By Boxing Bob Newman
July 4th not only marks the birthday of the United States, but in boxing it marks another historic milestone. Exactly 100 years ago today, a new era was born in heavyweight boxing lore as Jack Dempsey, “The Manassa Mauler,” ripped the heavyweight title away from defending champ Jess Willard in less than three brutal rounds, in Toledo, Ohio.
The WBC chose to honor the man and his hometown on this centennial celebration with a special belt commemorating the achievement. Today at the Jack Demspey Museum in Manassa, Colorado, WBC members Rex Walker and Misty Moravec, representing WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, presented the unique belt to the museum, with some 150 fans and proud locals in attendance.
Demspey was an American icon during a time when boxing stood among the most respected of sports. Rubbing elbows with living legends such as Babe Ruth (baseball), Johnny Weissmuller (swimming), Knute Rockne & Red Grange (football), Bill Tilden (tennis) and Bobby Jones (golf), Dempsey was as much an American hero as any of his contemporaries during the 1920s.
Early July was a significant month for Dempsy’s ring exploits. Two years after winning the title, He defended against the reigning light heavyweight champ, France’s Georges Carpentier in boxing’s first million dollar gate on July 2, 1921. Exactly four years after being crowned heavyweight champ, Dempsey retained his title against Tommy Gibbons on July 4th, 1923 in Shelby, Montana. While the fight itself was a lackluster affair, the town of Shelby was bankrupted by the financial terms enforced by Dempsey’s manager, Jack Kearns, in order to host the fight.