner. The lessons might have been painful, but Jeffries valued the boxing education he received from Corbett.
Only two years later, Jeffries, who stood 6 feet tall weighing 220 pounds, would capture the heavyweight championship by dispatching Corbett’s conqueror, Bob Fitzsimmons in 11 brutal rounds. News reports from the time indicate that Fitzsimmons had hit Jeffries with everything but the proverbial kitchen sink. Jeffries just looked at Fitzsimmons, and pounded him into jelly.
Jeffries retired undefeated in 1904 with an official record of 19 wins, with 16 knockouts. He was 29 at the time, and had defeated almost all of the top-contenders. His greatest victories were over champions Fitzsimmons, and Corbett,whom he defeated twice. Jeffries was coaxed out of retirement in 1910 to face heavyweight champion Jack Johnson.
He was stopped in 15 rounds in what many considered the first “Fight of the Century.”
Jeffries became a trainer and boxing promoter after his second retirement. In the 1930’s, he started staging fights out of his barn in Burbank, CA, across the street from his home. The weekly cards were popular and sold out quickly.
After his death in 1953, the historic barn was moved to Knotts Berry Farm, and eventually named "The Wilderness Dance Hall."
Additionally, the National Boxing Hall of Fame will bestow the hall a plaque, signifying the importance of the Jeffries Barn in boxing lore. The special plaque will be mounted at a later date.
The World Boxing Council will also be on hand Feb.17 to present the Wilderness Dance Hall with a special belt.
Tickets cost $75.00 which also include an ALL DAY pass at Knott’s Berry Farm from 10:00am - closing, Lunch Menu - ALL YOU CAN EAT (and the)
Special induction for James J. Jeffries from 12:00pm - 2:00pm.