1963 article by Jack Dempsey

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1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by cmoyle on Sun Aug 14, 2011 2:58 pm

I believe the following article written by Jack Dempsey appeared in a 1963 issue of Ebony magazine. This is an excerpt of it that is included as a chapter in a 1963 book edited by two men from that magazine. The book is titled ‘White on Black’ and the title of the chapter is ‘Why Negroes Rule Boxing’:

“From the inception of boxing in this country it has been dominated by men who developed out of struggle with life. Our first real heavyweight champion, Tom Molyneaux, was born a slave in Virginia and won his freedom with his fistic talent. Fighting as a freedman in New York he beat all challengers and earned the right to be called the first American heavyweight champion.

All of the great old-time Negro boxers were born under poor and depressing circumstances but rose above their environments to win acclaim wherever they fought. Peter Jackson, Sam Langford, George Dixon, Joe Gans, the immortal “Old Master,” and Jack Johnson all knew what it felt like to be up against the wall and cornered. Their bitter experiences were reflected in their superb endurance and their toughness of spirit. Their early poverty showed itself in the way they handled themselves as men and boxers.

I am personally indebted to a number of Negro boxers who worked as my sparring partners in the years when I was learning how to handle myself in a ring. When I was fighting I had many Negro sparring partners at my training camp. One of these, Bill Tate, became one of my best friends. Now living in Chicago, Illinois, he is one of the finest men I have ever known. Then there was Panama Joe Gans, a great and clever fighter, who taught me a lot. The Jamaica Kid, a very fine heavyweight, worked with me before the famous 1919 fight with Jess Willard. The Kid did a lot to get me into the superb condition that enabled me to beat Willard and win the world’s championship.

Sam Langford, one of the greatest of all heavyweights, is another Negro fighter who showed me some tricks and gave me the benefits of his vast experience. I worked with Old Sam in Chicago when I was a youngster. I never forgot what Langford taught me. He was cool, clever, scientific and a terrific hitter besides a fine man.
Battling Gee and Battling Jim Johnson, both Negroes were also on my payroll as sparring mates. I was a pretty rough customer in those days and my sparring partners had to be good and tough to stay with me. All of these men more than made the grade.

Many times I’ve had the charge hurled at me that I was prejudiced against Negroes. It is time this utter fiction was laid to rest once and for all. All my life I have believed that all men are basically brothers and that differences of color and religion are superficial. I hate prejudice. I hate discrimination. I hate intolerance. Boxing has been guilty of its share of color bias but I categorically deny that I ever practiced it either as a fighter, manager or promoter. The several Negro fighters who have been under my management will testify to my long-held belief in equality of treatment for all men, regardless of color.

Since I am on the subject of the color line in boxing, let me clear the air of the many rumors and suspicions and charges that have been moving around me as a result of my failure to fight Harry Wills. I have never run away from a fight in my life. Ever since I left public school to work in the Colorado mines, my credo has been to fight all comers and may the best man win. Harry Wills was a great fighter in his prime and I would have liked to have been matched with him. But it was not to be. The reasons had nothing to do with color prejudice on my part (which I have never held), nor fear of Wills fighting skill. I wanted to fight Wills badly, but Tex Rickard, who had the final say, never matched us.

Rickard was a Texan. He had a rough time of it out in San Francisco, California, after the Johnson-Jeffries fight which he promoted in Reno. The repercussions of that fight swirled about Rick’s head for a long time after the fight and he was a victim of ugly charges and a wicked smear campaign. This experience soured him on mixed fights for the heavyweight crown. As a result he was never anxious to promote a match between Wills and myself.

The facts clearly show that in 1926 I tried desperately to arrange a fight with Harry Wills but the deal collapsed when my guarantee was not forthcoming. Wills and I had signed to fight with a promoter named Floyd Fitzsimmons of Benton Harbor, Michigan. Wills, I understand, received fifty thousand dollars as his guarantee for signing the contract. I was to have received one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars in advance of the fight. As the date of the fight grew nearer and my money did not appear, I became anxious and asked Fitzsimmons what was the matter. He wired me to meet him in Dayton, Ohio, assuring me that he would have the money for me there. I met Fitzsimmons in Dayton who handed me a certified check for twenty-five thousand dollars and a promise to let me have the balance almost immediately. I balked at that, demanding the full amount right away. Fitzsimmons tried to placate me by calling the bank where he said he had deposited the money. The bank, unfortunately for Fitzsimmons, informed him that it did not have that much money on hand, that there wasn’t enough to cover the twenty-five thousand dollar check he had given me. Furious, I returned the check to Fitzsimmons and told him the fight was off. Later, the Fitzsimmons syndicate financing the fight sued me for failure to honor a contract. I won the case.

When the Wills fight failed to materialize, Tex Rickard jumped back into the picture and matched me with Gene Tunney. The rest is history. And that is the real story behind the negotiations for the Harry Wills fight which never came off. I am sorry Wills and I never got a chance to square off in the ring. I am sure it would have been one beautiful scrap.”

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:05 pm

Fascinating stuff, Clay, and most timely, given that the Dempsey / Wills topic has once again cropped up at another thread.

Thanks very much for sharing.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by The Galveston Giant on Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:07 pm

Thanks very much Clay, great stuff.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by 88Chris05 on Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:19 pm

Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:32 pm

Great read, as someone who spends far too much of his time on here arguing Dempsey was pretty much blameless in the Wills fight not coming off is good to hear it from the horses mouth.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Sun Aug 14, 2011 3:57 pm

Wow, brilliant find, Clay.

It is a real rarity to see such an excerpt, and helps to give those of us not too clued up on the ins and outs of why that fight never materialised a much needed insight.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Steffan on Sun Aug 14, 2011 5:22 pm

Great article to find and a good read. Dempsey was clearly a decent bloke. I just hope Manny or Floyd wont ever have to write an article in years to come explaining why their fight didnt come off

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Great article, but Jack is not fully truthful

Post by MODI on Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:22 am

First off, my most humble appreciation to Clay Moyle for his absolutely wonderful contribution with the book on Sam Langford. Can't praise enough...

Now this was a great article and very insightful. But Jack is rewriting history a bit. Dempsey drew the colorline on more than one occasion. It is on the front page of the NYTimes after the Willard fight. After Jack Johnson challenged him, he reiterated it. Wills was the #1 contender for seven years prior to 1926 (when his best years were behind him). Now I doubt that Jack was scared to fight anybody (except as he admits -- Sam Langford!), and by all accounts he was taking instructions from management, but that and his personal relationships with black fighters is completely irrelevant. According to Dempsey's own words coming out of his own mouth -- he drew the colorline. He should have owned that.


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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by cmoyle on Mon Aug 15, 2011 5:40 am

Thanks MODI.

"Dempsey drew the colorline on more than one occasion. It is on the front page of the NYTimes after the Willard fight. After Jack Johnson challenged him, he reiterated it."

Can you provide the exact quote from Dempsey? It would be interesting to read it. You know, somewhere I remember coming across another quote from Dempsey lamenting the fact that he wasn't in his prime during the time of Johnson's reign. I can't remember where the heck I came across that now. I might even have that somewhere in a very thick folder of Dempsey articles, etc. that I have but I'd hate to think of the time it would take to try and locate it if that is in fact where it is. Johnson was so far past his best fighting days by 1919 that it's hard to imagine Dempsey being afraid to face him at all by then.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Mon Aug 15, 2011 8:50 am

Welcome aboard, MODI.

As Clay says, it would be fascinating to see the original quote from Dempsey, if it is at all possible to obtain it.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:02 am

I have that same article from the New York Times, fellas.

Dempsey said it in his first interview following the triumph over Willard. However, context is everything. This was a mere four years after Johnson's having been ousted by Willard and only nine years since the riots following Johnson v Jeffries. Shouldn't be forgotten, either, that on the very day that Dempsey was annihilating Willard in Toledo, down the road in St Louis, Missouri, Langford and Harry Wills were fighting each other.

I'm inclined to believe that it was Rickard - or Kearns, more likely - who was pulling Dempsey's strings in an effort to reassure White America that it would be business as normal with Dempsey on the throne.

There's a link to the article, here :

http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=9F00E6D8143AE03ABC4E53DFB1668382609EDE

Oddly, there is no direct quotation from Dempsey on the colour line issue, so it wouldn't necessarily conflict with his later assertions had it been Kearns ( who was present at the interview, ) who had been the person to say it. There are, however, several direct quotations from Dempsey contained in subsequent issues of the NYT in which he categorically affirms his willingness to fight Wills.

Shouldn't be forgotten that there are articles to prove that Jacobs kept Joe Louis away from fellow African Americans during the early days, also. Sometimes, however unpalatable, compromises had to be made to get business done.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:22 am

Interesting read Windy, as you rightly say does not appear to be any direct quotes from Jack so would have to say the headline is more than a little misleading, also has Clay has already said am not sure how viable an opponent Johnson was by 1919, as he was some way past his best and his form was a little patchy.

For some reason the colour line thing seems to stick to Jack more than most any fighter and I feel it is a little harsh. Accepted he wanted no part of Langford but at the time Reisler tried to match them Jack was a novice and Sam still had a little left, for me this was more prudence than prejudice, Wills, as we know Jack agreed to fight at least once, whilst Johnson to me just looks like an old fighter trying to get a chance his form at the time probably did not warrant, akin to Holyfield calling out the Klitschkos nowadays.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:30 am

rowley wrote:Interesting read Windy, as you rightly say does not appear to be any direct quotes from Jack so would have to say the headline is more than a little misleading, also has Clay has already said am not sure how viable an opponent Johnson was by 1919, as he was some way past his best and his form was a little patchy.

For some reason the colour line thing seems to stick to Jack more than most any fighter and I feel it is a little harsh. Accepted he wanted no part of Langford but at the time Reisler tried to match them Jack was a novice and Sam still had a little left, for me this was more prudence than prejudice, Wills, as we know Jack agreed to fight at least once, whilst Johnson to me just looks like an old fighter trying to get a chance his form at the time probably did not warrant, akin to Holyfield calling out the Klitschkos nowadays.

The injustice I see in all this, jeff, is that Dempsey - as you point out - is hammered over the Wills issue, despite his having protested his innocence, and yet he openly admitted that he had wanted no part of Langford. If he was honest enough to have said that Sam ( at the time, anyway, ) would have turned him over, then why would he wriggle over the Wills issue ?

As far as I'm concerned, Clay's article, here, ( the story to which I have also read elsewhere, though not directly from Dempsey, ) together with Dempsey's very public testimony in the newspapers of the day, are sufficient to persuade me that Jack gets an unfair rap on this issue.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:31 am

Why should he not get blame if it was his manager keeping him away? At the end of the day he employs his manager, so if he truly wanted the fight he could get it.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:37 am

You have to take into account Scott that managers are generally far more financially astute than the boxers themselves, with a greater deal of business sense, and it is therfore not unlikely that Dempsey, as with others, had a pretty big reliance on his manager and a degree of trust that he felt he would not find elsewhere.

He had always delivered to date, why would Dempsey feel the need not to trust him with this one, too?

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:37 am

Scottrf wrote:Why should he not get blame if it was his manager keeping him away? At the end of the day he employs his manager, so if he truly wanted the fight he could get it.

Context is why. This was the day after the Willard fight.

I have many, many articles from the same New York Times in which Dempsey vehemently declares his willingness to fight Wills.

The film ' Birth of a Nation ' had been released in 1915, ( ironically, ) and it had spawned the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan. This time round, the Klan were better funded and better organised, and went on to gain high office in local governments. I have read accounts to the effect that many major cities turned Rickard down flat when he tried to promote Dempsey v Wills.

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, but there's plenty of evidence for the alternative to counterbalance this issue.


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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by coxy0001 on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:40 am

Problem is Fists is that Dempsey has always come across as a rather intelligent man to me personally, more so in a common sense way (rather than discussing the benefits of fiscal expansions).

Whilst i don't believe he should be completely harangued i certainly don't believe he shouldn't be shielded from apportioning blame. Where the balance lies between the two is where many are divided naturally.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:42 am

HumanWindmill wrote:
Scottrf wrote:Why should he not get blame if it was his manager keeping him away? At the end of the day he employs his manager, so if he truly wanted the fight he could get it.

Context is why. This was the day after the Willard fight.

I have many, many articles from the same New York Times in which Dempsey vehemently declares his willingness to fight Wills.

The film ' Birth of a Nation ' had been released in 1915, ( ironically, ) and it had spawned the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan. This time round, the Klan were better funded and better organised, and went on to gain high office in local governments. I have read accounts to the effect that many major cities turned Rickard down flat when he tried to promote Dempsey v Wills.

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, but there's plenty of evidence for the alternative to counterbalance this issue.

So what you're saying is the commissions/venues kept him away rather than Kearns?

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:43 am

Fists of Fury wrote:You have to take into account Scott that managers are generally far more financially astute than the boxers themselves, with a greater deal of business sense, and it is therfore not unlikely that Dempsey, as with others, had a pretty big reliance on his manager and a degree of trust that he felt he would not find elsewhere.

He had always delivered to date, why would Dempsey feel the need not to trust him with this one, too?
So we aren't to blame Calzaghe for how Warren handled his career?

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:47 am

My understanding of this is Kearns and Rickard had no massive desire to make the match and Rickard was certainly resistant to make the fight with the Johnson Jeffries aftermath still pretty fresh in his memory. However when put under a little pressure from the various commissions he did make some enquiries about staging the fight but met with a lack of interest from various cities who could potentially stage it and as the article suggests those that did try and stage it failed to come up with the required funds.

How seriously or committedly Rickard tried to make the fight can be debated and it would probably be fair to say that attempts were more for show rather than a genuine desire because as the Gibbons fight in Shelby showed where there is a will there is a way but again as he signed for the fight I struggle to see how too much of the blame can land at Jack's door.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:48 am

Scottrf wrote:
HumanWindmill wrote:
Scottrf wrote:Why should he not get blame if it was his manager keeping him away? At the end of the day he employs his manager, so if he truly wanted the fight he could get it.

Context is why. This was the day after the Willard fight.

I have many, many articles from the same New York Times in which Dempsey vehemently declares his willingness to fight Wills.

The film ' Birth of a Nation ' had been released in 1915, ( ironically, ) and it had spawned the reformation of the Ku Klux Klan. This time round, the Klan were better funded and better organised, and went on to gain high office in local governments. I have read accounts to the effect that many major cities turned Rickard down flat when he tried to promote Dempsey v Wills.

Everybody loves a conspiracy theory, but there's plenty of evidence for the alternative to counterbalance this issue.

So what you're saying is the commissions/venues kept him away rather than Kearns?

Let's say that, ultimately, I suspect that to have been the case, though I'm equally sure that Kearns was keen to curry favour with White America in the immediate aftermath of the Dempsey win.

Let's not forget that Willard had been the betting favourite going in. White America felt ' safe ' with him, since they viewed him as we view Vitali Klitschko today. Again, the day Dempsey turned him over, Wills and Langford were contesting the ' Coloured ' championship down in Missouri. It doesn't require a leap of the imagination to venture that Kearns wanted to buy some time until Dempsey proved that the Willard win was no fluke and that he was the real deal. Probably explains why, later, Dempsey publicly embraced the idea of fighting Wills.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:51 am

HumanWindmill wrote:Let's say that, ultimately, I suspect that to have been the case, though I'm equally sure that Kearns was keen to curry favour with White America in the immediate aftermath of the Dempsey win.

Let's not forget that Willard had been the betting favourite going in. White America felt ' safe ' with him, since they viewed him as we view Vitali Klitschko today. Again, the day Dempsey turned him over, Wills and Langford were contesting the ' Coloured ' championship down in Missouri. It doesn't require a leap of the imagination to venture that Kearns wanted to buy some time until Dempsey proved that the Willard win was no fluke and that he was the real deal. Probably explains why, later, Dempsey publicly embraced the idea of fighting Wills.
OK. It seems strange then that this is to be accepted, but at the smallest sign of a fight not happening in the exact month, never mind year, that the fans want in the modern era is evidence than big fights don't happen any longer. Bradley-Khan for example.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:54 am

Scottrf wrote:
Fists of Fury wrote:You have to take into account Scott that managers are generally far more financially astute than the boxers themselves, with a greater deal of business sense, and it is therfore not unlikely that Dempsey, as with others, had a pretty big reliance on his manager and a degree of trust that he felt he would not find elsewhere.

He had always delivered to date, why would Dempsey feel the need not to trust him with this one, too?
So we aren't to blame Calzaghe for how Warren handled his career?

Different kettle of fish.

I'm not going to be drawn on the Calzaghe issue, but as it relates to Dempsey we should remember that Rickard, at the time, was the biggest promoter by some distance. Warren has never been such, and frustrated fighters from his stable could seek out the Kings and the Arums of this world if they wished to fulfill their ambitions.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:56 am

HumanWindmill wrote:Different kettle of fish.

I'm not going to be drawn on the Calzaghe issue, but as it relates to Dempsey we should remember that Rickard, at the time, was the biggest promoter by some distance. Warren has never been such, and frustrated fighters from his stable could seek out the Kings and the Arums of this world if they wished to fulfill their ambitions.
Who's to say they would have had him? Wasn't exactly a name in America for the majority of his career, and he probably signed a contract which didn't allow him to do that.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 9:59 am

Scottrf wrote:
HumanWindmill wrote:Let's say that, ultimately, I suspect that to have been the case, though I'm equally sure that Kearns was keen to curry favour with White America in the immediate aftermath of the Dempsey win.

Let's not forget that Willard had been the betting favourite going in. White America felt ' safe ' with him, since they viewed him as we view Vitali Klitschko today. Again, the day Dempsey turned him over, Wills and Langford were contesting the ' Coloured ' championship down in Missouri. It doesn't require a leap of the imagination to venture that Kearns wanted to buy some time until Dempsey proved that the Willard win was no fluke and that he was the real deal. Probably explains why, later, Dempsey publicly embraced the idea of fighting Wills.
OK. It seems strange then that this is to be accepted, but at the smallest sign of a fight not happening in the exact month, never mind year, that the fans want in the modern era is evidence than big fights don't happen any longer. Bradley-Khan for example.

I don't have an opinion on that issue. My stance has always been that the big fights were engineered with greater regularity in days gone by, and that everybody knew who was ' the man.' I have never, ever, implied that the situation was perfect during any period in boxing history. Anybody familiar with Jim Norris and the IBC during the fifties would need to be three parts nuts to claim that boxing used to be perfect.

The issue here concerns sociological pressures of the day, and it's neither the fault of Dempsey nor Wills that White America was bigoted.

Jack wasn't afraid to fight the 6ft. 2ins., 220lb., unbeaten, thunderous punching Firpo, was he ?

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:00 am

Scottrf wrote:
HumanWindmill wrote:Let's say that, ultimately, I suspect that to have been the case, though I'm equally sure that Kearns was keen to curry favour with White America in the immediate aftermath of the Dempsey win.

Let's not forget that Willard had been the betting favourite going in. White America felt ' safe ' with him, since they viewed him as we view Vitali Klitschko today. Again, the day Dempsey turned him over, Wills and Langford were contesting the ' Coloured ' championship down in Missouri. It doesn't require a leap of the imagination to venture that Kearns wanted to buy some time until Dempsey proved that the Willard win was no fluke and that he was the real deal. Probably explains why, later, Dempsey publicly embraced the idea of fighting Wills.
OK. It seems strange then that this is to be accepted, but at the smallest sign of a fight not happening in the exact month, never mind year, that the fans want in the modern era is evidence than big fights don't happen any longer. Bradley-Khan for example.

Think there has to be context though Scott, nobody is arguing a situation where the best black fighters were excluded from fighting for titles is acceptable or ideal because obviously it is a pretty abhorent situation but it is the realities of the situation that existed at the time. For me the debate is not whether the fight should have happened because clearly in Wills' case he deserved and should have received his title shot. However for me it is more a question of whether Dempsey deserves criticism for not taking the fight and I maintain the blame that can be laid at his door is negligable at best because he signed for the fight at least once, the failure to find either the funding or venue to make it happen is pretty much beyond his control and as Windy has already alluded to is beyond unlikely that if Rickard and Kearns could not make it happen between them that anyone else could because they were powerful in the sport in a way few if any promoters have been before or since.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:01 am

Scottrf wrote:
HumanWindmill wrote:Different kettle of fish.

I'm not going to be drawn on the Calzaghe issue, but as it relates to Dempsey we should remember that Rickard, at the time, was the biggest promoter by some distance. Warren has never been such, and frustrated fighters from his stable could seek out the Kings and the Arums of this world if they wished to fulfill their ambitions.
Who's to say they would have had him? Wasn't exactly a name in America for the majority of his career, and he probably signed a contract which didn't allow him to do that.

Nobody, with any certainty. However, Khan and Hatton found a way out and, besides, it's a two edged sword. Who is to say that Dempsey could have found an alternative to Rickard and Kearns who would have accommodated Wills ?

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Scottrf on Mon Aug 15, 2011 10:03 am

rowley wrote:Think there has to be context though Scott, nobody is arguing a situation where the best black fighters were excluded from fighting for titles is acceptable or ideal because obviously it is a pretty abhorent situation but it is the realities of the situation that existed at the time. For me the debate is not whether the fight should have happened because clearly in Wills' case he deserved and should have received his title shot. However for me it is more a question of whether Dempsey deserves criticism for not taking the fight and I maintain the blame that can be laid at his door is negligable at best because he signed for the fight at least once, the failure to find either the funding or venue to make it happen is pretty much beyond his control and as Windy has already alluded to is beyond unlikely that if Rickard and Kearns could not make it happen between them that anyone else could because they were powerful in the sport in a way few if any promoters have been before or since.
There is context in all cases, but I feel I'm dragging this off topic.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by oxring on Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:23 pm

Scottrf wrote:
HumanWindmill wrote:Different kettle of fish.

I'm not going to be drawn on the Calzaghe issue, but as it relates to Dempsey we should remember that Rickard, at the time, was the biggest promoter by some distance. Warren has never been such, and frustrated fighters from his stable could seek out the Kings and the Arums of this world if they wished to fulfill their ambitions.
Who's to say they would have had him? Wasn't exactly a name in America for the majority of his career, and he probably signed a contract which didn't allow him to do that.

Just to jump in - Calzaghe can be blamed because Warren doesn't have the same clout of Rickard.

Rickard had a stranglehold on the sport. These were the days when a fighter, no matter how big, could be blackballed and essentially prevented from fighting any more. See Ike Williams and Blinky Palermo. He was the LW champion of the world - but couldn't go into a gym and spar. Demspey didn't have as much freedom in who to fight as he would nowadays - and he had to tow the line. Yes - he was also intelligent enough to want to maximise his revenue whilst he could.

People love to throw accusations of avoidance and ducking - but these should really be viewed in the context of the times.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Mon Aug 15, 2011 12:33 pm

Bit more here, fellas, including photograph of Dempsey and Wills signing contracts :

http://www.antekprizering.com/dempseywillstelegram.html

Make sure to read to the bottom for the full story, which echoes and amplifies Dempsey's comments contained in Clay's article, here.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Colonial Lion on Mon Aug 15, 2011 1:06 pm

I think the reason the Dempsey/Wills issue is brought up so frequently is because the margins are so fine when rating the great heavweights and issues like Wills can often be seen as making the difference with many people.

My own view is that Dempsey had would have faced Wills. However for reasons due to the times and largely outside Dempseys control the fight wasnt made. I attribte very little blame to Dempsey personally, but in the grand scheme of things not facing your clear divisional rival for whatever reason will have to be a negative impact on your legacy and thus Dempseys suffers from it. Similarly, I dont hold Lewis responsible for a fight with Bowe not happening but I still think its a negative on his career as Bowe was his clear rival and they never fought. Likewise if Bradleys legal trouble or lack of desire to face Khan means that fight doesnt happen, it will harm both guys legacy.

I think one needs to be realistic and flexible in there reasoning in such matters, especially if one or both parties is relatively blameless. Its not really appreciating the circumstances of the era to say Dempsey should have ust got himself a new promoter to make the fight etc and put his entire career at risk for the sake of fighting Wills. I dont think it can compare in any way to something like Calzaghe refusing to leave his comfort zone for many a year as the reasons behind Dempsey and Wills are much deeper and harder to resolve.

However in an overall sense, while Dempsey may be relatively blameless the overall effect is still something of a blemish on his career as he never took care of Wills in the ring. As for the potential outcome, alot would depend on when the fight was made for me. Cant see the Wills that lost to Sharkey/Uzcuden troubling Dempsey, but 3/4 prior to that I think it had the potential to be very close.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by cmoyle on Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:25 pm

Pages 182-183 of 'Dempsey' 1960 by Dempsey and Bill Slocum:

"One of the reasons Tex was against matching me with Wills was the criticism he had gotten years before for putting on the Johnson-Jeffries fight. He had been accused of humiliating the white race and things like that.

William Muldoon, a tough old geezer who ran the New York State Athletic Commission, was against the Wills fight for another reason: he thought it might end up in a race riot, no matter who won.

Rickard spoke mysteriously about "Washington" not wanting the fight. In New York, others demanded that it be held, and some of them could have been thinking of the Harlem vote in the next election. Fights had that much importance in those days.

Anyway, the men whose words or experience I trusted at that time said I couldn't fight Wills, and I never did.

Kearns and Rickard had made a big fellow out of me, where before I had been a hobo. Muldoon was a man I had a lot of respect for. He had trained John L. Sullivan with the help of a baseball bat, and he was the kind of guy who would reach up and snatch a cigar out of your mouth and grind it under his foot if he caught you smoking in his house or even in his presence. None of them had any doubt I could beat Wills. Nor did I. But I'm sorry now the fight never came off.

Wills was mostly a victim of bigotry. He was gypped out of his crack at the title because people with a lot of money tied up the in the boxing game thought that a fight against me, if it went wrong, might kill the business. People of importance still worried about "white supremacy," race riots, the Negro vote - which might swing somewhere else if I flattened Wills - and things like that.

Harry's dead now. He died without ever knowing how he would have come out. But he lived to see a day when the Negro fighter really came into his own in the heavyweight division and changed boxing history."

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Mon Aug 15, 2011 2:32 pm

Thanks very much, Clay, that is an excellent passage that goes a hell of a long way to explaining the situation, from Dempsey's standpoint, if nothing else.

Jack really does seem like he was an intelligent fellow, and I have no reason to believe that he is hiding anything in that statement. In fact it is very informed and in perfect context of the times in terms of the possible reasons behind that fight not happening, as opposed to the drivvle of 'he's ducking me' that one might hear today.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by licence_007 on Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:57 am

I have nothing to add to this thread since I'm well out of my depth! Definitely one of the more interesting discussions I've seen on here though. Am I alone in thinking the overall quality has improved on here now that every thread doesn't result in name calling!

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by John Bloody Wayne on Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:29 am

Dickhead! Gay Cat head!

Yes, this is a fantastic insight into the fighter and the era. I've defended Dempsey on afew different boxing websites and it seems the more you know about the situation the more it shows; politics has been ruining fights long before Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao made a career ot of it.

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Interesting points, but it doesn't change fact that Dempsey is not fully truthful in article

Post by MODI on Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:38 am

Hi all and interesting read. I would like to make an important distinction here, so let's get back to Jack's own words in this opening article.

"Many times I’ve had the charge hurled at me that I was prejudiced against Negroes. It is time this utter fiction was laid to rest once and for all... I hate prejudice. I hate discrimination. I hate intolerance. Boxing has been guilty of its share of color bias but I categorically deny that I ever practiced it."

Let's assume that Dempsey is correct in his lack of race prejudice. But let's not confuse what might be in Dempsey's heart from his actions. He categorically PRACTICED discrimination to his own benefit and legacy.

First in 1919 (see earlier link), and then again in 1921 (since I can't post link for 7 days as new member google "Dempsey Draws Color Line; Unwilling to Meet Johnson)

Now I don't see the exact quote in the NY 1919 NYTimes article, but it is hard for me to believe that NYT fabricated Dempsey's statement especially given how much ink it spent on it. Now the time in 1921 he reiterated it after an old Jack Johson challenged him after being released from Leavenworth prison. Now I have a fuller quote which comes by way of the Racine Journal News on the same day and Dempsey says:

"I will never fight a colored man", Dempsey said. "There is nothing to this talk about me fighting Jack Johnson. I am confident the public don't want this fight, and while I will govern myself to a large extent according the the public wishes, I can't see my way clear to fight Johnson or any other colored man."

Now Dempsey often publically drew the colorline and then publically later "erased" it, but he DID do it. This is not really debateable. AND he chose to speak about it which is a step beyond just -- "I will fight whoever Rickard lines up".

He was not truthful in this article. As a white fighter Dempsey was surely ahead of his time in his thoughts around racial prejudice, but not his actions -- the only matter that is relevant to staying champion.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by MODI on Tue Aug 16, 2011 6:06 am

I just don't believe that the practice of "ducking fighters" which is so common throughout boxing's history in all eras is in any way analogous to avoiding an entire race. Had Dempsey ONLY rejected Sam Langford in 1918, ONLY rejected a peak Harry Wills, and ONLY rejected an old Jack Johnson in 1921, it would be a different story.

For those who believe that Dempsey has gotten a bad rap, let's consider the fate of Harry Wills. Beyond boxing afficianados on this board, I rarely find a general sports fan who has ever even heard his name, yet all know Dempsey's name. You can argue that Dempsey's legacy is about as privileged as it gets. With all the fights that Wills had with Langford ALONE is greater than the competition Dempsey faced.

So why does Dempsey deserve a greater legacy than Wills in 2011? I can't think of any reason.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Tue Aug 16, 2011 8:40 am

You certainly put across a very compelling argument against Dempsey having a greater legacy than Wills, MODI, and some of your points I'm in agreement with, however it is my view, and probably that of many others, that Dempsey is the greater of the two, yet it is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason why when you provide such a solid counter-argument.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:11 am

Modi still think you're being a little harsh on Dempsey if we take the colour issue out of the three examples you have put forward I would have to ask in two of the instances is Jack not fighting them really so unreasonable. In Langford's case it is a young novice fighter refusing to face a veteran dangerman who he fears knows too much for him, could be argued this is prudent.

In Johnson's case it is a champion refusing to fight a wildly unpopular former champion who in reality at the time was showing little to no form that would justify him earning the shot. Wills as I have said previously he should have fought.

Think for me you have to give some context of the time, early in his reign Dempsey was wildly unpopular on the back of the draft dodging affair and his first wifes less than reputable profession, he needed all the good PR he could get and like it or not saying you would not fight black fighters was probably what the press and public wanted to hear. Whilst whether Dempsey had strong opinions either way I personally feel that his friendship and hiring of Tate as a sparring partner and his willingness to sign for the Wills fight at least once perhaps means we should give him some leeway.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Fists of Fury on Tue Aug 16, 2011 9:23 am

Think you may have hit the nail squarely on the head there, Jeff.

Context is everything, and the Johnson fight in particular is one that I am not willing to hold against the Manassa Mauler. The Langford fight it could be argued should have taken place if Dempsey were to be recognised as a true great, however it may have been bordering on stupidity to take him on at this time, and could have had proved a big setback with regard to his future career if he had taken a beating at this time.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:07 am

By the time Johnson came out of Leavenworth prison he was forty three years old and had fought nobody of any significance for years.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Gentleman01 on Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:41 am

Interestingly, in 'A Man Must Fight' Tunney says that there was a very powerful lobby of influential New Yorkers who agressively championed and pressed for the Wills / Dempsey fight to be made. This would fit in with the theory that there was political capital to be made out of this match-up.

Tunney asserts that when the original Wills / Dempsey fight fell through, it was agreed that Wills would fight an eliminator with Sharkey whilst Dempsey took on himself (Tunney) in a 'tune up'. The idea was Wills would handle Sharkey and Dempsey would handle Tunney which would set up the Wills Dempsey superfight that was so coveted by certain sections of the New York oligarchy.

Obviously things did not work out quite that way. However, the fact remains that Dempsey did sign to fight Wills, and then agreed in principle to fight him again. It also indicates that Wills would have fought for the title were he able to beat Sharkey. As it was he was completely outboxed by the enigmatic Sharkey and effectively blew his chance.

I feel for Wills as he was clearly the number 1 contender for a number of years and only really got his shot once past his best. However, I think the reason for the Wills fight not coming off had very little to do with Dempsey being unwilling, for whatever reason, to actually fight him. Dempsey's actions have clearly demonstrated his willingness to fight Wills. It is not Dempsey's fault that white America was bigoted. If the New York lobby had materialised 5 years earlier, Dempsey's actions suggest that he would have fought Wills without hesitation.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:56 am

Gentleman01 wrote:........................... It is not Dempsey's fault that white America was bigoted.

Quite so, Gentleman.

There is a certain irony, too, in the fact that some would beat Dempsey with the racist stick over his reluctance to fight the forty three years old Johnson in 1921. Johnson, lest we forget, had systematically and with absolute cynicism drawn the colour line, himself, in flatly refusing the challenges of his three best contenders. The one defence he did make against a fellow African American was the farcical affair in Paris against Battling Jim Johnson, who would eventually retire with a losing record.

One further point worth mentioning is that Wills was a native of Louisiana and Johnson hailed from next door Texas. Texas would not stage its first inter racial boxing contest until September, 1955, and even then it required a court order for the sanctioning of the bout.

Neither Dempsey in particular, nor boxing in general, were the catalyst for white American bigotry. Rather, they were casualties of it.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by MODI on Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:09 pm

I think the main point about Dempsey not fighting Johnson is not that he didn't but what he SAID about it and the added context of Wills and other black fighters.

If Tommy Burns kept the color line, would we all say that Johnson didn't get a shot because of "the times" thus absolving Tommy Burns of any control whatsoever in his fight future?

If the Johnson-Jeffries fight never came off would we agree with most prognosticaters at the time that believed that even an old Jeffries would beat Johnson? Would some even point to Sam Langford as one of those prognosticaters as further evidence?

Is it just accepted that if Jack Dempsey categorically insisted on fighting a peak Wills (not the old 1926 version), that it could not have happened (whether in America or abroad)?

If Jack made actual STATEMENTS about drawing the colorline, doesn't that suggest that he was more than just a casualty of white American bigotry of the times, but also a participant when convenient? (if merely an innocent bystander, then why make the statements?)

We can accept the context of the times playing a role in all of this, but it is just not the full story. Some personal ownership is necessary here. He was not completely powerless. I think that this is a perfectly reasonable conclusion.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Colonial Lion on Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:41 pm

Realistically what would you have Dempsey do? He cant set up the fight himself. He needs the cooperation of promoters and commissions to make the fight happen. The concerns the commissions and promoters had over the potential problems the fight could cause were not imagined. White America did not want a black heavyweight champion and its reasonable to assume that unrest would be caused regardless of whatever outcome. In my view the fight was largely put beyond the reach of Dempsey. How much he genuinely wanted the fight and how much he was privately happy to go along with the not staging will be debated of course, but when it comes down to it I fail to see how individually he could be expected to tackle uncooperative promoters, commissions and social issues in general in the circumstances.

Regading other issues such as Tommy Burns and the colour line and Johnson/Jeffries, its entirely possible that boxing folklore would consider even an old Jeffries capable of beating Johnson. Im certain that for many years after white America would have viewed Jeffries as the surefire winner. I think this outlook may have faded over the decades though as later generations would be more likely to come to terms with the realisation that a long retired Jeffries would most likely not have managed to win.

With Tommy Burns, had the colour line been employed against Johnson then again I think its entirely probably that Johnson may have become a Wills like figure himself who was kept on the sidelines. However Burns was no Dempsey and would most likely have surrendered his title sooner rather than later anyway.

Often boxing politics get in the way or delay big fights being made but when the basis of such events are far reaching and deep such as social problems in society then I think its goes beyond the scope of what fighters as individuals can do. Whether Dempsey wanted the fight or not, it was always highly unlikely to happen is my own take on it, and as such I find it difficult to attribute to much blame on Dempsey individually.


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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by milkyboy on Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:46 pm

fascinating stuff.

If you pardon the pun, we can look for black and white but the truth in life is usually shades of grey.

I'm happy to believe that Dempsey wasn't a racist... or at least wasn't when he matured. It was commendable to come out with the comments he did in 1963 in ebony, as that was the same year martin luther king made his 'i have a dream' speech.

That said, there seems little doubt that was a drawing of a colour line. Again it may well have been political and economic correctness from jack at the time, but it seems that rather than admit that, he was a little revisionist.

Wills was on the slide by the time dempsey chose to sign to fight him, though arguably so was jack, though he may not have realised it. I'm sure dempsey wins in 1926, but 5 years earlier? It's a harder to pick fight. Whether it was politics that made the fight more viable in 1926, or selectivity on the part of team dempsey... don't think we'll ever know for sure.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Tue Aug 16, 2011 1:20 pm

MODI wrote:

If Jack made actual STATEMENTS about drawing the colorline, doesn't that suggest that he was more than just a casualty of white American bigotry of the times, but also a participant when convenient? (if merely an innocent bystander, then why make the statements?)


Because of the points I made earlier.

Dempsey's title win was only four years removed from the Johnson reign, and Wills and Langford were, on that same day in July, down the road in Missouri slugging it out for the ' Coloured ' title. White America was terrified of a repeat of the Johnson years.

Nor is it difficult to see why Dempsey felt compelled to distance himself from a Johnson fight if he intended to make a living, Johnson's having been perceived by white America as having been the problem in the first place. Nearly fifty years later Muhammad Ali would find out the cost of not following the party line in a divided America.

Reading between the lines, America's treatment of Willard is a huge clue, here. Willard was groomed for one purpose and one purpose alone - the removal of Johnson. That's why the fight in Havana was staged over 45 rounds. The gamble was that Willard was big enough, tough enough, and possessed sufficient stamina to ship a prolonged pasting until Johnson ran out of steam, and then sufficient wallop to knock him out, which is precisely what happened. His job having been done, Willard was permitted to sit on the title and make one defence (against Frank Moran, whom Johnson had beaten in 1914, ) in four years. Wills, meantime, was around twenty six and just coming into a purple patch of form.

Willard is the first whom Wills should have been allowed to challenge, just as Corbett should have put the title on the line against Jackson ; Jeffries against Johnson ; Johnson against Langford, Jeannette and McVea, etc.

Just to add a little spice, Harry Wills is widely believed to have ducked the emerging George Godfrey toward the end of the twenties.

Few things in this world are perfect.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by cmoyle on Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:14 pm

"By the time Johnson came out of Leavenworth prison he was forty three years old and had fought nobody of any significance for years.."

Here's an excerpt concerning Johnson and this period of time from my upcoming book about Billy Miske:

"A month later, Billy decided to buy a new home for his family. He purchased a Spanish-style bungalow in a relatively affluent area in St. Paul on 1387 Fairmount Avenue. Perhaps it was that expense and the additional need for money to pay for the home that led to the discussions concerning a very surprising fight with former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. In August talks were held concerning the possibility of a match between the two men that would be sponsored by the Broad Athletic Club, and take place in Newark’s Dreamland Rink.

Johnson had become the first black heavyweight champion of the world on December 26 of 1908. He had followed the current champion, Tommy Burns, around the world, finally forcing him to accept a match in Sydney, Australia, where he subsequently dominated the champion over 14 rounds at Rushcutter’s Bay Stadium to win the title. Bitter about the way he was treated by the white establishment, Johnson flaunted his relationships with white women and ruled the heavyweight division for the next six-and-a-half years. His most famous victory occurred on July 4, 1910, when he dominated formerly undefeated champion James J. Jeffries before a huge crowd in Reno, Nevada.

On June 4 of 1913, Johnson was sentenced to one year and one day in the penitentiary for violation of the White Slave Traffic Act, which came to be known as The Mann Act. The Act barred the transportation of women in interstate or foreign commerce for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purposes. Johnson had been arrested on October 17, 1912 for transporting Lucille Cameron, a white woman he was seeing at the time, across state lines from Wisconsin to Illinois. Cameron later became his wife.

Rather than serve his sentence, Johnson chose to flee the country. On June 24 he disappeared. He turned up in Montreal, Canada, and ended up in Paris, France in 1911. He defended his heavyweight title twice while in Paris, the first time in December of 1913, when he fought a draw with “Battling” Jim Johnson, and a second time in June of 1914 when he defeated Frank Moran in a twenty-round decision. He successfully defended the title one more time, on December 15, 1914, when he knocked out Jack Murray in Argentina.

The heavyweight crown finally changed hands on April 5 of 1915 when a big heavyweight named Jess Willard knocked Johnson out in the 26th round of their title fight in Havana, Cuba. Johnson later claimed he threw the fight upon the assurances from the promoter, Jack Curley, that he would not only receive a sizable payment for doing so, but Curley would use his personal connections to see to it Johnson could return to the United States without fear of going to prison. Whatever efforts Curley made on Johnson’s behalf proved ineffective and Johnson and his wife spent the next five years living in exile.

Johnson ultimately returned to the United States in July of 1920, and was immediately arrested. In September he was sent to Leavenworth prison, where he spent the next year. He was freed on the morning of July 9, 1921. By that time, Jack Dempsey was the reigning heavyweight champion. Dempsey’s manager, Kearns, made it clear the champion would not give Johnson a fight. William Muldoon, the chairman of the New York Boxing Commission refused to issue Johnson a license to box, saying he was now too old at age 43. By February of 1923, the 45-year-old Johnson was working as a sparring partner for Luis Firpo.

Unable to get a fight in the States, Johnson travelled to Havana, Cuba, where he defeated Farmer Lodge and Jack Thompson in May of 1923. Finally, on August 24, 1923; it was reported Billy and Johnson would fight in a 12-round no-decision contest in Newark on September 10th. It would be the first fight of any significance for the former champion since he lost his title to Jess Willard.

Johnson was in New York where he was training at a local gymnasium when it was learned on August 30 the fight would not be allowed to go forward. The decision was announced by New Jersey’s State Boxing Commissioner Newton Bugbee. Johnson’s conviction for violation of the Mann Act was provided as the reason. Although Johnson had served a prison sentence for his conviction, the commission decided it was in the best interests of the sport to refuse him a license.

Johnson would eventually get an opportunity to fight in the States again, but not until he was 48-years-old in 1926. He’d lost five of his last seven bouts, his last fight taking place in September of 1938, when the 60-year-old man suffered a seven-round knockout to an unknown named Walter Price. He passed away in June of 1946 as a result of injuries suffered from an automobile accident in Franklinton, North Carolina, while he was on his way to New York to see the second Joe Louis – Billy Conn fight. "

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by HumanWindmill on Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:20 pm

Thanks for the confirmation, Clay.

Any idea when the Miske book will hit the shelves ? I believe I mentioned, before, that I've long been fascinated by Miske and it will be a treat to have his story between two covers and professionally written and laid out, as opposed to the gathering of a snippet here and a snippet there ( with all the attendant cross referencing, ) which has been the order of the day for years for the Miske enthusiasts among us.

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Re: 1963 article by Jack Dempsey

Post by Rowley on Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:31 pm

Another book for the list Windy, with the latest from Adam Pollack just round the corner can only be a matter of time before the missus deletes my account on here, either that or sees sense and leaves me.

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