Tag Archives: Dempsey vs Willard

Where Are The Gloves From The Dempsey/Willard Fight?

Could The King Tut’s Tomb Of Boxing

Be At 50th Street And Eighth Avenue?

By Bobby Franklin

Are These Gloves Buried In NYC?

One hundred years ago, on July 4, 1919, in Toledo, Ohio, Jack Dempsey won the Heavyweight Championship of the World from Jess Willard. The fight, which took place under a blazing sun, is remembered for many things. It ushered in the Dempsey era and the making of a legend. The footage of the fight, which is amazingly clear, shows Jack giving the champion a vicious beating. Though he was outweighed by nearly sixty pounds, Dempsey tore into Jess like a hungry lion. He decked Willard seven times in the first round and Jess was on the verge of being counted out when he was saved by the bell. Willard managed to stay on his feet for two more rounds and fought back gamely before retiring as the bell rang for round four. 

In 1963 Jack Kearns, who had manage Dempsey at the time he won the title, wrote an article that was published in Sports Illustrated saying Jack’s gloves were loaded when he fought Willard. Dempsey vehemently denied it and sued the magazine for publishing the article. They settled out of court. 

There had been bad blood between Kearns and Dempsey for years, and  Kearns died not long after he wrote the article. It was as if he wanted to get one last shot at the great champion before he shed his mortal coil. He certainly did  hat and the controversy has raged on for years.

Much has been written about whether on not Dempsey went into the fight having an unfair advantage, and I am not going to rehash those arguments now. I do want to bring up another mystery that is connected to that day.

In all of the arguments over whether or not Jack’s gloves were loaded that day, one thing that was never done was for there to have been an examination of those gloves. In fact, nobody seems to know for sure what happened tom them.

Not long after the Kearn’s story appeared, former Bantamweight Champion Babe Herman announced that he was in possession of the gloves. He said they were given to him years earlier by a seaman, though he said he couldn’t remember the man’s name. He claimed the man was a close friend of Dempsey’s and also friend of his. He didn’t say how the man got them and didn’t offer and convincing evidence of their authenticity. Babe said that Dempsey knew he was in possession of the gloves and even suggested they be put in a glass case at his restaurant in New York. 

Jack Dempsey Burying The Gloves From The Willard Fight?
(Photo Courtesy Of The Great Spesh)

This doesn’t add up as there is a newspaper photo that was taken on December 10,1934 that shows Jack Dempsey placing what he claims are the gloves from the fight under the cornerstone of his soon to be built restaurant at the corner of 50th Street and Eight Avenue in New York City. This was directly across from the old Madison Square Garden. In the photo he is accompanied by his wife Hannah and Mayor LaGuardia along with a number of other people. Did Jack forget about this when he was talking with Herman, if indeed such a conversation actually took place.

One of the reasons for examining the gloves would have been to see if there were traces of plaster of Paris in them. Kearns claimed he soaked Dempsey’s taped hands in the substance before the fight. That claim has been pretty much debunked, but checking the gloves would completely rule out that possibility. 

Of course, the gloves in the photo very well may not have been the the ones Jack wore that hot July 4th afternoon. It is possible they were just an old pair of boxing gloves and the whole thing was staged for publicity for Jack’s new restaurant. It does seem odd he would bury the gloves rather than put them on display. Perhaps he was getting rid of the evidence, though that wouldn’t have added up since this was almost thirty years before Kearns wrote the story that got things stirred up.

Still, it would be interesting to uncover the gloves. Jack eventually moved the popular restaurant to between 49th and 50th Streets. It doesn’t appear the gloves went along for the ride. 

Could they still be buried at that location? It’s very likely. Are they the gloves Jack wore when he beat Willard? I doubt it, but it is possible. There is only one way to find out. Recovering them would be one of the great finds in the archeology of boxing. I say an archeological dig should be ordered for the site. It is time to recover this rare artifact from the reign of one of the greatest kings in the history of boxing. Can you dig it?


Stop Complaining About The Heat!

Just Imagine What It Was Like Being Ringside

At Toledo On July 4, 1919

By Bobby Franklin

So, now that the long winter is finally a thing of the past and summer is in full swing we are already hearing the complaints about the heat. As people go from there air conditioned homes to their air conditioned cars to their air conditioned offices they can’t seem to resist bemoaning the hot weather. While having dinner in an air conditioned restaurant after attending a movie at an air conditioned theater the topic turns to how miserable they are because of the heat. 

We live in an unprecedented time in human history. Never have so many lived in such comfort; We have indoor plumbing, central heating, cooling, home entertainment centers, and supermarkets with an endless supply of food at our fingertips, and medical care that is beyond what anyone could have imagined just a few years ago. Poor people in the United States today have more comfort than the wealthiest people did as little as a hundred years ago, yet we all seem to be complaining more than ever. It seems human beings react to positive change by looking for more reasons to be unhappy.

A lot of this may be blamed on the amygdala, the part of our brain that plays the primary role in our processing of memory, decision making, and emotional response. The amygdala is programmed to seek out bad news. It does this because bad things can harm us, and in order to be able to defend ourselves from harm we must be alert to danger. With less danger around us the amygdala will become alert to more minor problems. It is one of the reasons we are so influenced by bad news. The more negative things we hear, the more likely we are to think things are much worse than they are.

At a time when we should be counting our blessings we have become a nation of whining children.

At a time when we should be counting our blessings we have become a nation of whining children. It really is tragic that with so much good around us we just can’t seem to stop and smell the roses. We have lost all sight of how tough things used to be. 

As July 4 approaches I think back to an earlier Independence Day. No, not the one in 1776, but one just less than a hundred years ago. I have written about it before, the day Jack Dempsey won the Heavyweight Title from Jess Willard. While it was a brutal fight, I have often wondered what it was like have been sitting at ringside that day in Toledo, Ohio. While the fighters had to deal with the heat, they were in the ring for less than a half an hour, the spectators spent all afternoon there, and what an afternoon it was. 

110 Degrees At Ringside!

When the crowd first arrived the temperature was in the nineties and rose to 110 degrees by the time the main event took place. The fight was outdoors and there was no shade. The sky was clear and the sun was blazing. On top of this, there was a shortage of beverages. The night before, a huge batch of lemonade had been made, but the fighter Battling Nelson mistook the tub containing the refreshing drink for a bathtub and bathed in it. Water was brought in, but not enough, and what there was was warm.

Promoter Tex Rickard had the stadium built just for the fight, and it was put up fast. The lumber used had not had time to season so when people sat down on the boards the sap was leaking out sticking many of them to their seats and ruining there clothing. I guess it was one way to keep people from staying in their seats.

You also have to remember that back then people did not have access to cool clothing. Most were wearing wool pants and jackets. The only protection they had from the sun were the straw hats they were wearing. There was no where to go for relief. Hotels and bars were not air conditioned. They might find a place with a fan or two, but that would mostly just circulate the hot air. It had to be miserable being there, but watching a film of the fight and the reaction to Dempsey winning the title, the heat did not dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd. 

It’s funny, but as tough as things were back then, I doubt many people complained. Daily life even for the best off was something we could not even imagine today. Life was hard and so were the people, but they dealt with it and moved forward. And, in moving forward they continually worked to make things better. Now that we have achieved so much it might be nice if we put things into perspective and stopped complaining for a while and instead, started counting our blessings. 

As hot and sticky a day it was on July 4, 1919, the people attending the Dempsey/Willard fight were actually there to have a good time, and they did. It would soon be back to work for them where things would be even harder. I’ve often thought that Jack Dempsey was possibly the toughest man that ever lived, but those fans at ringside were pretty hard characters too. Next time you complain about the heat while sitting with friends in an air conditioned room, just imagine yourself at ringside in Toledo in 1919. And also remember, those folks were there to have fun.