In January Of 1951, Jack Dempsey Received The Distinction
Back in January of 1951, the Associated Press conducted a poll of sportswriters to name the greatest fighter of the half-century, pound-for-pound: 1900 to 1950. With plenty of superb fighting men to choose from, the results of the poll were perhaps surprisingly wide – with heavyweight king Jack Dempsey getting the most votes by far. Dempsey received 251 votes, with Joe Louis coming in second with 109 votes.
Dempsey, the top writers of the day declared, was THE greatest. This was a fine distinction Dempsey was honoured with; especially when you consider some of the other fistic greats who were fighting over the years 1900 to 1951 – men like Henry Armstrong (who came in at third place in the AP poll), Harry Greb, Jack Johnson, Stanley Ketchell, Kid Chocolate, Gene Tunney, Mickey Walker, and so many more (men such as Sugar Ray Robinson, Willy Pep, and Ezzard Charles were not yet retired, their careers very much ongoing, therefore they were not voted for).
All these years later, and do you agree with the 251 writers who voted for Dempsey?
“The Manassa Mauler” was of course a great, great fighter. Very much revolutionising the sport of boxing with his savage, constantly bobbing, attacking style and approach, Dempsey’s famously destructive performance against Jess Willard, in the fight that saw him become world heavyweight champion, was referred to as “animalistic” and “barbaric.” This was not civilized, many shocked observers declared with disgust. Dempsey had introduced the world to the modern era of boxing.
The Dempsey critics point to the fact that, although he reigned as champ for seven years, Dempsey managed only six title retentions. Also, some critics insist, Dempsey’s legacy is hurt by the fact that he never faced the top contender of his day, Harry Wills. But there is no denying Dempsey’s enormous impact, his incredible punching power, his granite chin, his toughness, his speed, his desire, his all-round skill as a fighter. Today, some fans may choose Joe Louis when asked who was the greater fighter, Dempsey or Louis. While others might point to Jack Johnson and insist he ranks as a greater fighter than the man who ruled the world from July of 1919 to September of 1926.
But back in early 1951, the choice was clear: Jack Dempsey was the greatest.
Dempsey’s final record reads: 54-6-8(44) (this according to some sources, a number of early, unacknowledged bouts possible). Dempsey won the title by annihilating Willard, while he retained the crown with wins over Billy Miske, Bill Brennan, Georges Carpentier, Jimmy Darcy, Tommy Gibbons and Luis Angel Firpo. Dempsey was stopped just once, this in his February 1917 fight with Fireman Jim Flynn (when Dempsey may have been “sucker-punched” as he attempted to touch gloves ahead of the action). Dempsey avenged the loss with a first-round KO of his own the following year.