James Jeffries was born in Carroll, Ohio on April 15, 1875. The Jeffries family left their native Ohio for Los Angeles, California in 1891, where Jefferies was a boilermaker, which served as the obvious origin for his later nickname, “The Boilermaker.”
At the age of 20, Jeffries turned to professional boxing. Notable victories against formidable opponents such as Hank Griffin, Peter Jackson, and Tom Sharkey, augmented Jeffries’ early career. After defeating Bob Armstrong, Jeffries qualified to fight in an 1899 world heavyweight championship title match. Jeffries bested Bob Fitzsimmons in the eleventh round to win the title. He successfully defended the title against Tom Sharkey and later, James Corbett.
All in all, he defended his title seven times. Jeffries was an unrelenting fighter whose success was greatly due to his ability to absorb many blows and stomach injuries such as a broken nose and bleeding head wounds. Jeffries retired in 1905, but his life outside the ring did not last long. He made a brief return after 5 years to fight Jack Johnson. The fight ended with Johnson retaining his title through technical knockout. Returning to retirement after his unsuccessful comeback, Jeffries became a boxing trainer and promoter. He passed away in 1953 and was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.