Jack Dempsey

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William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey ("The Manassa Mauler") (June 24, 1895 – May 31, 1983) was an American boxer who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. Dempsey's aggressive style and exceptional punching power made him one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set financial and attendance records, including the first million dollar gate. He is listed #10 on The Ring's list of all-time heavyweights and #7 among its Top 100 Greatest Punchers. He is a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.


Early life and career

Born in Manassa, Colorado, with the name of William Harrison Dempsey, he grew up in West Virginia to a poor family of mixed ancestry. According to a January 11, 1955 Sports Illustrated article, his father, Hiram Dempsey, was Irish. Dempsey's mother, Mary Celia (née Smoot), was of Irish and Cherokee descent. Both parents became Mormon converts.[2] Jack was baptized himself on August 2, 1903, after he reached the required age of accountability. Jack would later write, "I'm proud to be a Mormon. And ashamed to be the Jack Mormon that I am." [3]

Desperate for money, Dempsey would occasionally visit saloons and challenge for fights saying "I can't sing and I can't dance, but I can lick any SOB in the house." If anyone accepted the challenge, bets would be wagered. According to Dempsey's autobiography, he rarely lost these barroom brawls. A little known fact about Dempsey is that for a short time, he was a part-time bodyguard for Thomas F. Kearns, president of The Salt Lake Tribune and son of Utah's U.S. Senator Thomas Kearns. (no relation to Jack Kearns) The two men remained friends for years afterward.

Dempsey's exact boxing record is not known because he occasionally boxed under the pseudonym, "Kid Blackie". (His use of the pseudonym continued until 1916). Meanwhile, he first appeared as "Jack Dempsey" in 1914, after an earlier middleweight boxer Jack "Nonpareil" Dempsey, drawing with Young Herman in six rounds. After that fight, he won six bouts in a row by knockout (as Jack Dempsey), before losing for the first time, on a disqualification in four rounds to Jack Downey. During this early part of his career, Dempsey campaigned in Utah, frequently entering fights in towns up and down the Wasatch mountain range and keeping in shape with such sparring partners as Frank VanSickle.

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