Nick Name: Kid Blackie, Manassa Mauler
Birthday: June 24, 1895
Died At Age: 87
Sun Sign: Cancer
Born in: Manassa
Famous as: American professional boxer
Spouse/Ex-: Deanna Piatelli (m. 1943–1983), Estelle Taylor (m. 1925–1930), Hannah Williams (m. 1933–1943), Maxine Gates (m. 1916–1919)
father: Hiram Dempsey
mother: Mary Celia
siblings: Bernie Dempsey, Johnny Dempsey
children: Barbara Dempsey, Joan Hannah Dempsey
Died on: May 31, 1983
place of death: New York City
U.S. State: Colorado
The great boxing icon Jack Dempsey who held the World Heavyweight Championship title from 1919 to 1926 was a boxer famous for his aggression, powerful punches, and amazing speed. Counted amongst the Top 100 Greatest Punchers for all time, Dempsey is one of the most popular boxers ever in history. This boxing champion was born as William Harrison Dempsey and discovered his talent for fighting as a youngster. During his initial years he used to box under the pseudonym ‘Kid Blackie’ before adopting the name ‘Jack Dempsey’ as a tribute to his idol, the 19th century boxing champion Jack “Nonpareli” Dempsey. He started boxing as a means to earn money as a teenager. Confident of his powerful build and strength, he challenged people to fight him at saloons. He won most of these fights and decided to train as a boxer. Soon he gained the reputation for being a powerful puncher who could knock out his opponents within seconds. His moment of crowing glory occurred when he beat the boxing giant Jess Willard to win the heavyweight title—this victory earned him the epithet ‘Manassa Mauler’, a name which inspired fear in the minds of his opponents for years to come. He was inducted into the Boxing hall of Fame in 1951.
Childhood & Early Life
He was born as the son of Celia and Hyrum Depsey. His father had problems finding a stable job and the poor family traveled often in search of work.
He started working at the age of eight. As a young boy he worked as a miner, farm hand and a cowboy to contribute to his family income. His elder brother Bernie, a prizefighter in saloons taught his younger brother how to fight.
He attended Lakeview Elementary School for some time before drooping out to work full-time. He held a number of odd jobs to make ends meet.
In a bid to earn extra money the well-built and muscular youngster started challenging people at saloons to fight him. He proved to be a capable fighter and decided to get trained in this field.
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After realizing that he could earn more money fighting than by working, he began to travel from town to town in search of fighting opportunities. From 1911 to 1916 he fought under the name ‘Kid Blackie’. A local organizer in Salt Lake City arranged his fights.
He took the name ‘Jack Dempsey’ after a 19th century boxer of the same name. He had his first fight under this name in 1914 which ended in a draw after six rounds. Following this he won six bouts in a row by knockout before losing to Jack Downey.
During mid 1910s he registered a winning streak of ten wins in a row, beating Downey by knocking him out in two rounds.
He worked in a shipyard and continued to box even as the U.S. entered into the World War I in 1917. He was criticized for not enlisting even though he had tried hard to enlist but had been turned down by the army.
He fought in 17 bouts during 1918 and registered a record of 15-1 with one no-decision. His opponents for the year included Fireman Jim Flynn, the only boxer ever to beat Dempsey by a knockout in a previous match; he avenged his defeat by beating him this time.
He won five regular bouts in a row by knockout in the first round in 1919. Dempsey was powerfully built and known to deliver forceful punches. He was very agile and had a unique style of bobbing and weaving.
He fought the reigning World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard on 4 July 1919 in Ohio for the World title. The match was dubbed a battle of modern “David and Goliath”. Dempsey knocked down Willard seven times and went on to win the World title.
He became a celebrity after this win and traveled all over the country and made publicity appearances with circuses, staged exhibitions and even tried his hand at acting. He defended his world title in September 1920 against Billy Miske and easily beat his opponent.
Over the next few years he successfully defended his title against the contenders Bill Brennan, Georges Carpentier, and Tommy Gibbons. His last successful defense was in 1923 against the hugely built Luis Angel Firpo. Dempsey repeatedly knocked out Firpo and finally defeated him.
His reign as the undisputable world champion came to an end in September 1926 when Gene Tunney, a highly popular boxer with an excellent track record challenged him. Tunney easily defeated Dempsey to win the world title.
He challenged Tunney to a rematch the next year in 1927. In this match too Tunney won and successfully defended his title. Dempsey retired from professional boxing following this defeat though he continued appearing in exhibition matches.
Awards & Achievements
Dempsey was one of the longest reigning heavyweight boxing champions in the history of boxing. He held the title for 7 years, 2 months and 19 days.
Personal Life & Legacy
His first marriage was to the actress Estelle Taylor which ended in a divorce. He married Broadway singer Hannah Williams in 1933 and had two children with her. This marriage too ended in divorce in 1943. His final marriage was to Deanna Piatelli to whom he was married till his death.
He died of heart failure in 1983 when he was 87 years old.
This boxing champion was also known as 'The Manassa Mauler'