Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants

Title

Blacks, Boosterism, and Boxing

Department

History Department

College

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Disciplines

Arts and Humanities

Abstract

In February 1901, after Ohios Governor Gary Nash banned prizefighting, promoters looked to California to host the Jim Jeffries-Gus Ruhlin championship fight. In Los Angeles, city boosters believed that hosting this contest would bring positive attention to the city. Having Jeffries, the epitome of white manliness, defend his title in his hometown fit into their plans of using whiteness to booster the city as the last bastion for the race. Despite boosters excitement, they faced one major racial hurdle. The white owned Los Angeles Athletic Club had recently stopped hosting fights, leaving three black owned clubs to host bouts. Within a month, the city closed the clubs arguing that they were health hazards. This move gave white promoter Tom McCarey and his newly formed Century Athletic Club a monopoly of the sport. However, his business challenged the citys position as a haven for whiteness. He openly sought out the best black boxers, and he made a conscious effort to promote interracial fights in which black men ultimately won the majority of the contests. Within two years Los Angelinos accused him of running a nigger club and he eventually had a self-imposed moratorium on interracial contests. This paper explores the racial politics about boosterism and boxing in Los Angeles at the turn of the century. It argues that boosters embraced boxing because it promoted manliness and tourism. However, McCareys penchant for interracial contests challenged residents and boosters concept of white authority.

Conference Name

Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association

Conference Location

San Diego, CA

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