APT stages boxing hero's story

Posted July 15, 2023

ROY Wisc News

By Jonathan Shipley, The Wisconsin State Journal

On July 4, 1910 James Jeffries didn’t want to get knocked out. He was knocked about plenty during the fight that day. In fact, Jeffries, for the first time in his career, was knocked down twice in the boxing match noted as “The Fight of the Century.”

Bloodied, battered, and broken, Jefferies’ corner threw in the towel in the 15th round at the battle taking place in Reno, Nevada. Followed intensely across the United States, it was the world heavyweight championship and Jefferies lost to Jack Johnson, a Black man, now crowned the first ever Black world heavyweight champion.

The Baraboo News Republic made note of the famous fight soon after, in their July 7 issue. “’I tried. That’s all I ask credit for doing,’ said James. J. Jefferies, after his battle with Jack Johnson, a Texas-born pugilist who would win 72 fights in his career. ‘I was beaten fairly and squarely. I have no excuses of any kind to make. Let all credit be given to Jack Johnson for his victory. He is truly a great fighter.’”

Jamal James, a Virginian actor, writer, improviser, and model, based in New York City, is a little stunned that he had never heard of Jack Johnson before being cast in a production of “The Royale," a play based on Johnson's life.

“It is a story that wasn’t taught in high school. I was floored by his ambition, his confidence, his absolute disregard for what white people thought of him or believed he could be, or SHOULD be,” he said.

James, who portrays him in American Players Theatre's (APT) new production of “The Royale,” said, “I think when people begin to peel back the layers of his life, you can’t help but be inspired by him.”

Read the full article here.