Worst Beating in Heavyweight History

By Boxing News on July 4, 2013
Worst Beating in Heavyweight History
Standing at 6’6 ½” and weighing 235 lbs., Willard was a presence but slow as an ox.

It happened a long time ago, before any of us was born. But it was boxing. Oh Mary, sweet mother of Jesus, was it boxing. The date was July 4, 1919. The place was Toledo, Ohio. And the fight was for the heavyweight championship of the world. The titleholder was Jess Willard, the Pottawatomie Giant. Standing at 6’6½” and tipping the scales at 235 lbs., he was a presence, but he was also as slow as an ox. Willard won the title from the great Jack Johnson four years earlier, and returned to his farm in Kansas to rest on his laurels. The challenger was a ferocious ex-hobo named Jack Dempsey, looking to make his mark on Willard and boxing history. Lean, lithe and muscular, with a killer instinct as sharp as a stiletto, when the opening bell sounded Dempsey went to work, and what beautiful work it was…

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Jack Dempsey and Jess Willard- The Worst Beating in Boxing History - W/ Commentary



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  1. steve 42 02:06am, 07/05/2013

    harry carpenter ,a respected veteran uk bbc boxing journalist says( in the tyson interview on this site)of when he met willard ,who was in his 80s,and how willard, angrily,showed an embellished knuckle duster type band he claimed dempsey wore that fight.like most boxing fans i think of dempsey as one of the all time greats however carpenter was a very respected boxing journalist and not one for hype .i hope jack won fair and (RUTHLESSY) square.

  2. Paul 01:23am, 07/05/2013

    Great comment Eric. And it really is interesting to see the difference between the fighters of then and now with the same frames. There must be a multitude of factors at play. Of course if you want to take today’s example, you’ve got the klitschko’s, who it seems have both used PEDs. I think the chemistry cannot be ignored. These old guys probably lived on steak and ale, whereas your new breed has a scientific diet washed down with a can of testosterone-aid.
    If the body is essentially made-up of what goes into it, and on a cellular level that is obviously true - it is no surprise that we can see what we see today, right or wrong.

  3. Eric 05:51pm, 01/03/2013

    Jess Willard was big and strong and even huge by the standards of the time but he was never much of a fighter. He beat a washed up and worn out Jack Johnson, who I feel was the most overrated heavyweight champion ever.  Big Jess leaned his great bulk on the older man and aided by the blazing heat that day simply outlasted an out of shape tired old man. You can even look at still pictures of Willard in his fighting stance or how he stands and tell he wasn’t really a fighter but just another big farm boy plucked out of Kansas because of his pure size and strength. Plus Willard never really had the right temperament or killer instinct to be a fighter which is peculiarly the case with a lot of X-tra large men of his bulk. That is why until the past few decades it used to be thought that X-tra large men would never make the best heavyweight fighters because they would lack the speed, stamina, agility, and even not be mean enough. And that seemed the case with fighters like Willard, Carnera, Buddy Baer, Abe Simon, JIm Beattie, and other giants failing and being massacred by smaller more talented men for decades. But nowadays Willard’s and Carnera’s size wouldn’t be much above average and the cream of the crop in the heavyweight division is full of 6’6” and taller fighters often weighing well over 240lbs. Dempsey and Louis were giant killers back in the day but I grant you they would have a much harder time defeating the more athletic giants of today.

  4. Jim Crue 07:31am, 01/01/2013

    Thanks for posting.
    I would recommend to anyone who loves boxing history the book “Flame of Pure Fire” by Roger Kahn. It is the best biography of Dempsey available. And Roger Kahn is a terrific writer so it’s really fun to read. It really explains what a tough early life Dempsey had and how he got so damn tough. Kahn addresses the loaded glove nonsense.
    As the great trainer Ray Arcel said many times when asked who the greatest HW was, I’m paraphrasing, ” I don’t think any HW could have beaten Dempsey the day he beat Willard.”

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