Photograph by John McCauley.

ON JULY 4, 1912, around 4,000 PEOPLE witnessed a lopsided bout that was “no better than a basement smoker in the local Odd Fellows lodge hall,” writes Toby Smith in Crazy Fourth: How Jack Johnson Kept His Heavyweight Title and Put Las Vegas, New Mexico, on the Map (UNM Press). Smith indulges a clown car’s worth of ancillary characters, but the star is Johnson, a charismatic ladies’ man whose physical prowess and black skin exposed ugly streaks of racism that left lasting wounds. Readers intrigued by the history of boxing, the Meadow City, and a New Mexico fresh into statehood should climb into this ring.