JACK DEMPSEY: The Manassa Mauler by Randy Roberts

JACK DEMPSEY: The Manassa Mauler

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Roberts tries to demonstrate that Jack Dempsey was a ""better metaphor for the 1920's than Lindbergh or Ford"" or anyone else--but it doesn't come off. According to Roberts, boxing became a ""cultural rostrum'.' with the Car-pentier-Dempsey fight in 1921: the fight represented ""the existential man fighting to maintain his dignity in the face of a losing cause."" (Ring magazine's Nat Fleischer saw the same to-do as ""magnificent ballyhoo."") And, right through, Roberts' attempt to place racism, commercialism, hero worship, and post-WW I moralism on the shoulders of Dempsey, makes the story sag. But the story is here. Roberts describes Dempsey's background--by eleven, he was bathing his face and hands in beef brine to toughen his skin, and he chewed pine resin to strengthen his jaw. In saloons and hobo camps, he learned to fight ""all-out, all the time."" The big matches with Willard, Carpentier, Firpo, and Tunney shape up well, thanks to Roberts' sifting of previous accounts. He puts to rest the rumor that there were more than fists in the gloves that beat Willard; and as regards the famous ""long count,"" argues that Tunney might have survived in any case since he responded at ""4"" and waited till ""9"" as any smart fighter would. That Dempsey ignored the neutral corner seems, to Roberts, part of a fighting style which included late blows, shots from behind, hitting when breaking from the clinch--but characterizing Dempsey's style as ""the unleashed primitive id"" is pointless. The racial politics and business machinations of the fight world are covered in detail too. Roberts goes the distance with Dempsey, in fact, but he doesn't take a round.

Pub Date: Nov. 16th, 1979
ISBN: 0252071484
Publisher: Louisiana State Univ. Press