Doctor of Doom
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Feb 22, 2005
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Since this place has been chock-full of threads dealing with the History of Boxing. I decided to relay information on what should be a Legendary figure, but was cherry-picked out of recollection of most save for the utmost affluent in Boxing knowledge.

Credit for most of this goes to the eye-opening recent article Published by Ring Magazine, penned by Don Stradley.

"The Manassa Mauler" wasn't the original Jack Dempsey. In fact, his name was an homage to the original, the one "without equal." This Jack Dempsey was the man William Harrison Dempsey aspired to be. As he told Roger Kahn "When we were kids around the Colorado mining camps, all of us wanted to be Jack Dempsey, the new Nonpareil. When it turned out I could fight the best, I got the name."


"The Nonpareil" was born John Kelly in Curran Ireland and was very skilled as a kid at both Boxing and Wrestling. His Professional Career began as a Wrestler alongside his half-brother, constructing the team of "The Wrestling Dempseys." John (Jack) kept the name when he turned to Professional Prizefighting. He fought under both London and Queensberry rules, both bare-fisted and in buckskin gloves. The most agreed upon record has him at 50-3-10, with 7 no-contests. His 1891 fight with Bob Fitzsimmons was at the time, the richest prizefight in History. If someone had thought to coin the term "pound for pound" during this era, Dempsey would likely have been the reason why.

He gained recognition as the Middleweight Champion of America after defeating George Fulljames in 1881, though he often referred to himself as the "Lightweight" Champion, being that he barely weighed more than 145lbs standing 5'8". The following 7 years after winning the Title, he was relatively untouchable. Dempsey also did a lot to bring fame to Boxing, as his 1884 bout with England's Tom Henry was held at the Eighth Street Theater and attended by New York's finest citizens. Dempsey knocked Henry into the footlights that evening, and nearly into the orchestra pit.

When describing his style, writer Richard K. Fox of the Police Gazette wrote "His style and method of Boxing has a neatness to it...He stops blows aimed at him by his adversaries with so much skill, and hits his antagonists with such terrific force and comparative ease, that he astonishes and terrifies his opponents beyond measure." After soundly beating Dominick McCaffrey, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle noted "He danced, walked, ran, and skipped about the Pittsburgh man till the latter got the idea that there were a dozen Dempseys surrounding him." And probably one of the most worthy compliments, after beating 3 men in one night, The New York Times wrote "The old sports admitted that if he were a little bigger he would prove a dangerous opponent for the invincible Sullivan."

Dempsey's most crowning win came in 1886 when he defeated George LaBlanche via 13th round KO. It cemented him as the top Middleweight of the Country. When he offered part of his purse to LaBlanche, he got head-butted in the mouth for it. However LaBlanche would later say of Dempsey "He's a wonder." Dempsey was more than a Fighter, though, and as he aged he developed a distaste for a Public that lionized Fighters. He told the Eagle in 1886 "These men never speak or think of me as anything other than a slugging machine. It never strikes them that I have ideas on any other subject."

Bouts with illness and injury began making his career difficult, and he turned more towards training Fighters. Dempsey went to work as the Boxing Instructor for the California Athletic Club, even helping mentor a young James J. Corbett. Though a run-in with Mike Donovan when they had Fighters against each other, led to a showdown between "The Professor" and "The Nonpareil." This having History of Dempsey getting the better of Donovan in an exhibition, and coming to regard Donovan as a tired old relic of whom Dempsey would say: "he belongs in a glass case." Donovan first pushed his pupil Johnny Reagan into what became a 45 round malicious beating at the hands of Dempsey, which prompted Donovan to come out of retirement. Donovan himself a former Middleweight Champion, and current Boxing Instructor for the New York Athletic Club. He was also one of the first Fighters to get an endorsement deal, lending his name to Hornby's Oatmeal. They fought to a 6 round draw, though many ringsiders felt Donovan won, and that this fight was the first true sign that Dempsey was slipping.

Indeed he began deteriorating, many reporters mentioning his coughing jags and haggard appearance leading up to his bout with Fitzsimmons. Inevitably he was knocked out in the 13th round, and proceeded to fade badly. He began drinking heavily, quit his job at the CAC, sold his business interests, allegedly robbed a Chicago woman for $20, and forfeited matches. He also told wild stories of being drugged by gamblers, and when Dan Creedon was offered to fight Dempsey he replied "He's nutty, anyone who takes him into the ring ought to be disgraced." Dempsey also tried to kill himself after his loss to Tommy Ryan.

He died later that same year of tuberculosis, at 32 years of age.

When a bout between Sullivan and Dempsey was being talked of, Dempsey challenged Sullivan openly under the condition that Sullivan had to defeat him in 6 rounds or he kept the purse. Sullivan scoffed at the notion and threatened to break Dempsey's jaw if they met again. Later on when a reporter dismissed Dempsey as a pitiful drunk, Sullivan threatened to crush him with his bare hands. Sullivan actually revered Dempsey, and shared in his last public moment.

In 1895, at Madison Square Garden during a benefit in Dempsey's honor, John L. Sullivan guided the frail decaying Dempsey into the ring where he announced the two would spar for three rounds. "We will do the best we can," remarked Sullivan, "even though we're two has-beens." With Sullivan grossly overweight and Dempsey all but a ghost of his former self, the two gave not much more than a careful pantomime, but that didn't stop the crowd from roaring thunderously with each parry.

It's unfortunate how such men get buried in the folds of History, and overshadowed by their own comrades and colleagues. But there was once a poem that the other Jack Dempsey recalled from his childhood:

'Tis strange New York should thus forget,
It's "bravest of the brave,"
And in the fields of Oregon,
Unmarked, leave Dempsey's grave.

Dempsey was instrumental in the success of so many, yet its quite often easy to forget about his contributions to others due to his immense success in his own pugilistic endeavors.

Well done.

I'm back btw.
And with that, the Dead hath risen.
great read. thanks. it's a shame that he died so young.
there are a lot of old timers who don't get the respect they deserve. one wonders if in 200 years with lost footage if people will appreciate our stars.
Excellent post KK !
Historical posts are the best, and Dempsey is a great subject.

Great to see so many old time posters back this week.

Good times at Sherdog Boxing.
One of the most intriguing things is that he won fights when the TB was beginning to make it's presence known. TB isn't something that onsets suddenly, Jack had been deteriorating for quite some time even in his Fight career. That's one of the most impressive aspects of him. They often said he looked wraith-like, as if he were ill. He WAS ill, and whooped some of the toughest pugs of the day despite it.
Did a lot of these old timers try and commit suicide? I don't want to say it was commonplace, but I imagine it happened on more than just the rare occasion. I say this only because I'm sure it was an extremely tough life. All those bare knuckle rounds only to be left with a tired body/mind and possibly no job prospects.
Did a lot of these old timers try and commit suicide? I don't want to say it was commonplace, but I imagine it happened on more than just the rare occasion. I say this only because I'm sure it was an extremely tough life. All those bare knuckle rounds only to be left with a tired body/mind and possibly no job prospects.

I'm Kid McCoy, so I wouldn't know a thing about that!
I'm Kid McCoy, so I wouldn't know a thing about that!

Unfortunately, by the early 1920's McCoy was broke, addicted to alcohol and out of the movie industry. At this time however, McCoy was involved in a romance with a wealthy married woman, Teresa Mors. Apparently he swept her off her feet, for she filed for divorce from her husband. The Mors divorce was acrimonious, and dragged on until she was killed, in the apartment she shared with McCoy, by a single gunshot to the head on August 12, 1924.

The next morning, a disheveled McCoy robbed and held captive some 12 people at Mrs. Mors' antique shop, and shot one man, who was trying to escape, in the leg. He also had forced at least 6 other men to remove their trousers, after divesting them of their money. McCoy was apprehended and charged with the murder of Mrs. Mors. His trial took place in downtown Los Angeles, and was the media event of its day. McCoy claimed Mrs. Mors committed suicide, while the prosecution claimed he murdered her for financial gain.

McCoy testified in his own defense, and apparently put on quite a show as he demonstrated Mrs. Mors final minutes. Contending he had tried to wrestle a knife away from her, McCoy and his attorney actually wrestled and rolled around on the courtroom floor, for the benefit of the jury, press and courtroom spectators. After Mrs. Mors allegedly took her own life, McCoy claimed he became faint and could not remember anything further, including participating in the wild crime spree the following morning.

Apparently, the jury was split between first degree murder and acquittal. In what is believed to have been a compromise verdict, McCoy was convicted of manslaughter.

McCoy was sent to San Quentin, but was paroled from prison in 1932. Even his death was enigmatic. He died from an overdose of sleeping pills leaving a suicide note behind. His suicide note read, among other things: "Everything in my possession, I want to go to my dear wife, Sue E. Selby... To all my dear friends... best of luck... sorry I could not endure this world's madness."

So did you kill her or was it suicide?
So did you kill her or was it suicide?


In speaking of suicide, one has to consider the times people lived in those days as well. Dempsey wasn't just in peril from losing the fight to Ryan (who turned out to easily be one of the best Welterweights in the History of the Sport), he was insane on account of consumption from his disease. There was no cure for Tuberculosis then, and it's a disease that deteriorated the mind as much as the body.

Dempsey's wife did her best to stem notions that he was criminally insane, despite him waking up mornings to violent fits and not recognizing her face. It wasn't until he had a Public violent outburst in a train station that she would announce to the Press that he needed special care because he was no longer himself.

He was Dead within a year or two of her announcement. And she was Dead not too long after, on account of sharing space with him if memory serves me.
One-up me why doncha. Ya bum.

Tommy Ryan > you.
oh yeah, and Godamn it's good to see you posting again Brooklyn.
Great Post KK.....

But no mention of George LaBlanche's Pivot Punch (whenever I read something about the Nonpariel it's the first thing that comes to mind)......The most controversial punch ever thrown.....resulting in the most controversial fight of the 19th century....