Jack Dempsey: True Greatness

By Mike Casey on October 26, 2011
Jack Dempsey: True Greatness
The beauty of boxing is its subjectivity, and none of us ever know if we are right or wrong.

A fight to Dempsey was a struggle to the death. That is how he saw it. That was the kind of special fire that burned in his blood…

I have dropped the name of Mike Hunnicut here before and do so again unashamedly. Mike knows his boxing backwards and remains fiercely dedicated to the cause even in these dark and uncertain times.

He has a terrific knowledge of past and present fighters and a mighty collection of real time films, tapes, books and original transcripts—all of which he studies and analyzes in incredible detail. Down through the years, he has known and talked to such legendary figures as Ray Arcel, Jack Kearns Jr., Teddy Hayes and Lou Stillman, as well as a host of fighters.

Mike has his favorites like we all do, but coldly assimilates and analyzes his facts with an unprejudiced eye. It takes an awful lot of work and dedication to do this, as any truly dedicated historian will confirm. Yes, we can be a serious lot and sometimes a little too intense when our passions run high. But we judge our fighters fairly and never cheaply demean or denigrate them. This often involves sitting in dark rooms and studying old and new films until our eyes are ready to fall out of their sockets. Normal, well adjusted people with proper lives don’t do these things.

Given Mike Hunnicutt’s vast experience and his endless conversations with the great trainers of the great fighters, I was eager to get his opinions and impressions on the elite.

He mentioned many illustrious names, including those of Benny Leonard, Billy Conn, Mickey Walker and the great “Cuban Bon Bon,” Kid Chocolate. But one man stands supreme on Mike’s list, and the lists of most others, as the fighter who had the most of everything: Jack Dempsey.

It is vitally important to this writer, as indeed it should be to others, that the fighting abilities of men such as Dempsey, Johnson, Louis and even Muhammad Ali are not devalued and degraded by the corrosion of the passing years or by the equally damaging agents of ignorance and misconception. Already, we are seeing Ali being knocked down the pecking order by those who believe that 350 lbs. of beef and muscle is everything a heavyweight fighter will ever need.

Please, play me another song! Any giant of such size can be—and has been—knocked out by a blow to the jaw or an expertly placed jolt to the stomach by a more athletic and gifted smaller man who possesses natural punching power, technique and quick thinking. We don’t see this happening so often these days, because the talent isn’t there or isn’t honed properly. True and correct punching is a beautiful science and among the most versatile and destructive of weapons when employed by those who take the time and trouble to learn its deadly secrets. Most often, in the case of very special men like Dempsey and Bob Fitzsimmons, this talent is innate. These are proven, biological facts of life and it is why the heavyweight division has always been such a thrilling conundrum. Unlike the lighter divisions where there is generally a natural order, biological logic is so often struck down by the chaos theory when it moves up to the heavyweights. A man can only get so heavy before he loses the crucial assets of athleticism, suppleness and stamina.

When Jim Jeffries was training at Asbury Park for his first fight with Jim Corbett, former champ Bob Fitzsimmons was slowly on the wane and about to do battle with the hulking Ed Dunkhorst, who carried the nickname of “The Human Freight Car.” Dunkhorst was a regular sparring partner of Jeffries and therefore well accustomed to being belted in the body. Dunkhorst could take it and then some. Ed could hit the scales at anything up to 300 lbs., but came into the Fitzsimmons fight at 260 lbs. Fitz weighed 170 lbs., which was about as heavy as he ever got. Bob sank a left hook deep into Ed’s stomach and knocked him out in the second round. The manner of the victory stunned everyone except Jeffries, who forever rated Fitz as the greatest short range hitter he ever saw.

Now think carefully and ask yourself how many of the giant heavyweights have ever been naturally aggressive? Most have been defensive minded, gingerly stepping around their smaller opponents like an elephant befuddled by a mouse. How many have truly loved the business of fighting and been able to punch their weight? How many have been all-time greats? George Foreman, certainly. Lennox Lewis maybe, but we know that Lennox could be knocked cold by a bolt from the blue. Who else? Trainers, physicians and doctors will generally tell you that the perfect heavyweight athlete has always weighed between 190-220 lbs.

Now, if you place a fairly talented and very fit giant among a group of poorly equipped and unimaginative pygmies, then the giant will obviously prevail and look quite awesome in the process.

Former referee Ron Lipton, who has sparred with umpteen world-class fighters in his time, was recently asked for his assessment of Vitali Klitschko, who is generally acknowledged to be the superior sibling of the Klitschko brothers.

Here is what Ron said: “The Ukranian/Russian/European devotional program of strength training, functional body building combined with a boxing regimen as depicted in Dolph’s training in Rocky is going to result in a superior physical specimen any way you cut the cake. When you add to it gargantuan height and weight you do not exactly produce a stiff KO victim who cannot move well nor have what I call the skeletal mechanics like other tall heavy boxers, e.g. Anders Eklund via Tim Witherspoon, who was a sitting target for that overhand right.

“This is a superior intellect in a Goliath body who can apply himself to any endeavor of study and excel. Turn this Avatar loose in a barren wasteland of heavyweight talent with corpulent midriffs like Peters, Arreola, and or mustard seed heart performances like Haye and then you have the epitome of the one-eyed king in the land of the blind.

“This is a very strong man blessed with genetic gifts who hung in there with Lennox Lewis who was a true destroyer with both hands. Quite honestly I do not see great boxing skills here, but I do see an extremely tall and heavy boxer, who knows what it is like to be in that ring as far as range, radar, defense and how to use his limited skills against the mediocre opposition that boxing provides in that limited division.

“Joe Louis would annihilate him like Buddy Baer and Carnera. Tyson would break him in half and Foreman and Liston would chase him out of the ring. Vitali would paw, slap and lean back successfully against the rest of the crop where his size alone would allow him to survive his way to his usual decision win of sticking his long arms out, leaning back, pushing right hands into his opponent’s face and arm punching with pawing long and short hooks combined with awkward uppercuts thrown into the potpourri as usual.

“As soon as he got hit dead in the middle of his face, he would freak out like Mayweather does and grab and hold all night long, stinking out the joint like an unwashed rhino cage in the Bronx Zoo.

“He has skills, but so did Goliath. It is just there are no Davids on planet earth in boxing, they are all in the MMA where some of them would break him in half. Yet, I like him, for his dedication to training, his sportsmanship, as I do his brother, both are gentleman and represent the sport well outside the ring and certainly are light years from being the usual thugs we hate that talk juvenile smack to their opponents.

“I respect them both but do not think they have great skill, only great height, weight and reach. I respect with all my heart that they come into the ring in shape and earn their pay by at least looking the part and attempting, although somewhat without any verve, to walk the walk.”

Evidence

Fortunately, the positive evidence in Jack Dempsey’s favor continues to pile up, as old and new testimonials and transcripts come to the fore and reintroduce him to us as the exceptional natural born killer he was.

They come from men like legendary trainer Ray Arcel, who saw all the great champions through Mike Tyson.

Did Arcel dwell in the past as an older man? Well, he trained modern fighters like Roberto Duran and saw the vastly underrated Argentine master, Nicolino Locche, and couldn’t speak highly enough of those greats. In the brilliant wizard Locche, Arcel saw a man he described as being even cleverer than Willie Pep.

So how did the great Ray assess Dempsey and the other heavyweights? Mike Hunnicut interviewed Arcel at length on different occasions and picks up the story. “You have to understand,” Mike explains, “that guys like Arcel are very measured and understated in their descriptions of fighters. It takes a lot to impress them, because they get to see and handle so many quality operators. If they tell you a guy was ‘pretty good,’ they usually mean ‘excellent.’ They may also take some time to warm to you and therefore warm to the subject.

“Arcel was a very quiet and polite man by nature, unbelievably knowledgeable about the fight game, yet never one to brag about how much he knew. But when we went deep on Jack Dempsey, Ray’s eyes lit up. For him, there was no other fighter past or present who could compare.”

Arcel’s verdict on the Manassa Mauler was thus: “Dempsey would have absolutely beaten any fighter who came after him—without a doubt. I know all about Joe Louis and how he knocked guys’ teeth out. I have every respect for Joe—I rate him number two. But Dempsey would have killed Louis, George Foreman, any of those guys. What Jack had was God-given—you can’t develop the kind of talent he had.

“Marciano? Same result. Dempsey would have murdered Rocky. I tell you, Jack would have chased everyone out of the ring. I trained Max Baer a couple of times and often got asked how good that booming right of his was and whether it was as good as anything Dempsey had. Are you kidding? It wasn’t even close.

“Mike Tyson might have got through a round with Dempsey, maybe two. People always asked me what Jack’s weaknesses were. That’s the point—at his best he didn’t have any.”

Former heavyweight champ Jack Sharkey expressed similar sentiments in a 1986 interview. Mike Tyson had just surged to the head of the division and Sharkey said of Mike, “There is only one heavyweight that I can see who would fit into the old school and that’s Tyson. They’re all cream puff punchers today except Tyson, and his secret is that he doesn’t waste many punches.”

Then Sharkey turned his attention to Dempsey and others: “Jack Dempsey was the best because he was a real fighter, and if he hit you in the shoulder he could dislocate it.

“Ali was a real good boxer but he took too many punches in his training, which he didn’t have to take. Joe Louis was nothing sensational, being a methodical fighter, but he was a great finisher when he had his man in trouble. Rocky Marciano was very good and I almost put him up there with Dempsey. It would be a tough fight between those two but Dempsey, I’d say, was a better puncher.”

One has to understand the savagely tough era that bred such a savagely tough fighting man as Dempsey. As a callow 16-year-old, Jack was already knocking out giants of men in fights down the mines, in old-fashioned fight-to-the-finish street brawls and in bars. Not merely knocking them out, but pulverising them and almost killing them. A fight to Dempsey was a struggle to the death. That is how he saw it. That was the kind of special fire that burned in his blood.

Jack’s future manager, Jack Kearns, was quick to recognise this exceptional and almost unique quality. Cagey Kearns, along with trainer Teddy Hayes, knew that if that raw talent could be honed and polished correctly, the fighter of all fighters would come from it.

Witness

The knowledgeable men of boxing all saw and recognised this spine-chilling side of Jack Dempsey’s nature. They saw something that they had never seen before. They saw something that they would never see again.

Before his 1923 title defense against Luis Angel Firpo, Dempsey and his brother Bernie were interviewed by Grantland Rice. The article that followed would be published just a few days before the fight. Rice said to Dempsey, “If you got knocked down, you feel the fight would just be starting?”

“Just that way,” Jack replied. Then brother Bernie stepped in and told Rice that very few people had ever seen his brother really fight. “And you never will until he gets knocked down. Then you will see a wildcat just beginning to get started. I know. I’ve seen it happen.”

Dempsey’s great trainer Teddy Hayes recalled, almost in awe, how Jack roared back against Firpo. “Then he was again the real Dempsey, the one I had seen take out a dozen men in ten minutes in the old days in the Salt Lake fleshpots. His energy surged back to him. He dropped Firpo twice more, the last time for the full count.

“This was part of Dempsey’s great appeal to everyone, this passion that swept him out of his corner to slug and flail until his opponents no longer remained before him. I called it battle lust. In the heat of the moment, the niceties of ring comportment went by the board.”

Max Schmeling, always a very astute observer and commentator on the game, was similarly fascinated by Dempsey’s almost mystical qualities. In his twilight years, Max was asked to name the boxers who had impressed him the most down through the decades. “Trying to name them all would be a little too much,” Max replied.

“But, in alphabetical order, my short list of those boxers who will never be forgotten includes Muhammad Ali, Henry Armstrong, Georges Carpentier, Julio Cesar Chavez, George Foreman, Harry Greb, Marvin Hagler, Thomas Hearns, Jack Johnson, Ray Leonard, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Carlos Monzon, Archie Moore, Willie Pep, Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson.

“But now I want to add, all by myself, one more name: Jack Dempsey. Despite all the class shown by the others, Dempsey was not only my own idol, he remains for me to this day the greatest of them all. He was the big daddy. He embodied the complete perfection of a professional boxer.

“Jack welded brilliant technique and strategy with a stupendous punch like no other boxer. His punches came packed with the full power of his entire shoulder span. He was a nightmare of an opponent. He hated sharing the ring with anybody else. He appeared to be a fist fighter from another planet. It was no coincidence that they called him ‘the man killer.’

“Writer Joyce Carol Oates, in her famous essay, On Boxing, was right on target when she said that Dempsey’s style of fighting—fast, direct and merciless—has forever put its stamp on the sport of boxing in America, and not only there.

“She is also not wrong when she says that today’s boxing matches, compared with those of Dempsey’s, appear to be harmless minuets. By no means do I mean to over-glorify him or above all the first half of the twentieth century in boxing. But the fact is that our fights back then were definitely much tougher, much more brutal.

“I was still boxing with only four and five ounce gloves, and after two rounds they were mostly already torn apart, with only a few patches of tough leather covering my knuckles. The punches were extremely painful.

“Back then, there were also only eight weight categories, in which there was, logically, only a single world champion. It was extremely difficult to box your way to the top.”

Nightmare

Gene Tunney, the great Fighting Marine, was as cool and calculated as any fighter that ever lived, the man who tamed the ferocious Harry Greb. When Tunney dethroned Dempsey in 1926, he beat an aging warrior who had not boxed for three years and had been living the high life. Yet Dempsey still got into Tunney’s head and terrified him in the run-up to that first of their two memorable battles.

In later years, Tunney recalled, “One night, in a lonely cottage on Mount Pleasant, I had a nightmare. I was in the ring with Dempsey. He was battering me frightfully. I was bloody and only half conscious and he came at me snarling. He knocked me down. I got up and he began pummelling me again. The referee stopped the fight. I woke up. The bed was shaking. I was practically out of it. After that, I stopped reading the newspapers and maintained a calm approach to the fight.”

Gene Tunney never did lose his admiration for the grim reaper who had come to claim him in the lonely darkness and who would later become a lifelong friend. In a 1952 interview with Look magazine, Gene spoke of Dempsey thus: “Jack Dempsey, I’m convinced, was our greatest heavyweight champion. In his prime, when he knocked out Jess Willard to win the title in 1919, he would have taken the four leading heavyweights of today – Jersey Joe Walcott, Rocky Marciano, Harry (Kid) Matthews and Ezzard Charles – and flattened them all in one night.

“These four men are honest, earnest, capable professionals. If they are not touched with ring genius, neither are they stumblebums. So I do not mean to deprecate them when I say Dempsey would have leveled them all in the same evening as follows: Matthews, two rounds. Charles, two rounds. Walcott, five rounds. Marciano, one round.

“A total of ten rounds. Even then, I don’t consider I’m giving Dempsey any the best of it. He might have demolished each of the four in less than one round. He was eminently equipped to do it. He had many championship gifts, including a great fighting heart and the ability to absorb a tremendous punch and recuperate astonishingly fast.

“He learned his trade the hard way against fighters of all sizes, shape and brands from mining camp, deadfall and dance hall to huge arena and stadium.

“Jack was no wild slugger. He was an extremely clever fusion of fighter and boxer. He fought out of a peculiar weave and bob and was very difficult to hit with a solid punch. In the 20 rounds I fought him – 10 at Philadelphia in 1926 and 10 at Chicago the following year – I never did get a clean shot at his jaw. He was always weaving and bobbing away from the direct line of fire.

“Dempsey was criticized for not being able to knock out Tommy Gibbons – one of the all-time great boxers. Actually, that fight was one of Jack’s most impressive performances. Unable to reach his clever opponent with a knockout punch, he was still a fine enough combination of fighter and boxer to outscore Tommy all the way.

“But it was Dempsey the savage puncher, the scowling attacker, who thrilled the sports world. He was a great hitter. His right hand to body or jaw was explosive. Even more devastating was his left hook to liver and jaw. Weaving and bobbing, he feinted opponents into leads, slipped those leads and jolted home his short punches to body and head. He hurt and stunned opponents. He knocked them down and, eventually, kept them down.

“The most remarkable thing about Dempsey’s fighting make-up was the shortness of his punching. His blows seldom travelled more than six inches to a foot. He had a trick of hooking his left to the body and then to the head in practically the same movement.

“In his fight with Luis Firpo, Jack floored the huge Argentinian seven times in the first round and twice in the second before knocking him out. Yet, of all the punches he threw, only the last – a right to the jaw – was a long one.

“All the others were short, murderous jolts and digs to the heart and the kidney and the jaw. This ability of Dempsey to generate such punishing power over a few inches of swing, without seeming leverage, traced from a quick power inherent in his unusual shoulder conformation, with its high and bulging deltoid muscles.

“Beating Dempsey in his prime probably would have been something beyond them all, including Jack Johnson, Jim Jeffries and Joe Louis. My friend Harry Grayson, sports editor of the Newspaper Enterprise Association, may be right when he says that Louis would go in the first flurry of punches.”

Lou Stillman’s Verdict

Gruff, strict and taciturn, the legendary and brilliant Lou Stillman ran his famous New York boxing gym with a rod of iron. The windows to the gym were painted shut and the only fragrances on tap were sweat, lineament and cigar smoke. When Gene Tunney complained about this, Stillman told him to find another gym. Such was Lou’s reputation. Gene thought about it and stayed.

Like Ray Arcel, Lou could be shy and guarded in giving his opinion of different fighters. One has to remember that such special men—along with the likes of Angelo Dundee, Manny Steward, Buddy McGirt and Teddy Atlas today—are constantly quizzed on which fighter they think was the best. They are so wary of getting into endless arguments on the subject. Many fans don’t react kindly when a trainer’s verdict doesn’t happen to dovetail with their own.

Stillman saw thousands of fighters over a great span of years: champions, contenders, preliminary boys, ordinary men just working out. But one day Stillman saw one thing he never forgot. It was the angry punch with which the retired Dempsey knocked out Tony Galento in a sparring session after Tony had given Jack some sarcasm. The sight and sound of that mighty blow being driven home was hard for even Stillman to believe. Right to the end, Lou maintained that it was the hardest shot he had ever seen and that Dempsey was the greatest heavyweight.

Ray Arcel was also a witness to the chilling incident and recalled that the punch nearly decapitated Galento.

Mike Hunnicut points out that the “real time” film of the Dempsey-Willard fight (not the familiar, herky-jerky version by which Dempsey is so often misjudged) remains the most terrifying vision of a destructive fighter he has seen in all his years of studying motion pictures. Willard’s injuries were horrific. His face had been all but smashed away. Yet the slaughter wasn’t achieved in a reckless, devil-may-care manner. The clever and circumspect Dempsey had circled and ducked Willard for what seemed an age before striking suddenly with that devastating left hook that sent Jess crashing for the first time.

Says Hunnicutt, “When you watch the films of Joe Louis and zoom in, it’s incredible to behold what Joe could do—fantastic. But a real close-up view of Dempsey in real time has an almost surreal quality to it—his incredible animal-like moves and coordination, his terrific punch and all-round toughness. It absolutely floors the viewer. These are the qualities that the Lou Stillmans and the Ray Arcels were referring to.

“Jack’s many illustrious opponents were rightly proud of their own toughness and fighting abilities, yet look how many came in praise of him. They would talk of him as a man apart. Dempsey’s footwork, his overall boxing ability and his reflexes were genuinely exceptional. You can’t conveniently group that man with anyone else.”

Remarkable

This, then, was the remarkable and unique fighter that was Jack Dempsey. Was he the greatest of all the heavyweights? In this writer’s opinion, yes. But that gorgeous question is always gloriously open to interpretation. The eternal beauty of boxing is its subjectivity, and none of us ever know if we are right or wrong.

But please, if nothing else, let us sweep away once and for all the ridiculous that the supreme heavyweight talents of the past like Dempsey and Louis would be too small and too lacking in power to compete with the erratic and often unwilling meat-laden plodders of the present era.

The chilling term of “man killer” wasn’t casually lumped on Jack Dempsey in the throwaway manner that nicknames are handed out today. It was thoroughly earned in the toughest schools the fight game has ever seen. It was earned thrillingly, violently and sometimes shockingly by a unique force of nature who was equally adept with his fists in the bar rooms and mining camps as he was in the roped square.

Mike Casey (C)

Mike Casey is a freelance journalist, artist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

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  1. Gordon Marino 08:49am, 07/16/2018

    A tremendous piece Mike. I found the remarks by Tunney on Dempsey’s head movement most fascinating—and also the story of his sparring session with Two Ton Tony. Many thanks.

  2. Tex Hassler 12:36pm, 07/15/2018

    I have been studying boxing since I was 6 years old back in the 1950’s. I cannot find any thing wrong with Mike Casey’s evaluation of Dempsey.

  3. Lee Paxton 08:15am, 07/06/2016

    I basically agree with this article on Dempsey; also, I ate at his restaurant on Broadway, and more than once talked to Dempsey; he signed my book—was always a gentleman.  It’s hard to compare eras; but boxing was uncontrolled then and very brutal and dangerous.  I would like to add, however, Dempsey was not a small man or small heavyweight.  A lot of people confuse weight and size; they are different.  An expanded 48” chest, or big fists and 9” wrists, are not measurements then or now, of a small man.

  4. David 11:51am, 08/02/2014

    You’re entitled to your own opinion Jethro’s Flute, infantile or otherwise. Like it says “...no one ever knows if we are right or wrong.” Happy reading.

  5. Jethro's Flute 11:38am, 08/01/2014

    “. Kenny Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw, Jack Dempsey would have shattered it like a chandelier, He definitely was the best in my mind too.”

    What cretinous drivel.

    Is there any evidence that Dempsey was a bigger puncher than Ken Norton?

    Earnie Shavers didn’t break Ali’s jaw despite many hits on the older man’s chin.

    Sod off with your infantile post.

  6. David 05:41pm, 07/31/2014

    Hello Mike, I really enjoyed reading your article about the great Jack Dempsey. There are some people out there who don’t rate Jack Dempsey high on their list of great heavy weight champions of all time because they say he never fought any Black fighters. Well, I think that’s crazy. I don’t think a mans skin color has anything to do with winning or losing a boxing match or any other sporting event.. You can argue that Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Larry Holmes, never fought the caliper of fighter that Jack Dempsey was I like many other boxing fans always thought Muhammad Ali was the greatest heavyweight to ever live until I saw films of Dempsey. That quickly changed my mind after seeing Jack Dempsey move, punch, his speed and tenaciousness in the ring. Kenny Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw, Jack Dempsey would have shattered it like a chandelier, He definitely was the best in my mind too.

  7. Darrell 09:42pm, 08/31/2013

    Psychological toughness Mike Silver?  Spare me!

    Vitali comes back from a savage cut in a 5 round war against one of the ATG’s, Lennox Lewis, to pound the divisions top fighters & claim the Hvywt title; retires for 4 years due to injury then comes straight into a title fight & wins by KO; dominates against a host of much younger challengers for years…..who’s not mentally tough?!

    Wlad gets KO’d by Brewster, rematches later & wins by brutal KO; recognizes his chin defect & remodels his game to go undefeated against all comers over nearly a decade…..who’s not mentally tough?!

    Dempsey has a chance early against Wlad, if he doesn’t KO him then he gets KO’d later about round 10.  Dempsey has even less chance against Vitali, whose rate of punches wear the cruiserweight down in about round 8.

    All those pitching for the old timers just do not understand that these brothers aren’t good because they’re big, they’re good because they are good.  Athletic guys with great skills, conditioning & desire who hit hard & just happen to be big arse mothers as well…..it’s a tough combination to beat.  Wlad also has to have one of the biggest right hands of any heavyweight, no doubts.

  8. Darrell 08:35pm, 08/31/2013

    Old Yank…...you would be right, those who face Vitali would be surprised by his speed.  He ain’t an easy fight for anyone.

  9. Jethro's Flute 10:18pm, 08/28/2013

    p.s Mike Tyson to break Vitali Klitschko in half?

    Yes, just like he did to Mitch Green, Tony Tucker, James Smith and James Buster Douglas because it’s not as if Tyson ever struggled with really tall opponents and let’s just gloss over the fact that Vitali Klitschko has never been knocked down in his entire career.

  10. Jethro's Flute 10:10pm, 08/28/2013

    Cutting through the dewy-eyed myths and cliches, we get to the crux -

    “I don’t think either K brother would last 2 rounds against Dempsey in his prime.”

    Jack Dempsey would have been a cruiserweight if he had fought after 1979.

    He would be well under today’s cruiserweight limit if he was around today so he would not be allowed in the ring with either Klitschko brother and neither would Rocky Marciano.

    This casual disregard for the rules of boxing invalidates myth-making with the greatest of ease.

  11. Mike Silver 09:23pm, 08/28/2013

    It pains me that I did not comment on this earlier. Here is Ray Arcel (who Mike Casey quotes copiously about Dempsey) who spent his entire life in boxing, is acknowledged to be one of the greatest trainers who ever lived, and saw every great fighter from 1915 to 1994, and yet his comments are treated as nothing by the “experts” quoted in the comments section of this article. Let’s forget about size, reach, and weight for the moment and just focus on psychological toughness, which in my opinion the K’s and the other sides of beef parading as “great heavyweights” today are lacking. This is an enormous factor that is largely ignored. Dempsey, like Marciano, had tremendous psychological toughness that would have broken today’s fighters no matter how large they come. Look at Dempsey’s fight with the extremely tough Bill Brennan. Dempsey is having an off night and Brennan is landing some brutal punches yet Dempsey keeps coming. He is relentless and gets even more relentless as the bout progresses. He finally wears out and knocks out Brennan in the 12th round. It was only Brennan’s second loss by knockout in 82 bouts. (The only other KO was by Dempsey two years earlier). I don’t think either K brother would last 2 rounds against Dempsey in his prime.

  12. Eric Jorgensen 10:36am, 08/28/2013

    Amazed I didn’t see this earlier, Mike, but great piece, right on the money.  As an aside, did you ever see the following sportswriters’ poll Ring did in the early 1960s?  To get a sense of the time frame, this poll appeared in the issue that reported Sonny Liston’s title-winning effort against Floyd Patterson.

    Experts Poll (1962)
    The Ring (December 1962, pp. 6-12)

    1-Jack Dempsey (13 votes)
    2-Joe Louis (10 votes)
    3-Jack Johnson (9 votes)
    4-Gene Tunney (3 votes)
    5-Jim Jeffries, Sam Langford (2 votes each)
    7-Rocky Marciano (1 vote)

    Vote named greatest heavyweight, only.

    Jack Dempsey votes:  Elmer Ferguson, Jack Cuddy, Ned Brown, Frank Graham, Dink Carroll, Sam Cohen, Harry Grayson, Jersey Jones, Jack Koford, Dan Walton, Max Kase, Hugh Bradley, Al Buck. 

    Joe Louis votes:  Dan Parker, Nat Loubet, Murray Rose, Lew Eskin, Dan Daniel, Johnny McDonald, George Whiting, Ted Carroll, Ray Grody, Al DelGreco. 

    Jack Johnson votes:  Nat Fleischer, Willie Ratner, Dick Cullum, George A. Barton, Dick Young, Anthony Marenghi, Harry Keck, Arthur Daley, Johnny Sharpe. 

    Gene Tunney votes:  Warren Brown, Chris Dundee, Jack Fried. 

    Jim Jeffries votes:  Willie Ritchie, Sam Taub. 

    Sam Langford votes:  Charley Rose, Bill McCormick. 

    Rocky Marciano vote:  Lloyd Larson.

  13. William Whitmore 06:15pm, 11/02/2012

    The new East European heavyweights have size and reach but are light on skills and boring to watch. Size and reach aren’t universal determinants—Rocky Marciano was 5’9” and Jack Dempsey sometimes under 180lbs.  Jack Sharkey had the unique personal experience to judge between Dempsey and Joe Louis, and this 10,000-word analysis is convincing. Louis had by far the softer whiskers; Dempsey went down only a couple of times after he hit the bigtime, the same as the man who was also out of the ring for three years, but regained the world crown after he returned. He might have been far too much for the Manassa Mauler, the one and only Muhammad Ali.

  14. Jethro's Flute 03:24am, 08/01/2012

    While we’re at it, Jack Dempsey to beat George Foreman?

    Crouching, swarming fighters do not beat big George, end of story.

  15. Jethro's Flute 03:22am, 08/01/2012

    “Jack Dempsey would have taken out either Klitschko in one round. “

    Really? That would be something to see as Vitali Klitschko has never taken a count in his life and is past 40. KO Wlad in one round? The man takes very few punches.

    Decking a great useless lump like Jess Willard is no indication that a fighter could beat a Klitschko.

    Not only that but Jack Dempsey was well under the cruiserweight limit of 200lbs so he would not even be in the same ring as either brother.

  16. Eric 02:52pm, 07/15/2012

    Like to add another little tidbit about Dempsey. At one time in his career Dempsey had sparred with the great middleweight Harry Greb. Those who witnessed the sparring say Greb had Dempsey tied up in knots, so much so, that Dempsey’s manager would never let Greb spar with Dempsey again. Greb apparently saw something because he would be one of the few “experts” who would predict a Tunney victory of Dempsey in the first fight. While Dempsey had been inactive for three years, he was certainly not washed up, being that he was only 32 years of age. Granted 32 isn’t young especially for boxing but it isn’t exactly decrepit and old either. Think about it, Ali was 32 when he defeated Foreman, and well we all know about Foreman and what he accomplished into his mid forties. Besides age doesn’t affect heavyweights that are punchers as much as it does the smaller fighters and heavyweights who rely on speed, reflexes, and boxing skills. At 32 Roberto Duran revived his career with giving Davey Moore a savage beating to capture the junior middleweight crown, and Duran would even win a fourth world title at middleweight some 5 1/2 years later at age 37.

  17. Eric 02:16pm, 07/15/2012

    People often let nostalgic fantasies cloud their better judgement when it comes to anything they experience in their youthful prime, and that could be anything from athletes to music. We all want to believe that “ours” was better than the present. Maybe this kind of boastful fantasizing will boost bruised aging egos.  People suddenly see their mortality in an aging reflection that stares back at them while combing rapidly thinning & greying hair, or seeing another wrinkle or two that wasn’t there yesterday while staring in the mirror, so they long for “better days” when their heroes were the “real deal.” Just how good was Jack Dempsey anyway? Well if you ranked Dempsey on name recognition alone and would rank only behind Ali, Joe Louis, and possibly Mike Tyson in the heavyweight division. Dempsey held the title from 1919-1926, but he was inactive for three years before losing to Gene Tunney in 1926, and his list of title challengers certainly wasn’t awe inspiring. Tommy Gibbons and Georges Carpentier were light heavyweights, Luis Firpo was a crude plodding type of brawler who while larger than Dempsey was made to order for the champions type of style. In Dempsey’s fight before the rematch with Tunney, he took on future heavyweight champion Jack Sharkey.  Sharkey was giving Dempsey a one sided pasting until Dempsey clipped Sharkey while the referee was breaking them apart for a come from behind knockout. Few people realize that the round in which Dempsey knocked down Tunney for the infamous “long count” was quite possibly the only clear cut round in which Dempsey won over Tunney in 20 rounds of fighting. Tunney himself was little more than a light heavyweight who would only fight one more time after the rematch with Dempsey. Dempsey surely feasted on numerous large men like Fred Fulton, Gunboat Smith, as well as his brutal demolition of the giant Jess Willard for the title, but these giants of the past were unathletic, lacking in speed as well as raw punching power, and like a lot of large men they had stamina issues and weren’t particularly athletic or agile. Another moderate sized heavyweight Joe Louis would come later and like Dempsey seemed to relish fighting the larger men. Louis, like Dempsey, knocked out the giants of his day, men like Abe Simon, Buddy Baer, and former heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. But these lumbering giants had ver little in common with the Klitschko brothers or Lennox Lewis other than their physical size. The Klitschkos and Lennox Lewis are every bit as large as Carnera and Willard, but yet don’t share their clumsiness or their lack of skills. I can assure you as great as Dempsey and Louis were I don’t see either fighter beating a Klitschko or Lewis.

  18. henry 10:21am, 07/07/2012

    Dempsey - most overrated fighter of all time.  He had no stamina-Tunney proved that, couldn’t take a punch-Firpo (an amateur) proved that and so did the weak hitting Tunney, and telegraphed his punches in every fight he ever fought.  He was extremely slow and would shuffle around the ring and then throw a bunch of punches and hoped his opponent would fall.  Did he ever fight over ten rounds?  The only thing you can say about him- he was the first modern heavyweight.  The films don’t show the greatness that the sports writers of the time tried to make him.  In fact if you watch the films and then read the descriptions of fights,  the sports writers were describing phony fights to gin up interest.

  19. Perry 02:41pm, 02/25/2012

    The sport is boxing!  Fighting!  It’s not bodybuilding or a weightlifting contest.  The two K brothers are NOT great fighters.  Big, yes, beautifully built, yes…but this is fighting folks and in matches against all time greats both these men are way over their heads.  Great fighters who know how to get inside would destroy either man.  Size means very little when you are facing great boxing talent.

  20. Don from Prov 12:15pm, 11/03/2011

    Well, thank God my aunt doesn’t have balls: Life in the 21st century is confusing enough.  Good points about Vitali maybe picking up some style from Ali—substituting size and strength for speed and reflexes.  As far as Tyson and his “heart” goes, I’m someone who listened very closely to what Teddy Atlas had to say on the subject, read about the incident in the Catskills, factored in the “unhappy Teddy” factor, and watched most of Tyson’s fights.  He, like many before and after him, may not have always been in the best of shape and he did not seem to have an unbreakable will, but there are matters of degree: Foreman most certainly could have gotten up for a little more Ali, but he didn’t—and then, IMO, grew from that.  One of my favorite fight-or-die warriors, Roberto Duran, quit instead of being shamed by Leonard.  Of course, one could name a hundred fighters who never had a moment of “breaking” even a little bit in their careers—at least not one any of us could see.  But to judge the faintest shell of Tyson at his career’s end is not really fair; at his best, his will never appeared to fully break.  A supposedly out of shape and badly distracted Tyson was still trying, albeit in a very predictable manner (and that my have always been one of Tyson’s problems: predictable without being undeniable) to take out Douglas; and the ghost of Tyson may have given up on winning against Lewis, but he sure as hell accepted one man-sized beating.  So, breakable—yes.  A lot of quit in him—not in my opinion.  Vitali’s style and chin, I feel, would have given him more plusses against Tyson than V’s baby brother would have, but I’d pay to watch Tyson and Vitali in their primes, AND I’d bet you a dinner on the outcome, but you’d have to come to the States to collect or pay up (says he with a smile).  Good man, JC.  Thanks for the kind words, Mr. Casey.  Later.

  21. JC45 03:28pm, 11/02/2011

    I’ve always had a theory Vitali has modelled his style on Ali , Don. The leaning away from punches , the reliance on the jab , the use of his height and reach , his ring intelligence . Like Ali , Vitali eschews bodywork and like Ali he gets in the head of his opponents. He’ll never have Alis grace or handspeed but he utilises many of the same techniques. A good swarmer with power might well always worry the Klitschkos. If Tyson had the will of a Frazier or the guts of a Lamon Brewster he may well have been able to get inside Vitali. Then again if your Aunt had balls she would be your Uncle ;-) Cheers Mate.

  22. JC45 03:21pm, 11/02/2011

    As usual , very salient points made by Don. Beautifully written as well. It’s all supposition and opinion and as you say certain heavyweights ( Ali and Louis off the top of my head for starters ) had more trouble with smaller , faster fighters than they did with plodding giants. I’ve always had an opinion that as the 20’s were such a colourful , exciting time sportswriters tend to look on it with rose coloured glasses. America was coming off a post WW1 boom while Europe was in a perilous state.It’s comparable to the 1950s here in Australia. Post WW2 Europe was devastated and Australians won more Wimbledons , produced more Olympic medallists and had some of its greatest sporting moments during the 50s and 60s than at any other period. Cheers mate and as usual its a pleasure.

  23. mikecasey 12:49pm, 11/01/2011

    Don, you make some very insightful and knowledgeable comments.

  24. Don from Prov 04:50am, 10/31/2011

    P.S. More than one HW who is considered “great” had trouble with smaller, mobile fighters: See Foreman and Peralta/Jimmy Young, and Ali vs. Doug Jones/Jimmy Young.  Point: Tunney might have been more than a handful for a lot of fighters from more “modern” ages.  Who lost to or struggled with who doesn’t always mean much, but when patterns emerge….

    Later.

  25. Don from Prov 04:45am, 10/31/2011

    Hey JC,
    Yes we’ll have to agree to disagree.  I’m not sure how drawing the color line has much to do with anything except racism and the realities of the time that Dempsey lived in.  It is easy to assume that he was ducking black boxers but that is an assumption.  You are right, completely right, that it certainly appears that Vitali is a far better fighter than Willard, but my point was more that the 187 lb. Dempsey could break the bones of, hurt, and knock out much larger men.  The question then becomes, could he get to Vitali: I’d say that is a matter of opinion as Vitali has never fought a small, very mobile, very quick fighter who could feint and work his way inside—and then do damage there.  The only small quick man he fought was Byrd and Byrd could not punch, was not an inside fighter, etc.  Yet Mr. Hassler is wrong to indicate that Byrd really STOPPED Vitali—an injury did him in during a fight that Vitali was winning.  However, as far as seeing inept performances (the Willard clip) watch Vitali again against Kingpin: He has a man who is languishing on the ropes, doing nothing, and it’s not so much that Klit doesn’t decapitate him as he looks like a Golden Gloves novice swinging away.

    Anyway, my apologies to Hakeem the Dream Olajuwan for mangling his name, and the best of the day to Mr. JC.  You must be doing better, and feeling warmer, than we are here in the northeastern U.S.  It was good to see your name again, my friend.

  26. JC45 06:04pm, 10/30/2011

    I’m not really into stats and numbers anyway . I’ll give Sean O’Grady as an example. O’Grady had had an incredible 75 odd fights when he faced Jim Watt for a version of the lightweight title. Despite the numbers O’Grady was a near novice. Dwight Qawi on the other hand had only had 18 fights when he faced Saad Muhammed and he was a vet. He’d beaten Rossman and James Scott in his previous two fights.

  27. JC45 05:56pm, 10/30/2011

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpZdSNB93Mo&feature=related  Willard has no jab whatsoever and keeps getting hit with Moran’s wild overhand rights thrown from the floor. The first thing I want to see from a 6 ft 6 heavyweight is a gun jab. Willard doesn’t have a very good one. As for so called experience Willard had 29 fights in his entire career. He was beaten by the 180 pound “GunBoat ” Smith who was the only good fighter he faced prior to Johnson. James J. Jeffries, another 19th century fighter beloved by certain historians, only had 23 fights and only fought one bloke over 205 pounds. Jack Johnson. Cheers Tex.

  28. TEX HASSLER 05:11pm, 10/30/2011

    Most of the people who make comments about Dempsey know just about nothing about boxing history. Many middleweights of past days have KO’d heavyweights. Charlie Burley at about 150 KO’d a good big heavyweight with one punch in the 1940’s. To say at 190 Dempsey could not KO one if the Klitschko brothers is said by someone who knows nothing about about the past. Both Klitschkos have already been KO’d. Chris Byrd a blown-up middleweight stopped one of the K Brothers. Check out their records. I personally saw a 180 pound fighter KO a 6’6” 245 pound boxer with one single punch. It can and has been done. If you watch Jess Williard when he fought Jack Johnson you will see he was as good if not better than the K Brothers. Johnson in his prime could have beaten either of the K Brothers. Yes the Klitschkos are the best we have today and they cannot help the level of competition they have fought. They would be even better if they had fought better fighters. Dempsey KO’d other big heavyweights.

  29. JC45 02:31pm, 10/30/2011

    GDay Don , hope all’s well mate. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. I’d definitely give Louis and Tyson more of a shot against Vitali than I’d give Dempsey. I cant get over Dempsey’s drawing of the colour line throughout his career. I cant compare Willard and Firpo to Klitschko visa vis size or technique. Vitali is 6 ft 7 - 8 and can fight. Willard was 6 ft 5 and couldnt fight. As far as reach goes the numbers can be misleading. Sonny Liston had a reach of 84 inches but that was because he had such wide shoulders. He doesnt have longer arms than Vitali and most certainly doesnt have the range . Vitali has a VERY long jab. Cheers mate .

  30. Don from Prov 08:56am, 10/30/2011

    And Thresher: You make the same arguments that I think I’ve heard you use under other names in other places.  ONLY the heavyweight division has changed?  So, size is the ONLY difference now.  Plus, you point to other sports that call for different “talents” than boxing does, and even then, there is eventually a diminishing return on size: Would you take Yao Ming (whose size = a diminished career) over Akeem the Dream?  Do you believe that Dick Butkus or Jim Brown would not dominate in football today?  And Willie Mays would be a third stringer, right?  Not all sports are the same and any number are evolved in the general, if not always in the particular, but in boxing there is a plausible argument that fewer and fewer fighters have the wide based knowledge and the number of fights needed to hone that knowledge when compared to the old-timers, and that counts for a lot.

    We don’t have one writer going after another here, do we Mr. Thresher?

  31. Don From Prov 08:44am, 10/30/2011

    Mr. 45 (JC): You fall into the trap of “this fighter didn’t look good against, or failed to kayo this other fighter,” a game that could be played with any fighter who ever lived, including the Klits.  While one can debate with those who scour films in “real time” or the opinions of respected boxing men who saw older fighters in their primes, there are realities here, and Mike Casey has pointed out some about technique, etc. that others would like to ignore.  Fine.  One reality is that Dempsey (and Louis for that matter) inflicted great damage on and knocked out men who were significantly larger than they were.  So we know that they could hurt larger fighters.  Then a question is whether or not someone like either Klit is such a superior boxer that they could hold off a Dempsey, or a prime Tyson for that matter?  Would technique, speed, and footwork allow the smaller man to get inside.  Hmmm….
    Great Dane vs. Pitbull.
    No match, right? 
    The Great Dane is too big.  Don’t think so.

  32. JC45 01:03pm, 10/29/2011

    Joe Louis had a wretched resume actually, even though he never ducked anyone. Until his comeback his record is full of old men and never beens. Liston was always an unfit 4 round fighter. If Sonny couldnt get you early he usually didnt get you at all. Liston was outboxed by the tiny Marty Marshall and had incredible trouble with Eddie Machen. My grandfather actually tipped Clay to beat Liston as he said that Sonny trained on women and booze, was a bully and would never catch the 6 ft 3 inch tall Clay. He was right. It’s hard to imagine Sonny intimidating the 6 ft 8 250-pound Vitali who unlike Liston is always in superb shape. Thats Vitali’s greatest strength. He’s not like 99% of old school fighters who chased women, partied and drank alcohol (see Louis, Ali, Tyson, Dempsey etc) and he trains with the dedication of a Soviet Bloc amateur - pro. Cheers Mike.

  33. JC45 12:55pm, 10/29/2011

    I’m with Ted , my money would be on Vitali to beat Tyson. Tyson was mentally suspect and is at such a massive size disadvantage. Vitali’s style utilises his height and reach wonderfully. If Mike couldn’t kayo James Tillis , Mitch Green and Bonecrusher Smith he wouldn’t kayo the iron chinned Vitali in my opinion. I watched a docu on Mike yesterday and I was a bit shocked at his actual height. I think in reality he was not over 5 ft 10.

  34. JC45 12:52pm, 10/29/2011

    I just have to shake my head in wonder at anyone who thinks the 185-pound Dempsey would beat Vitali Klitschko. Romantic nonsense. Dempsey drew the colour line, lost twice to Tunney, won the title from possibly the worst champion in history in Willard . He beat a French middleweight - light heavyweight in Carpentier and had a snoozer with Tommy Gibbons which sent the town of Shelby Montana broke. He made 6 defences in seven years. I’m not really one for mythologising the so called roaring twenties Mike. It’s a time period that seems to have a big appeal to many romantics. Dempsey could never catch a fat little sailor named Willie Meehan who continually made Dempsey look like the unskilled fighter he was. Jack didnt even have a jab. If he couldn’t catch fat Willie Meehan or Tunney how the hell would he catch a 6 ft 8 250 pound man like Vitali who has a rock chin and who can fight well going backwards. Cheers mate. I guess we will agree to disagree on this one.

  35. mikecasey 12:33pm, 10/29/2011

    Thank you, Tex. These are exactly the important points I was trying to make in the article. Today’s crowd, in general, don’t have anything like the guile or the imagination of the past heavyweights.

  36. TEX HASSLER 05:34am, 10/29/2011

    Vitali would not have time to back Tyson up, I am talking about a prime Tyson of 1986-1989. Tyson would have been on him and KO’d him. Every one Tyson fought out reached in from 86-89 and he sipped right under their reach and destroyed them. Skill beats size and there is a shortage of fighters with skill today. Almost no one knows how to roll with a punch or parry a punch, slip a punch today much less roll under a punch and counter. Almost no one can cut off the ring and make the other fighter fight inside or in the corners.They just hold their hands in front of their faces and hope to get lucky in blocking punches.

  37. TEX HASSLER 05:26am, 10/29/2011

    Compete with Klitschko? Jack Dempsey would have taken out either Klitschko in one round. They are made to order for him. Fighters today cannot get inside because they do not know how. Dempsey knew how regardless of the size advantage the Klitschkos have and a thing ofter overlooked is Dempsey had a good reach himself. Williard had a far better chin than the Klitschkos and a 3 inch longer reach (83 inch reach) over the Klitschkos. This did not help him at all against Dempsey. Williard was about 6ft 6 inches tall and this did not help either. Most people who watch today’s boxing do not know what a FEINT or a DRAW a punch in order to counter IS but Dempsey was a master of both. Jack was hard to hit and had a great chin. He suffered only on KO and was on his feet them. He later KO’d the guy in one round about a year later. The Klitschkos are blessed to fight in an era with little or no competition. In Jack Dempsey’s day there were about 1,000 active heavyweights in America. Today there are only about 250 worldwide. Jack was the best of more than a 1,000. He had tougher competition and could learn from fighting BETTER fighters. I respect the Klitschkos but they are just the best we have today who have fought extremely limited competition. Liston or Foreman would have walked through the Klitschko’s, out jabed them and KO’d them. It you go by reach alone, which means not as much as most people think, Foreman had as much reach as either Klitschko and Liston had a 4 inch reach advantage of the K Brothers. Foreman and Liston had FAR BETTER CHINS than the Klitschko Brothers and they were much stronger.


    If you went by reach alone Rocky Marciano would have never won a fight over top contenders because Louis, Walcott, Charles, Moore, and Rex Layne all outreached him considerably. Marciano knew how to get on the inside and then push opponents off balance and punch them into submission. Joe Louis would have also slipped the Klitschko jab and KO’d them with a right hand. He would have made it look easy. Mike Casey this is a great article on Dempsey.

  38. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo 01:53pm, 10/28/2011

    Even experts can have blind spots and biases….there’s a an excellent trainer/teacher down in Texas who was a former contender himself, who seems to suffer from this malady when it comes to the Klitschkos.

  39. The Thresher 06:49am, 10/26/2011

    The one division that has really changed over the years has been the Heavyweight Division. Guys llike Bowe and Johnson brought a new athelticism to the table. Big guys who could fight well. Holmes was also one.

    The torch was passed to the Klits and now to an entire new type of Euro monster.

    How a small Dempsey, Marciano, or Mike Tyson could possibly compete with (let alone beat) these giants is beyond my comprehension.

    The Monsters of the Midway (the Chicago Bears) of the 40’s would be blown away by Boise State today. Times change, bodies change, techniques change—and a 60-pound advantage and 9” height advantage and a monster reach advantage would simply be too much for The Mauler.

    Now I would not use this argument with the other divsisions becuase the weights have remained constant though a lot of other things have changed. Monzon would beat up Hopkins and Pep would be a champ. But SRL and Pac would not be denied.

  40. "Old Yank" Schneider 05:59am, 10/26/2011

    Mike—I agree.  Each man’s eye is unique.  Over the years I’ve done as much as possible to avoid any definitive comments about fantasy bouts—they’ve always struck me as futile exercises full of emotion and impossible to prove.  I can see and appreciate Dempsey’s top-of-the heap attributes.  Likewise, I’ve seen the shock in fighters seemingly stunned by more speed in Vitali than they expected (not to mention more power than they expected – the highest KO ratio in heavyweight history).  I don’t know if Dempsey could beat Vitali (no way to know really), but I do suspect (win or lose) he’d have been just as surprised by the speed of this big man as every other fighter Vitali faced.

  41. The Thresher 05:47am, 10/26/2011

    Good, I’ll use this time to tear you apart. :)

  42. mikecasey 04:21am, 10/26/2011

    Fellas, just hang any comments here and I’ll try my best to reply next week. The writing projects that pay my rent are all non-boxing commissions (sadly) and I’m currently under the gun to finish a big one by Monday.

  43. mikecasey 04:10am, 10/26/2011

    So much of it is to do with individual perception, Yank. But any way I look at it, I see a couple of manufactured guys like the Klits back-pedalling like crazy against some of the names here. A giant of a man who’s scared of spiders is going to have his physical advantages paralysed by fear and apprehension from the start and therefore and run from the spider. I don’t get silly about all this. There are more than several past champions who Vitali would have beaten - but not the naturals with boxing versatility and killer instinct.

  44. The Thresher 04:04am, 10/26/2011

    I love the piece but totally disagree with Lipton’s quotes. Tyson breaking Vitali in two is insane. Vitali would back up Tyson then make him quit on his stool (again). The Vitali who fought Lewis (who waxed Tyson) would rip Tyson a new rear. Louis would need to be able to get inside in order to beat VK. Easier said than done.

    There is a school of thought led by Mike Silver that argues for the old school guys heatedly so. Manny Steward, Freddie Roach, and Tedd Atlas are in this school and they make a great case.

    I am not.  More to follow.

  45. "Old Yank" Schneider 03:50am, 10/26/2011

    Forgot my manners—GREAT piece—I am particularly grateful that writers like you are around to fill in the huge history holes I suffer from!

  46. "Old Yank" Schneider 03:48am, 10/26/2011

    Mike—There was a bit of Dempsey in the way Tyson moved.  I might have one “issue” with Ron Lipton’s assessment of Vitali—every fighter he’s been in with, especially the better defensive fighters, seem to have all been shocked by his speed.  I bet the list of those Ron posed as picking Vitali apart would have been met with the same surprise.

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