William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey (June 24, 1895 - May 31, 1983),
also known as "Kid Blackie" and "The Manassa Mauler".
Fight and Controversy
On July 4, 1919, Dempsey and world Heavyweight
Champion Jess Willard met at Toledo for the world title. Pro lightweight
fighter Benny Leonard predicted a victory for the 6'1", 187 pound
Dempsey even though Willard, known as the "Pottawatamie Giant", was
6'6.5" tall and 245 pounds. Ultimately, Willard was knocked down seven
times by Dempsey in the first round.
Accounts of the fight reported
that Willard suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, several broken teeth,
and a number of deep fractures to his facial bones. This aroused suspicion
that Dempsey had cheated, with some questioning how the force capable
of causing such damage had been transmitted through Dempsey's knuckles
without fracturing them.
Other reports, however, failed to mention
Willard suffered any real injuries. The New York Times' account of
the fight described severe swelling visible on one side of Willard's
face, but did not mention any broken bones. A still photograph of
Willard following the fight appears to show discoloration and swelling
on his face.
Following the match, Willard was quoted as saying,
"Dempsey is a remarkable hitter. It was the first time that I had
ever been knocked off my feet. I have sent many birds home in the
same bruised condition that I am in, and now I know how they felt.
I sincerely wish Dempsey all the luck possible and hope that he garnishes
all the riches that comes with the championship. I have had my fling
with the title. I was champion for four years and I assure you that
they'll never have to give a benefit for me. I have invested the money
I have made. Willard later claimed to have been defeated by "gangsterism".
being fired by Dempsey, manager Jack Kearns gave an account of the
fight in the January 20, 1964 issue of sports Illustrated that has
become known as the "loaded gloves theory". In the interview, Kearns
claimed to have informed Dempsey he had wagered his share of the purse
favoring a Dempsey win with a first-round knockout. Kearns further
stated he had applied plaster of Paris to the wrappings on the fighter's
Boxing historian J. J. Johnston said, "the films show
Willard upon entering the ring walking over to Dempsey and examining
his hands." That, along with an experiment conducted by a boxing magazine
designed to re-enact the fight have been noted as proof that Kearns'
story was false.
The Ring magazine founder and editor Nat Fleischer
claimed to be present when Dempsey's hands were wrapped, stating,
"Jack dempsey had no loaded gloves, and no plaster of Paris over his
bandages. I watched the proceedings and the only person who had anything
to do with the taping of Jack's hands was Deforest. Kearns had nothing
to do with it, so his plaster of Paris story is simply not true.
himself said that he regarded the stories of Dempsey's gloves being
loaded as libel, calling them "trash", and said he did not apply any
foreign substance to them, which I can verify since I watched the
taping." Sports writer Red Smith, in Dempsey's obituary published
by The New York Times' was openly dismissive of the claim.
rumor is that Dempsey used a knuckleduster during the first round.
Some speculated that the object used was a rail spike. In the Los
Angeles Times on July 3, 1979, Joe Stone, an ex-referee and boxing
writer, asserted that in a film taken of the fight an object on the
canvas could be seen after the final knockdown.