University of Nevada, Reno distinguished History Professor Emeritus Richard O. "Dick" Davies offers a blow-by-blow account of boxing in the Silver State in his new book titled "The Main Event: Boxing in Nevada from the Mining Camps to the Las Vegas Strip." The book will be available for purchase Monday, April 21.
Davies was inspired to write his book after speaking with Matt Becker, senior acquisitions editor for the University of Nevada Press. He spent a few years researching Nevada's history and culture of boxing and composed "The Main Event," his newest chronicle of sports history.
Thus far, Davies has contributed to 15 books, nine of which he has written and many of which are related to sports, including "Rivals! The Ten Greatest American Sports Rivalries of the 20th Century;" "Betting the Line: Sports Wagering in American Life;" and "America's Obsession: Sports and Society Since 1945."
Davies, a longtime history professor, was first hired at the University in 1980 as the vice president for academic affairs. Throughout his tenure, he was named a University Foundation Professor in 1999, a Distinguished Professor in 2009, and a Distinguished Service Professor at the time of his retirement in 2011. Today, he is an appointed distinguished professor of history, emeritus and recent inductee into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame having been honored in November 2013. His historical accounts of sports have been acclaimed by peers, Sports Illustrated and the Journal of Sports History.
"The Main Event" has already been heralded by Randy Roberts, author and distinguished professor of history at Purdue University.
"From the first bout to the last, Davies' story of Nevada prizefighting is dramatic, entertaining, and smart," Roberts said. "The Main Event will be enjoyed by readers of both Nevada history and the history of American sports."
In keeping with the boxing theme, Davies titled the book's chapters 'rounds.' The opening rounds discuss boxing's origins in Nevada mining camps such as Goldfield and Tonopah followed by the first legalized boxing fight in Nevada in 1897. The match, a 42-round fight between Bob Fitzsimmons and Jim Corbett, was sponsored by Tex Rickard, who had previous experience in Alaska hosting boxing matches. Following the first fight, boxing matches began to occur with increasing frequency throughout the Silver State.
On July 4, 1910, Reno was the site of a fight between Jack Johnson and James Jeffries that has been termed Reno's "Fight of the Century." Davies cites the fight as the moment Nevada developed its reputation as a home for boxing. During the 1920s, Rickard moved to New York City and bolstered the boxing industry in New York; however, the sport's popularity returned to Nevada in Las Vegas in the 1960s. Big fighters took center stage throughout the years, including Muhammad Ali, Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.
"Boxing encompasses Nevada's maverick spirit," Davies said. "Many people may not realize it but boxing was engrained in our state's culture and the University, and the boxing team even had an impact on the sport."
Another round of the book is focused on University alumnus Mills Lane, who was an assistant prosecuting attorney, two-term Washoe County District Court Judge and now namesake to Reno's downtown courthouse. Lane was a former boxer on the University's Nevada Boxing Team in the 1960s, and is probably most known as a revered referee for 97 championship boxing matches, many major heavyweight matches, from 1970 to 1998. He coined the term, "Let's Get It On," which is now the name of the Lane family boxing business.
"He was the world's most famous boxing referee," Davies said. "He had a strong tie to the culture of boxing and the Nevada Boxing Team."
Many may think that boxing has declined in popularity in lieu of mixed martial arts, but Davies said he thinks boxing may be resilient and bounce back into the public interest.
Davies has planned two author's talks and book signings after the release. The first event is at 1 p.m., Saturday, April 26, at The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, Nev., 300 E. Stewart Ave. The second event is at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 1, at Sundance Books and Music on 121 California Ave. in Reno.