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Jack Dempsey: The Man, Myth and Legend

Jack Dempsey

The tenacious fighter known as the “Manassa Mauler” is considered one of the greatest punchers of all time

William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey was born in June of 1895 in Manassa, Colorado to family of Irish, Cherokee and Jewish ancestry. Known as “Kid Blackie” and “The Manassa Mauler”, Dempsey had an aggressive style and was known for his great punching power. Dempsey held the World Heavyweight Championship title from 1919-1926.

Jack Dempsey was known as an aggressive fighter.
• Dempsey’s record was 65 wins, 6 losses and 11 draws.
Jack Dempsey was known for his punching power.

Dempsey had the fortune of being a boxer with his prime in a very lucrative period in boxing history. Dempsey ability to fit into the “Great White Hope” role set numerous financial and attendance records. This also included the first million-dollar gate. He has an impressive record of 65 wins, 6 losses and 11 draws.

Dempsey in his early years

Growing up in a poor family in Colorado, his father had to move the family around as a result of trying to find work. This made it particularly hard for young Dempsey to be properly educated and it eventually led him to drop out of elementary school and leave home at 16. For this period he led a life underneath trains and sleeping in hobo camps.

In order to make money, Dempsey would sometimes enter bars and challenge people to fights which would draw a lot of wagers. This gambling of course wasn’t according to US gambling laws. He rarely lost these bar fights. His reputation earned him a temporary job as a bodyguard for Thomas Kearns, president of The Salt Lake Tribune.

Jack Dempsey

Since he fought for a time under the name “Kid Blackie”, Dempsey boxing record is inaccurate. His first fight at “Jack Dempsey” was in 1914. Dempsey was aware of the “great white hope” title and longed to be this champion for white people. After having a number of fights, Dempsey worked in a shipyard during the first World War. After the war, he eventually returned to the ring.

Gaining the Heavyweight Championship of the World

Dempsey shot at the heavyweight title started rocky with him being knocked out by Fireman Jim Flynn in the first round. After hiring Jack Kearns as his manager, things began to pick up. He fought 17 matches including a knockout of Flynn in a rematch. Dempsey would finally get his shot at the title in 1919. Still being seen as an underdog, some of his bouts had odd at 50 to 1 against Dempsey. This would spark a stampede for betters involved in mobile sports betting today.

Jack Dempsey beat Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio for the World Heavyweight Championship title in 1919. Willard, known as the “Pottawatamie Giant” was knocked down 7 times by Dempsey in the first round. Willard’s supposed injures of broken jaw, broken ribs, broken teeth and deep facial bone fractures led some to believe Dempsey used loaded gloves. Dempsey did happen to leave the ring at the end of the first round.

After the title fight, Dempsey received instant status as he travelled around the U.S making public appearances with circuses, staged exhibitions and a low-budget Hollywood film. Dempsey fought and won his title defenses. One of these was against World War I hero Georges Carpenter. Promoted by Tex Rickard and George Bernard Shaw, this fight was called the “fight of the century” and was the first million dollar gate.

Life after the Championship

Dempsey last title defense win was in 1923 against Argentinian contender Firpo. With an attendance of 85,000 inside and 20,000 outside the arena, Dempsey defeated Firpo in the second round. With the extra money from exhibitions, films and endorsements, Dempsey was one of the richest athletes in the world. His financial success would keep him from a defense bout for 3 years.

Despite pressure from the media and public, Dempsey refused to fight any African-American boxers after he won the championship. Dempsey never got to fight the top African-American contender Harry Wills and continued to party, travel and eventually marry an actress. Dempsey finally had a major title defense in 1926 against Gene Tunney. Gene Tunney, a former U.S. Marine, had only lost one fight.

He was able to defeat Dempsey in points for 10 rounds. The 120,557 in attendance was the largest crowd ever at the time for a non-racing or football event. Dempsey would later lose in another bout to Tunney. This last rematch had a record setting $2 million gate which was well-known in U.S. gambling news at the time. Faulty refereeing resulted in Tunney having 5 extra seconds when knocked down and would go down in history as “The Long Count Fight.”

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