TLT  •   @One  •   Special Collections  •   Basque  •   DeLaMare  •   Savitt

Johnson-Jeffries Fight: Reno Gets the Fight




In November of 1909, promoter George Lewis "Tex" Rickard wins the right to stage the Johnson-Jeffries fight. The fight is set for July 4, 1910 in San Francisco. But on June 15, 1910 California governor James N. Gillette withdraws his support for the fight, forcing Rickard to find another location in less than three weeks.

"Reno, one of the most 'wide open' cities in the country, won the honor of hosting the contest. During the first two weeks of the unusually hot summer of 1910 a location was selected and a fight arena built. Erected on land leased by Arthur J. Aylesworth, a member of the Reno Athletic Association, from Patrick L. Flannigan, a massive wooden structure was situated along the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks and East Fourth Street just inside the city limits."

This was the first time that an arena was constructed for one single fight. The battleground was a great octagonal wooden structure, open to the skies and sufficient to accommodate 22,000 persons, including the standees on the top level. Charles Friedhoff, the contractor, pushed his 175 workmen 10 hours a day, but he also saw to it that they were encouraged to remain on the job. Every day at 3:30pm, five gallons of whiskey were rushed to the arena and all work halted while the free firewater was consumed.

The arena included a ladies box and separate stairway, moving picture platform and barbed wire partition separating the expensive and low priced seats.

Reno's constable was scrambling to keep up with the influx of hoodlums, petty larcenists and confidence men who slid into Reno daily. Sheriff Charley Ferrel said he would deputize every man in the county if necessary and Chief of Police A.A. Burke, with a handful of men for a normal force, recruited special officers by the dozen. The Nevada State police were called in to provide additional crowd control and keep the pick-pocketing at a minimum.