Reflecting Through Echoes

Posts Tagged ‘Jack Dempsey

The Thorns of Glory pt 2

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Liveblogging the book, “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.

While in New York Jack Dempsey took many beatings in the ring to earn his bread. Most fights only paid out somewhere between ten and twenty dollars. That wouldn’t be nearly enough for me to want to get into the ring. Times were tough indeed!

p. 17.  Ned Brown of the Morning World wrote: “Dempsey is a great young fighter. There is one thing wrong with him, however. He looks like he needs a square meal.” 

Jack was offered a fight with the great Sam Langford in England but turned it down. You see, Sam Langford began fighting in 1902 when Dempsey was age 6. Sam would have killed Dempsey, he was at the top of his game.  Dempsey was smart to realize that he needed more experience. His manager at the time managed both fighters so he figured he couldn’t lose. He would have gotten a cut of both fights.

A side note about Sam Langford, probably the most over-looked fighter of all time. The man was talented.

Apparently he lost to Jack Johnson, according to the Johnson’s official boxing stats. The thing is though, whomever called the papers first after a fight usually got credit with the win. So the fight between Jack Johnson and Sam Langford are BOTH recorded as wins for both of them. Huh? Who knows who really won but consider this, Jack Johnson would not fight Sam Langford ever again. He wanted nothing to do with him. Sam Langford never got his shot for the heavyweight championship. His official stats are 200 wins (with 130 of those being KO’s) and over 300 total fights. He died broke, alone and blind. It was a tragedy. Maybe Hollywood will rediscover his story someday.

Jack Dempsey’s manager (John the Barber) arranged another fighter for Jack. A black fighter slightly below the quality of Sam Langford, his name John Lester Johnson. The night before the fight, Jack slept in Central Park. Win or lose, he was at least excited for a chance for a real payday. To sleep in an actual bed.

P. 18. In the second round Johnson hit Dempsey with “the hardest punch I ever took,” a right hook into the body. The blow fractured three ribs. 

Johnson won the bout in a decision but the sports writers took note of this kid. He was definitely a up and comer. Afterwards, Dempsey was expecting a payday of somewhere around $500. John the Barber handed him $35 dollars and said good job. Disillusioned with the scams of the big city, Jack Dempsey headed back out West towards Salt Lake City.

He worked for awhile as a coal miner and married a prostitute named Maxine. When you have nothing you just settle for what’s right in front of you. Reality has a way of realigning your expectations.

P. 19. Decades later, he explained, “They told me Maxine had another business. I didn’t want to believe them. I married Maxine, the piano player. I knew I loved her, or I thought I did. Up till then, Maxine was the sexiest woman I’d ever met. 

Jack Dempsey was’t even twenty yet. He was racking up those adventures, riding the rails, fighting across different cities, marring young and I reckon living moment to moment.

This is one of the only picutres I could find of Maxine. She doesn’t look all that to me. Dempsey – What were you thinking?


Written by Mr. Lake

April 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm

The Thorns of Glory pt 1

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Liveblogging the book, “A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.


More than any other individual, Jack Dempsey created big-time sports in America. The time frame here ran roughly from 1919, when Prohibition began, until 1929, when the stock market crashed and “the era of wonderful nonsense” came to a shattering conclusion.

P. xii. When Dempsey won the championship on July 4, 1919, his fight with mountainous Jess Willard drew 19,650 fans. Dempsey’s purse was $27,500. For his final championship fight, September 22, 1927, the crowd numbered 104,943 and Dempsey and Gene Tunney split $1,540,445.

Book One – The Thorns of Glory

P. 4. He was a natural man, but he took the ring name of an earlier boxer, from County Kildare, a dashing, tragic character who called himself Jack Dempsey and who died in terrible poverty on a raw autumn day in 1895.

Inspiring hope. Growing up at the beginning of the 1900’s often meant that life was rough and brutal. Childhoods ended quickly. People needed heroes to give them hope and people are always attracted to the extremes examples. The first fighter to use the name Jack Dempsey was a man by the name of John Kelly. He became Heavyweight Champion in 1884. During his climb to the top he had won forty-one consecutive fights.

He became the idol of boys everywhere. I think the logic was, here was a man who had nothing but worked his way up to the very top. He became the best at what he does and gained the respect and wealth that everybody dreamed about. It was the American Dream. However, John Kelly was also an alcoholic and died at the ago of thirty-three, broke. Kids still wanted to BE him though, they wanted to be THE Jack Dempsey.

P. 6. When we were kids around Colorado mining camps, all of us wanted to be the new Jack Dempsey…

William Harrison Dempsey was born June 24, 1895 in Manassa, Colorado. At the age of eight he was expected to start earning money for the family. At the age of sixteen he left the home in order to try and better himself. He took jobs wherever he could find them. Working in mining camps, a dangerous profession even today, was what William started out doing. He would even take amateur boxing matches with his fellow workers to earn a little extra pay. Idolizing the first Jack Dempsey, he took the name of Henry Dempsey. He figured that if he was able to get good enough then maybe he could become the real Jack Dempsey.

P. 12. During World War I, Jack Dempsey had an uneven time. He was barely nineteen when the guns of August broke the peace in 1914. He had been boxing as “Kid Blackie,” the name he used in the ring until his twentieth birthday.

Remember America would not enter the first World War until 1917. As his reputation grew. It was becoming harder and harder for him to get fights. No one wanted any part of him. Not with his one punch knockouts. He set his sights on New York City.  To give it a shot for the title, taking fights along the way to help pay for the trip.


Written by Mr. Lake

April 14, 2011 at 9:23 am

Posted in Jack Dempsey

Tagged with ,

The one and only…

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First off I like to thank all the readers that have come across this blog. It has blown away any expectations I had. When I started this it was with the idea that I could take my time with a subject and really delve in and think about things.

I never would have thought that a blog whose only subject, which so far has been the the Alcatraz escape, would have this many views.

Well I’m about to change things up. I’m moving from the swinging 60’s to the roaring 20’s. To a time when alcohol was outlawed, where women did not have the right to vote and the biggest movie stars of the day were those in the silent pictures. That’s the setting.

The subject however is one of the most influential athletes of any era. He defined what being a champion was about.

He was even more popular than Babe Ruth.

The one and only Jack Dempsey.

Jack Dempsey has fascinated me for close to twenty years now. I’ve seen several of his fights on old time dvd’s and youtube clips. The man could throw one hell of a punch. Dempsey was simply awesome. They say that legends never die but some…can be forgotten. The roles have somewhat reversed. The Babe is firmly intrenched into America’s psyche while Dempsey has largely been reduced to a footnote. Maybe that’s the fault of the decline of boxing in America.

So starting next week I will bring you “A Flame of Pure Fire – Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ‘20s” by Roger Kahn.

Written by Mr. Lake

April 6, 2011 at 10:00 am