One of my favourite old time fighters was a man who specialised in destruction; Jack Dempsey. Born in June 1895, William Harrison Dempsey started his fight career in 1914 under the name "Kid Blackie" ( there were a number of fighters calling themselves Kid something around that era). Dempsey rode the rails, hoboed about, had plenty of barroom fights, offering challenges in camps and saloons for money. He went through a succession of managers, with one that twice tried to line up a fight against none other than the "Boston Tar Baby" himself; Sam Langford. Both times Dempsey declined. Was it because of his colour? In his autobiography "Massacre in the Sun" Dempsey stated that it was because Langford would have killed him. One fighter that Dempsey was afraid of. Even though Langford was really on the decline.
Dempsey did fight one black fighter, and that was John Lester Johnson, who broke four of his ribs. Dempsey did admit to there being one fighter that he truly hated and that was Carl Morris. Morris had been a top rated fighter but was now on the downward slope. What upset Dempsey was that after working as a sparring partner for Morris, he moved on. When he needed his gear, Morris sent it on to him C.O.D. For 75 cents! He had three fights with Morris. Before one of them, Morris pleaded with him to go a bit easy. Dempsey said he was in perfect shape, and told him that he is going out as soon as possible. Another top fighter Dempsey fought a few times was Ed "Gunboat" Smith, who hit Dempsey so hard that Dempsey thought he had been kayoed. He came around well after the fight. Far from being knocked out, he beat Smith! It was in 1918 that Dempsey fought a top rated man, big Fred Fulton. Dempsey demolished him in just 18 seconds. This helped to put Dempsey in line for a bout with the champion big Jess Willard. His demolition of Willard was savage in the extreme. Willard should never have been allowed to come out for the second round. He lasted a total of three rounds, but was decked seven times in the opening round. He was an absolute mess. From that day in July 1919, Dempsey was the most explosive fighter in the world and lasted as champion until 1926, when he was well and truly outpointed by Gene Tunney. Not a truly thorough account of Jack, but a taster for more to come on other fighters of that era.