The “Manassa Mauler,” as he was known to boxing fans, was born William Harrison Dempsey on June 24, 1895 in Manassa, Colorado. You may know him as Jack Dempsey. He was the world champion from 1919-1926 and is considered one of the greatest fighters to ever climb into a ring.
He was a hardened man with coarse, light brown skin and a sneer befitting a boxing legend. He was not a large man by our standards today, but was built like a brick. He was born into a very poor family of Irish, Cherokee Indian and Jewish descent. Dempsey spent his early years moving from town to town as his father sought work. His parents converted to the Mormon faith and though Jack was never baptized a Mormon himself, he certainly related to the church.
Shiftless at a young age Dempsey dropped out of grade school. By age 16, he was traveling the Midwest searching for something. He lived a hobo’s life, spending time in transient encampments and wandering about with no real direction. He was never long for a job and from time to time when desperation arose he would walk into a bar, reach into his filthy pockets and pluck whatever coins he had to his name and slam them onto the counter. He was known to bellow, “I can’t sing, I can’t dance, but I can lick any son of a bitch in the house”.
And so his boxing career began. He didn’t lose those bar fights. In fact, he didn’t lose many fights at all. His career record stands at 65 wins to only 6 losses. 51 of those wins came with a knockout. Jack Dempsey would go on to be more than just a fighter – he would become a cultural icon.
On July 4, 1919, a young Jack Dempsey stepped into a ring in Toledo, Ohio. The house was full. The crowd sparked energy that only excitement can compel. It was to be a championship bout. A David vs. Goliath tale. A young challenger facing down a towering champion. As Dempsey started the walk to the ring, the crowd found themselves hushed while craning their necks to get a look at the upstart they had read about in the papers. Who was this slugger from Colorado? The one with the ferocious style.
It was said that Jack Dempsey would bob and weave until he saw an opening and then let loose a fury of punches that was as rapid as they were hard. Once the seam was found, Dempsey wouldn’t let up until his opponent was on the mat. Once down, he would stand over his opponent and wait until they climbed to both knees and then let another barrage of haymakers drive them back into the canvas. (more…)