Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Big Smoke: The Battle of the Century

[The Big Smoke reading group]   

Johnson stands over Jeffries

In “The Battle of the Century” from his volume The Big Smoke, Adrian Matejka describes the historic fight between Jack Johnson and Jim Jeffries. Jefferies left retirement to fight Johnson and return the heavyweight title to white athletes and by extension white America.

Matejka divides the poem into eleven rounds of the actual fifteen rounds of the fight. The first six rounds of the poem are consecutive; however, the remaining five rounds (from 8 to 15) skip around sequentially. Although Jeffries is often given credit for his ability to absorb the beating, the length was no accident. Johnson wanted the fight to persist in order to showcase and prolong his dominance over Jeffries. In “Round Three,” he explains:
I knew before
the fight I would
hurt Jeffries, but
hurt wasn’t enough.
I wanted to take
the man’s pride
like a horse’s bridle
& send him into
the river.
In the sixth round, just before the break, Johnson begins to go to work on Jeffries: “A left hook cut Jeffries’s right cheek./A straight left blocked up his right eye.” While this is not the first time he strike Jeffries, it appears to be the first consecutive blows.

Which round of the fight did you find most captivating or interesting. Why?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II

24 comments:

Evan Townzen said...

Captivating the emotions of Johnson was beautiful the flaring emotion inside him were contained and he chipped away at his opponent throughout the whole fight but it was not until his opponent was at his weakest that he stepped up to show his dominance. The emotion in this last round made it easy to read although the entire work is engrossing round 15 is my favorite because it reminds me of the releasing of a beast that he had kept calm and focused for so long.

Christian Watts said...

"The crowd was still booing, so I waved and said, I'll straighten him up in here in a minute." This quote reminded me of how in life you find people who want you to fail, but through it all you continue to press. Round nine was extremely captivating.

Christian

Isaiah Person said...

I like how in round 3 Jack told us how he didn't just want to beat Jeffries but embarrass him and take his pride and throw it in the river. Johnson let him last fifteen rounds to prolong the beating and the humiliation.

J.D. Staples said...

"Questions bring as much hurt as fists do: How you like'em Jim?" This line is stated in the "fourteenth round" of the poem and it is interesting to me because not only did Jack Johnson defeat Jim Jefferies physically, he defeated him in the worst way you could ever defeat a man which was mentally.

Joey N. said...

The round that I found most interesting was definitely round 3. I found that the way he described wanting to take away the other man's pride by just physically beating him senseless extremely captivating.

Darius R. said...

I found round four most interesting because Jack Johnson allowed himself to get hit and hurt, just to prolong the fight. He was so sure of his victory that he let his body take punishment for pure entertainment.

Elijah Person said...

I loved chapter three, to purposely break someone down like that. He, Johnson, knew he was going to win and only let Jefferies on so he could continue to embarrass him.

John Kriha said...

I found round 15 the most captivating because Johnson was not only beating Jeffries but he was beating the idea that black men were inferior out of society. Another thing that stood out about this round is how the ref did not disqualify Jeffries after his corner helped him to his feet. And still Johnson came out victorious and made a huge impact on the fight against discrimination and the sport of boxing.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Reincke said...

I found round 3 to be most captivating or interesting because of that unsettling raw human nature that seems to take hold of Johnson when he knew he had Jefferies beat. To want to beat a man in that most brutal and convincing of a way suggests immense amounts of bad blood between the opponents.

Ricky Wells said...

I found the intro to the story the most interesting, because of how Jack Johnson got Jeff Jeffries to quit; boxing after the beaten Big Smoke gave him. Not only did Johnson make Jeffries quit, he made him hide from the world on a farm.

jingolder said...

Round two was very interesting, because Jeffries' coach, Corbett, was basically a symbol of the outrage throughout the white community as they all were forced to sit and watch Johnson dismantle their competitor. The whole round shows that Johnson has been training for this moment his entire life, which is a moment that entails proving his worth with poise and maturity, and lowering Corbett to a point where he must yell slurs of racism and bigotry.

John H.

Jelani Brown said...

The round I found most interesting would be round ten. This round intwrested me because Jeffries wanted to go down fighting and that's what Johnson had planned for him to do. It grabbed my attention because Johnson knew that he was going to take down Jeffries soon.

Joshua Smith said...

Joshua Smith,

I think round 2 & 3 intrigued me the most. It almost felt like Jack Johnson was trying to put on a show for the crowd. He wanted to dominate Jeffries in slow and mothotical way.

Jeremiah Blackburn said...

I think that round fifteen was the most interesting because Jack Johnson is clearly playing with Jeffries at this point. This round is the icing on the cake to a victory that Johnson had secured ever since the fight had began. Jeffries is hanging on for dear life in this round and his corner threw in the towel in an effort to prevent Johnson from killing him.

Robert F said...

The third round was most captivating to me. That round Jack began to taunt and you could already tell that Jack was going to beat Jeffery and it was time to put on a show. This was the round that would start the steady inclination to the climax of the poem.

Robert F.

Trion T. said...

I found round two to be the most captivating because through all the insults, Jack still kept his mind on the prize. I found it completeley appalling that Jim said some of the things he did and also the fact that they played that song in the background, yet it was also unsurprising. I just love that the fact that all those people in the crowds wanted Jack to fail, and he showed all of them up.

Nicholas M. said...

I found the entire fight interesting. Mainly in the fact that Jack wanted to make a statement to the white race by embarrassing Jefferies.

Wole A said...

Round 4 was the most interesting to me because jack showed is superiority by allowing himself to get hit.

Isaiah Blackburn said...

I liked the last round the most. Even though Johnson was the clear winner, the crowd still refused to believe that Johnson was better than Jefferies. They were so blinded by their pride to the point that when Jefferies was knocked out of the ring, his brothers just pushed him back in as if nothing was wrong. The only people who seems to finally recognize Johnson's dominance were Corbett, who throws in the towel, and Jefferies who says, "I couldn't come back, boys. I couldn't come back," after the fight.

Xavier Morrison- Wallace said...

I enjoyed round four and five because in round four memories of failures and humiliation were brought up as he got hit and in round five Jack Johnson wasn't going to let that happen again.

Jordan Hardman said...

I feel as if the crowd was never open to Jack Johnson. They felt as if he wasn't worthy enough to be in the ring anyway. The fight was captivating none the less but it was never ever meant to be won by Johnson.

Quentin Wilson said...

The most interesting thing is how Jack prelonged the match just to embarrass Jeffries and prove how much of a skilled fighter he is.

J.Shaw said...

"Even after nine rounds of me beating on their boy, they still didn't see he was only standing because I let him." (Matejka 82). This line in the ninth round was very interesting to me because it not only showed Johnson's confidence as a fighter, but also displayed how the white crowd never wanted to admit that a black man was better than their once heavyweight boxer Mr. Jeffries.

Phillip Goens said...

Round fourteen was my favorite round, not because I was looking for the shortest, because round 15 was a great poem to read. I think this is one of the best poems in the book because it got me stuck on one line. “Questions bring much hurt as fists do” This one line got me thinking of all the questions that can bring pain, and I’m not talking about scars and blood. Even though on round 14 he was taking this literally, while punching his opinionate, I like the statement. It has such a deeper meaning, on a shallow level in this poem. Just think about it…