Reflecting Through Echoes

Posts Tagged ‘John Lester Johnson

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?

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Written by Mr. Lake

April 21, 2011 at 4:19 pm