As a child, Jack Dempsey worked as a farmhand, miner, and cowboy before learning to box from his older brother. His early prize fights took place in mining towns near Salt Lake City, but on July 4, 1919, he defeated Jess Willard The Great White Hope to become the world heavyweight champion. But did you know that his younger brother actually took over a fight for him?
When boxer Jack Dempsey decided to withdraw from a fight due to his age and the skill of his opponent, his younger brother, Bernie, took the fight under the same stage name.
Who is Jack Dempsey?
William Harrison “Jack” Dempsey, also known as Kid Blackie and The Manassa Mauler, was a professional boxer from 1914 to 1927 who held the world heavyweight title from 1919 to 1926. He was born on June 24, 1895, and passed on May 31, 1983.
Dempsey was known for his aggressive fighting style and exceptional punching power made him a cultural icon of the 1920s, and he became one of the most popular boxers in history. Many of his fights set attendance and financial records, including the first million-dollar pay-per-view. He was a pioneer in the live broadcast of sporting events in general, and particularly boxing matches. (Source: Biography)
Jack Dempsey’s Professional Boxing Career
Dempsey fought 84 times, winning 62 of them, 51 by knockout. Dempsey began boxing in 1914. In 1918 and early 1919, he racked up an impressive number of knockouts, the majority of which came in the first round, to earn a rematch with Willard.
He was defeated by challenger Gene Tunney in front of a record crowd of 120,000 fans in Philadelphia on September 23, 1926. When Dempsey returned to his hotel that night, his wife, shocked by his gruesome appearance, asked him what had happened. (Source: Biography)
What Happened to Jack Dempsy After He Retired From Boxing?
Following the Tunney rematch, Dempsey retired from boxing but continued to do exhibition bouts, with over a hundred matches between 1930 and 1931 alone. Following his retirement, he established himself as a philanthropist. In June 1932, he sponsored the Ride of Champions bucking horse event in Reno, Nevada, with legendary bronc rider Pete Knight receiving the Dempsey Trophy. In 1933, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer approached Dempsey about playing a boxer in the film The Prizefighter and the Lady, directed by W. S. Van Dyke, with Myrna Loy as a co-star.
Dempsey acted as the referee in the climactic fight between Max Baer and Primo Carnera, a fictitious battle that foreshadowed their actual championship bout only a year later. Dempsey attempted a boxing comeback at the age of 45 in 1940, setting a July 1st match against Cowboy Lutrell. Dempsey knocked Lutrell out in the second round of the fight. Dempsey would go on to win two more exhibitions with early knockouts before calling it quits and retiring for good.
Dempsey died of heart failure on May 31, 1983, at the age of 87, in New York City. His body was laid to rest in the Southampton Cemetery in Southampton, New York. (Source: Biography)