Biography for Jack Dempsey
Jack Dempsey was the greatest heavyweight prizefighter of the 1920s. His most famous fight was his 1926 bout with Gene Tunney, which he lost after the legendary "long count" saved his opponent from a knockout. Dempsey was born William Harrison Dempsey on June 24, 1895 in Manassa, Colorado. His parents were poor, and Dempsey was the ninth of 11 children. As a young teen, he left home for a life on the road. For several years, he worked at menial jobs in the lumber camps, mines, and railroads of Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. He also fought in amateur boxing matches, often under the nickname "Kid Blackie." When he was 19, he began fighting as "Jack" Dempsey, a name two of his brothers had fought under as well. In 1917, he was knocked out by Jim Flynn in the 20th round of their bout, the only knockout he would ever suffer. Later in 1917, Jack "Doc" Kearns became Dempsey's manager. Under Kearns' guidance, Dempsey began consistently winning fights, and within two years, he was contending for the heavyweight title. On July 4, 1919, Dempsey faced Jess Williard, the reigning heavyweight champion. Williard stood six-feet, six-inches tall and weighed 245 pounds, 60 pounds more than Dempsey. However, Dempsey was a powerful puncher and broke Williard's jaw in the first round. Thereafter, he beat Williard so badly that the champion was unable to come out after the third round, and Dempsey became the new champion. Dempsey won two more bouts in 1920. He was not a popular champion, though, in part because he had been arrested as a draft evader during World War I. In 1921, he fought French fighter Georges Carpentier for the title. Carpentier was a war hero, and promoters built up the fight as a conflict between a hero and a malingerer. The public responded to the promoter's hype, and 80,000 fans flocked to New Jersey, creating the first million-dollar gate in boxing history. Carpentier was no match for Dempsey and failed to make it past the fourth round. Dempsey followed that fight with a brutal match against the Argentinean fighter Luis Firpo. Dempsey won that fight in only two rounds. After the Firpo fight, Dempsey stopped fighting for three years. He returned to boxing in 1926 to fight Tunney, a young contender. Tunney was too fast for Dempsey and took away the champion's title. Dempsey and Tunney met in the ring again the following year in what would become one of the most famous fights in history. The fight took place in Chicago on September 22, 1927. The gate for the contest was nearly $3 million, another record. Tunney dominated the initial rounds of the fight. Yet in the seventh round, Dempsey was able to knock him down with a furious series of blows. Dempsey failed to follow the referee's instructions to head to the neutral corner, however, and the knockout count was delayed four seconds. Tunney managed to scramble to his feet after the referee had counted to nine and barely avoided being counted out. Tunney kept away from Dempsey for the rest of the fight and was declared the winner. Dempsey retired from prizefighting after the second Tunney fight and went on to become a successful New York restaurateur. While he was champ, Dempsey was an unpopular figure. Yet by losing his final match, and in such a controversial manner, he became a fan favorite. Dempsey was married four times, including once to the actress Estelle Taylor. He died on May 31, 1983 of natural causes.