The Willard vs Johnson title fight controversy

Discussion in 'Boxing' started by white is right, Dec 26, 2020.

  1. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    Since the owner of the site doesn't want poor text quality threads to be revived, here goes nothing.

    As I stated yesterday Johnson was perpetually broke post Willard once he did his time for violating the Mann Act and was freed from federal prison.

    Johnson sold his story to a National Enquirer type tabloid and used his prone hands up in an exhausted pose as sign that he was really shielding his eyes, not too concussed or exhausted to rise before the ten count was tolled over his prone body.

    The boxing historian Nate Fleishcher never believed this story as there wasn't a run on betting Willard during the buildup for the fight in Cuba.

    As I stated in the previous thread the Willard camp knew Johnson was getting long in the tooth and demanded a longer bout than what was becoming the norm in boxing.

    Johnson was out boxing Willard fairly easily for the first 15 rounds or so and then his body started hitting the wall and Willard started taking charge and Johnson started looking his age and ready to go.

    Johnson actually signaled for his wife or consort to leave her ringside seat as he was heading for a likely ko/tko loss and didn't want her to fear for his safety.

    Also like a previous poster stated once the film was released to the public years later it was obvious Johnson was tiring and started to take a beating at the hands of younger and fresher challenger.

    PS, after Johnson beat Burns fight films which were valuable to movie theaters were viewed as not worth the trouble as riots and vigilante justice was common after the fights were shown in the theaters and many governors banned their viewing by the general public.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2020
  2. shamrock

    shamrock Newbie

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    Fascinating info; I did not know this. I had always assumed that Johnson was lying about throwing the fight, but I didn't realize how far gone his body was at this point. Astute strategy by Willard to extend the length of the bout, but this information about Johnson's deteriorating stamina may seem to seriously diminish Willard's victory, which, in turn, diminishes Dempsey's victory over Willard. And if Dempsey's win over Willard is diminished, that would tend to lessen Dempsey's strong legacy, as Dempsey's beating of Willard may have been his signature victory. Do you agree?

    I'd always wondered how a fighter with Dempsey's reputation lost so badly to Tunney twice. I believe Jack was 32-years old when he fought Gene, older but not ancient. Perhaps I've always rated Dempsey too highly - have him in my top five or six of all-time heavies. Or maybe I underrate Gene. One thing is clear though: Willard's win over Johnson is not very meaningful. What do you think of Dempsey's legacy?
     
  3. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    Johnson had been living high off the hog for years and fighters were old in their early 30's in this era. Willard's management team knew he could take a sustained beating if need be and take Johnson into deep waters, so they took a smaller percentage of the take for more rounds to help their fighter as the title would be worth x times his purse for the Johnson fight.

    Willard was never considered the best of the White hopes that were lined up to fight Johnson over the years but he had the physical build to in theory to trouble Johnson with his aging legs.

    When Willard defended his title against Dempsey in 1919 he himself was old at 37, so the story had come full circle. At the time boxing writers had felt Willard's management team "sold" the title to Dempsey and his shrewd team of Jack Kearns and Tex Rickard. Willard wasn't viewed as a star attraction after he beat Johnson and only defended his title once and made more money in vaudeville shows, cheap silent movies and boxing exhibitions.

    So Dempsey beating Willard wasn't viewed as a great achievement, but it launched the biggest sports star of the 1920's aside from Ruth and his record breaking gates and purses.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2020
  4. Arerequired

    Arerequired Guru

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    Johnson also lost to Marvin Hart and Joe Choynski before Willard, maybe others not counting Klondike before but those are the ones I am aware of.

    I haven't been online in a while since I didn't have internet access.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2020
  5. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    I think you meant Johnson.

    It wasn't uncommon for fighters to have a learning process as there wasn't an amateur scene in the late 19th century. Ivy league schools were probably the leaders in amateur boxing with men's boxing clubs being somewhat similar to gun clubs.

    I know old universities in Canada have similar histories.
     
  6. Arerequired

    Arerequired Guru

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    Yes Johnson didn't catch that.
     
  7. Charles Martel

    Charles Martel Hall of Famer

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    Dempsey is overrated by the media because of his 1/4 Jewish heritage. It's only Dempsey's win over Williard that is impressive, but it should be considered that Willard took up boxing late, at age 30.

    Before he fought Johnson, Willard lost to poor opponents such as Lewis Fink (career record 3-6) Tom McMahon, George Rodel, and Joe Cox.

    Dempsey lost to mediocre opponents too, he's wasn't nearly as good as Harry Greb.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2020
  8. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    What made Dempsey impressive was he abandoned the cautious style employed by Johnson and previous champions because of the length of the bouts in the late 19th century through the end of the Willard era. He also broke box office records and ushered in huge stadium fights when boxing was a fully recognized sport.

    At one time many jurisdictions banned boxing or had it in a gray zone where it was banned on the books but the laws were ignored. MMA had similar roadblocks to full legal acceptance.

    PS, Dempsey had a series of bouts with Willie Meehan where he was even up with Meehan who was never regarded as anything close to world class. Similar to Joe Louis he ushered in a breath of fresh air as he had series of key knockouts of top contenders leading up to the Willard fight and the Willard fight was among the first big sporting event after the pandemic was basically over in 1919.
     
  9. Thousand Okie

    Thousand Okie Newbie

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    "Dempsey is overrated by the media because of his 1/4 Jewish heritage." Could Charles Martel be thinking of Max Baer, who was 1/4 Jewish? Baer's paternal grandfather was a German Jew but his paternal grandmother was a German Lutheran. Baer's mother was an Irish Catholic. Baer was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic Church. He became Jewish, including the Jewish Star on his trunks, only when promoters thought of the gate receipts in New York and other eastern cities for a Jewish heavyweight. There had been good Jewish fighters in the lighter weight categories, especially the great featherweight Benny Leonard, but no heavyweights.

    Dempsey possibly had a great-great grandmother who was Jewish but this has not been confirmed. If accurate, Dempsey would have been 1/16 Jewish. Dempsey also possibly had a great-great grandmother who was American Indian. Again, this has not been documented. Dempsey always said he was Irish, which has been well documented, with some Cherokee blood from a long ways back on his mother's side. Maybe so but that may be nothing more than family lore.

    Martel also mentions Harry Greb, who was phenomenal--"the Human Windmill." His father was German and his mother Irish. He was raised in Pittsburgh. He began fighting as a teenager and would continue into his late 20s. He had some 250 fights. He fought so often he said he didn't have to train. Grantland Rice said Greb was "one of the most remarkable athletic products in the history of the world." And "He is not only remarkably fast on his feet, but a streak of lightning with either hand. He can hit a man oftener from more different directions than any man that ever lived. I have seen him, when almost completely off-balance, hit a good boxer three times before a return was made." Greb was a natural middleweight but he fought light-heavies and heavyweights with no worries. Greb made Dempsey look bad in two sparing sessions but never got the chance to fight him formally. Greb beat Tunney easily the first time they met but they fought four more times and Tunney won all four. Greb had no doubt Tunney would beat Dempsey.

    Dempsey was 31 when Tunney beat him decisively in their first bout in Sept. 1926. Tunney was 29. Dempsey was in great shape but hadn't had any formal fights for three years, since he knocked out Luis Firpo in Sept. 1923. During that same three year period Tunney had 19 fights and won them all. Tunney again beat Dempsey decisively in Sept. 1927. Dempsey was 32 and Tunney 30. Both were in great shape. Yes, there was the famous "long count" but I've watch the footage of the knockdown dozens of times and it's clear to me that Tunney was watching the referee and listening to the ref's count. Tunney's eyes are clear and focused and he simply took advantage of a full 9 count before getting up. What's most amazing is Dempsey hit Tunney with several of his best punches and Tunney wasn't knocked out. Years earlier Harry Greb had said Tunney had the best jaw of anyone he had ever fought. When Dempsey knocked Tunney to the canvas, it was the first time in 76 fights that Tunney had been knocked off his feet--and it would be the only time. When Tunney sprang to his feet at the count of nine, Dempsey charged in for the kill. There was two minutes remaining in the round but Tunney legs were fine and Dempsey couldn't do much of anything. By the end of the round Tunney was back in command. In the next round, the 8th, Tunney was entirely recovered and battered Dempsey and dropped him with a right. Dempsey didn't take advantage of the count but sprang to his feet only to be battered more by Tunney, and that's the way it continued to the end of the fight in the 10th round. By then Dempsey was pretty much out on his feet. In both fights Tunney was clearly the better fighter. Now, if they had first met in 1923 things may have been different. Tunney lost only one fight in his entire career and that was his first fight with Harry Greb. Tunney was undefeated when fighting as a heavyweight. He's the most underrated heavyweight in history. There is no doubt about his ancestry--both his parents were Irish immigrants from County Mayo.
     
  10. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Thousand Oakie,

    We've exchanged a few emails over the years. Thanks for the expert info. He apparently confused Dempsey with Baer. I've read every major Dempsey biography and more articles than I can count and there was never anything about Jack Dempsey being "1/4 Jewish." It's about like this poster's previous fantasy a few months ago. He thinks Chavez Ravine was designed as a pitcher's park due to Sandy Koufax being Jewish.

    I have the 2006 Tunney biography by Jack Cavanaugh, who had once met Gene Tunney on a commuter train during the mid-60's. The book is almost as much about Dempsey as Tunney.
     
  11. booth

    booth Mentor

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    Sports Historian would you happen to know Gene Tunney's real record was? I have seen several different records listed such as 75-11, 65-1-1, and 65-3-1. I would appreciate any help with this.
    Also if you have any information on the cause of Harry Greb's death I would be grateful. I have been told it was from cosmetic surgery. I didn't even know they had cosmetic surgery in the 20s and why would an active boxer have facial surgery any info would be helpful.
    While I am asking, have you heard of a light heavyweight boxer named Ray' Windmill' White who fought in the 60s & 70s. He was California lhw champ for several years. He was a very colorful fighter who named his punches. Greb's nickname made me think of him. Thanks again.
     
  12. Extra Point

    Extra Point Hall of Famer

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    At the time there was a controversy about whether or not Tunney could have gotten up from the knockdown. When asked about it Tunney and Dempsey played a little game. When asked about it Tunney would say he wouldn't have been able to get up while Dempsey always said that Tunney definitely would have.
     
  13. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Jack Cavanaugh's biography of Gene Tunney, which I referenced above, gave his record as 58 wins, one loss, 17 no decision, one no contest. Tunney's only loss was to Harry Greb in 1922 by 15-round decision.

    I'm not familiar with Ray "Windmill" White. I recommend doing a Google search. If there is anything interesting it should appear.

    P.S. I did a search. White was born in 1938 and is still alive. There were some items on him.
     
  14. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    They became friends over the years and in another era would have probably made a few million a piece milking their historic fights on the memorabilia circuit autographing pictures of the long count and regaling people with stories of their battles at banquets charging hundreds to attend.

    CBS's 60 minutes had a story on the autograph circuit in the late 90's and Ali, Joe Dimaggio and Ted Williams were the highest paid circuit signers. Dempsey and Tunney would have been paid similar amounts to those 3.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2020
  15. Charles Martel

    Charles Martel Hall of Famer

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    Are you Jewish yourself, "sport historian"?

    When you answer my posts, it's nearly always because of something I posted about Jews. The only positive response I remember from you, is when I defended Lawrence Auster.

    Why doesn't it bother you when Jews like Max Kellerman and Teddy Atlas discredit white athletes?

    Dempsey may have only been 1/16 Jewish, but some Jews have claimed him as one of their own, and he doesn't get disparaged by the Jewish media like Tunney and other white boxers.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
  16. booth

    booth Mentor

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    Thanks for the information sport historian. I appreciate you taking the time to find his record for me. Greb, Tunney, and Billy Conn could have fought in any era and been champions.
     
  17. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Do you still claim Chavez Ravine was designed for Sandy Koufax because he was a Jew? When has Gene Tunney been "disparaged by the Jewish media?" Who gives a flying you-know-what if "some Jews have claimed him (Dempsey) as one of their own?" You are the one disparaging a white athlete (Jack Dempsey).

    Dempsey has been often criticized for not fighting black opponents when champion. The fact is Dempsey was willing to fight blacks (he had done so early in his career) but the powerful promoter, Tex Rickard, was against it.

    And I am NOT a Jew.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
  18. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Getting back to the original subject of the thread, the entire film of the 1915 Willard-Johnson fight surfaced around 1968. It showed conclusively that Johnson tried hard to win the fight and was knocked out fair and square. Time magazine even did a story on it, calling Jess Willard "possibly the most underrated heavyweight champion." Time observed that Johnson was hit with a right that would knocked out any heavyweight and the film showed Johnson was knocked out.

    Also Willard stopped contender Floyd Johnson at age 42 in 1923. He then lost to Luis Firpo, who had his famous bout with Jack Dempsey in September of that year.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2020
  19. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    The public and press wanted Dempsey to fight Harry Wills the top Black contender of the Dempsey era. There was a press conference and both camps signed contracts for the fight but from what I read the PTB at the time feared more riots and civil unrest if Wills won as the Johnson championship reign cast a cloud over the heavyweight division for a generation.

    PS Wills might have been one of the few fighters of his era to keep his money as he invested in real estate in Harlem and owned a series of apartments that netted him a sizeable income well into old age.https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/1925-jack-dempsey-harry-wills-orig-100979591
     
  20. Charles Martel

    Charles Martel Hall of Famer

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    That really hit a sore spot, right? He must have been your hero. I used to become angry when people discredited Joe Calzaghe and other great white boxers, but not quite as upset as you were about my Koufax comment.

    Why choose him as your hero over the great white Gentile baseball players? At that time there were plenty to choose from: Mantle, Ford, Killebrew and Kaline, for example.
    Nearly every time his name comes up. You don't really follow boxing do you?
    That old creep Bert Sugar went on and on about the so-called long count ever time he got the chance. He loved Dempsey and hated Tunney. Off the top of my head: Kellerman, Atlas, Raskin, and Berman have all been unfairly negative about Tunney and other white gentile boxers. Do you watch ESPN at all?
    Dempsey himself said he was of mixed race: Irish, Cherokee on both sides, and Jewish on his mother's side.

    http://archive.boxing.media/the_two_jack_dempseys.html

    "The young Dempsey was a mix of Jewish, Irish and Cherokee Indian. The former made him very popular in New York City, where his manager Doc Kearns would always spin the story about Dempsey’s Jewish grandmother, Rachel Solomon, to reporters. It was a very good story for the gate. The people of the book liked the idea of a real tough guy with a Jewish grandmother."

    Tunney, Greb, Marciano, the Klitschkos and Calzaghe were great fighters. I've defended them with THOUSANDS of posts on the boxing websites over the past 20 years.
    He lost to mediocre opponents. He was an exciting heavyweight, but not a great one. Gene Tunney was a bona fide great fighter, as was Harry Greb, a middleweight who fought everybody, black and white, including heavyweights.
    Your posts indicate otherwise. In fact it's very obvious.

    For example, you are the only one on this site who denies media Jews discredit and disparage white athletes.
     
  21. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    I was going to post the other day about how much I was enjoying this thread as it reminded me of threads past when various intellectual posters would be engaging in respectful give and take and sharing of views, something that's been mostly missing in recent years. So let's end the back and forth personal stuff now about who's pro-Jewish and who isn't and other irrelevant stuff and get back on topic. No one's going to "win" so come on gents.
     
  22. Thousand Okie

    Thousand Okie Newbie

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    The article Charles Martel links to is written by a Norman Marcus. Could Marcus be interested in promoting Dempsey with a Jewish grandmother? I just made a quick check of the records at Ancestry and several posted family trees and, at least through Jack Dempsey's great grandparents on both sides, there is no Rachel Solomon. As I said in my original post she may have been a great-great grandparent. Moreover, all of Dempsey's ancestors on both sides are listed as white. This doesn't mean there was not some Cherokee or other American Indian blood in there but it is not identified in any records. I haven't read Dempsey's autobiography in many decades but I recall him saying promoters would say he was Jewish or Indian or something else to gain some traction in selling tickets depending on the town he was fighting in. I also recall him saying he had some Indian blood from a long ways back but, again, as in my original post, if so it is not documented in any records back through his great grandparents.

    I had uncles on both sides of my family who saw both Dempsey and Tunney fight. They all said Tunney was the superior boxer and far more cool and collected in the ring. However, they also said Dempsey in his prime had a far more powerful left hook than Tunney and at least as good of a right cross. Both had jaws of granite. Several of my uncles gave an edge to Dempsey in his prime only because of his punching power but didn't rule out Tunney beating Dempsey if both met at their peaks. They all felt Tunney was the better fighter from 1926 on. One uncle was vehement about Tunney being far superior, arguing that Tunney not only had all of Dempsey's physical gifts but out-thought Dempsey throughout their two fights. Tunney out-thought just about everyone he ever fought.

    Again, Tunney lost only one fight. How many fights he won--and this goes for all fighters of that era--is not entirely clear. Professional boxing was illegal at different times in different states, including New York, so fights were called exhibitions and there were no official decisions. However, there were knockouts, fights stopped, and fights that went the distance. In all these exhibitions nothing official could be recorded but when they went the full number of rounds newspapers would declare the winner. These "newspaper decisions" were generally considered quite accurate and were based not only on a particular sports writer's opinion but also that of others in attendance who the sports writer consulted with, including the referee and the unofficial judges. Tunney had 18 such fights and, it can be argued, won them all. However, the newspaper decisions are unofficial and can lead to different interpretations and controversy. Without those fights Tunney had a record of 58-1 with 44 knockouts. With those fights it can be argued his record was 76-1.

    Booth mentions Ray "Windmill" White. I cracked up when I read the mention of White. I saw him fight many times. He was a local sensation here in SoCal, especially in Ventura County where he worked construction by day and fought at night. He was a tall, very lean older guy with thinning hair. He'd show up at fights looking like he just got off the construction site. He always had a big group of his construction pals with him. He was regularly underestimated by other light heavyweights, some of them very good. I can't remember exactly but White must have 6'4" and had long arms. He could frustrate almost any fighter. He also had a variety of punches that was not to be believed, including his signature "windmill." Crowds would roar whenever he wound up to throw it. He fought at a lot of local venues but also at the famous Olympic auditorium in L.A. The great Jimmy Lennon was the ring announcer and Dick Enberg the television announcer with Mickey Davies as color commentator. All three of them would have trouble staying serious when Ray "Windmill" White came into the ring with the crowd going wild.
     
  23. Westside

    Westside Hall of Famer

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    Not getting why and if Dempsey was part Jewish. He was a hell of a fighter and fought in a take no prisoners style. Like today, Canelo is an elite fighter. No doubt his Irish genes in him are dominant. He looks Irish like men in Ireland. His brother looks typical Mexican. And if Dempsey is part Jewish so what!
     
  24. Westside

    Westside Hall of Famer

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    LOL, 1000 Okie, I specifically remember Ray White! My father loved boxing. We would gather around the TV when I was a child and go crazy when he fought. Best memories of my childhood.
     

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