Jack Dempsey

The Manassa Mauler

World Heavy Weight Champion 1919-1926

Born as William Harrison Dempsey in Manassa, Colorado, USA on 24 June 1895, he died in New York on 31 May 1983, coming from a large family of 11 children his father was a poor Mormon School teacher, he had an hard upbringing and by the time he was 14 he was almost homeless.


He would do anything to make money from washing dishes, polishing shoes, he would hustle and if needs be he would be a bar room brawler. It was while going round the bars of mining towns that he got a reputation as someone who could use his fist.


At 19 years of age Dempsey was fighting regularly as a pro, initially boxing under the name of Kid Blackie. His rise to fame wasn't without a set back or two, in fact he lost two and drew one of his first three fights, not a good start for a potential world champion.


These early defeats did Jack more good than harm he soon learned to put people away and soon had a reputation as a destructive puncher, but that wasn't all there was in Jack Dempsey's armoury, he combined the power with the ring craft of Corbett. The powers to be were so impressed with him that they gave him a shot at the title on 4 July 1919.


The fight was to be against Jess Willard in Toledo Ohio, Willard did what lots of boxers before and since have done, he underestimated his opponent, failing to prepare properly for the fight, Willard was too be at the receiving end of one of the worst beatings ever seen in the ring, by the end of round one, having never been put on the canvas before, Willard hit the deck six times after the seventh knock down the referee counted Willard out and the world had it's new champion or did it.


Dempsey retired to his dressing room only to be recalled because the Referee hadn't heard the bell, the fight resumed by the end of round two Willard had wished it was all over, but he somehow survived and he gamely went into round three but he finally threw in the towel himself.


Helping a Friend

Dempsey's first defence was against Billy Miske, Billy was a friend of Jack Dempsey's he was also dying of Bright's Disease and badly needed a big payday, they met on Benton Harbor on 6 September 1920, Dempsey worried about wether he should knock his friend out quickly or put him through the agony of a long bout, he finally decided to knock him out in three.


Dempsey made another successful defence against Bill Brennan before taking on Europe's best fighter Georges Carpentier a Frenchman with considerable charisma in fact when the two fighters met in New Jersey on 2 July 1921 it was Carpentier who was cheered the loudest, while considerable hostility was shown to Dempsey.


To some portions of the media Dempsey had been portrayed as a draft dodging coward while his opponent was an handsome, flamboyant war hero. They fought the biggest fight ever staged with over 80,000 people attending the fight grossed over $1.7 million. It was said that the promoter Tex Rickard realising how big this could make boxing begged Jack not to kill him, he said if you kill him you kill boxing, try to make the fight last give 'em a run for their money. to the crowd's delight Carpentier caught Dempsey with a great right in the second, following this up with a flurry of punches, without reply however in the fourth round Dempsey's left hook put Carpentier down for the count of nine, he got up another left sent him flying again, catching him with a right while he was on his way down, Dempsey had finished the fight. He was still the champ.


Another defence soon followed which ensured a points victory over Tom Gibbons, then Dempsey agreed to fight The Pampas Bull, Argentina's Luis Firpo, this fight has gone down in boxing history as one of the classic rough house battles, it lasted 3 minutes 57 seconds in which Firpo was floored 9 times Dempsey twice, the second time Firpo knocked Dempsey clean out of the ring, landing on a sports journalist's typewriter the journalist pushed Dempsey back into the ring. Dempsey was later to say that he couldn't remember a thing from that moment on he just got back into the ring and traded blows with Firpo neither man caring about defence, Dempsey finally dropped Firpo to win the bout in 237 seconds.


It took three years to get Dempsey back into the ring, this time against the cultured Gene Tunney a fighter who firmly believed brains beat brawn everytime. Dempsey wasn't prepared for this fight at 31 years of age and preoccupied with legal and business concerns, this was perhaps not the time to come up against a fighter like Tunney. the two met in Philadelphia on 23 September 1926, Tunney shocked the fight world by side stepping everything Dempsey threw his way and counter punching, by the 10th round with one eye closed and bleeding like a stuck pig Tunney was picking Dempsey off at will, a points victory gave Tunney the Crown.


World Champion 1919-1926, 6ft, weight 190lbs, 64wins 49 KO's.

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