Thursday, September 14, 2023

Dempsey vs Firpo 100 Years -- September 14, 2023

Washington Evening Star, 15-September-1923

One hundred years ago today, on 14-September-1923, heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey defeated challenger Luis Ángel Firpo from Argentina at the Polo Grounds in New York. It was one of the toughest four-minute fights ever. Firpo, the Wild Bull of the Pampas, was a popular hero throughout Latin America. 

Firpo, Battered to Defeat by Dempsey, Still Aspires to Win World Championship

"In a Year I’ll Be Back Again," Says Argentinian
Following Dramatic Battle in Which He Wallops Champion Out of Ring.

By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jack Dempsey and Luis Firpo fought last night for the heavyweight crown of the world as two cavemen in prehistoric days might have battled on the edge of a cliff -- and Firpo lost.

But he battled like a man. fighting to the last agonizing gasp -- more glorious in defeat than ever he had been in victory.

Knocked out in three minutes and fifty-seven seconds of the most furious fighting ever recorded in ring history in which he was floored seven times, but managed to send the champion crashing clean through the ropes after battering him to his knees, the sturdy son of the Argentine still gazes with determined eyes on the crown which Dempsey barely saved by a right uppercut which stretched Firpo flat on his back. "In a year I’ll be back again," he declared, when lifted to his feet by the man who had floored him. he had staggered uncertainly to his dressing room.

Losing fighters have made that statement before, and been laughed at for their pains, but not so with Luis. A vast majority of the 85,000 who witnessed the battle believed him. and Tex Rickard, the man who put on the fight, declared he was ready to stage another Firpo-Dempsey battle next summer, or match the Argentine tomorrow against Harry Wills, the hard-hitting negro who has been itching for a fight with Dempsey.

"Firpo is not done for yet." asserted Rickard. "He will be heard from again. He is a big, strong young fellow and a terrific fighter."

Most Dramatic of All Bouts.

The battle was perhaps the most dramatic in the history of pugilism, even eclipsing the territlic fray in Toledo, in 1919, when Dempsey tore the laurels from the bloody head of Jess Willard. Into less than four minutes was crammed more action than usually is spread over fifteen rounds. The crowd realized they were gazing upon no ordinary boxers; they were witnessing an elemental gripping, nerve-shaking battle between two great lion-hearted fighting men to whom the verb "to quit" was unknown.

The challenger made as inconspicuous entry as could be effected in his swaggering bathrobe of purple, gold and black. He slipped into the arena while the last round of the last preliminary was wearing to its tiresome finish and dropped into a front row seat surrendered to him by a spectator.

He was first into the ring. A burst of applause greeted him, No flicker of emotion slipped across his face.

Jack Gets Hearty Welcome.

A minute later Dempsey jumped through the ropes, clad in white trunks, a white sweater buttoned over bis shoulders. He was a buoyant Dempsey; a laughing confident Dempsey; a Dempsey far different from the champion who two years ago, with worried glances from side to side, stepped into the ring in Jersey City to face the renowned Georges Carpentier of France. He received a thundering welcome.

Luis sat In his corner, as watchful as a beast of the jungle with combat impending. He scowled as Dempsey took his corner. Not for a moment did he take those keen dark eyes from the face of the champion. His handlers loosed a deafening volume of advice, but Firpo never heard them.

Jack, squatting on his stool with an army blanket draped across his knees, cast sidelong glances at the crowd, while his seconds rubbed his muscles and fondled his ears as a trainer might caress a racehorse. Once he jumped from his stool and danced up and down In his corner to limber his leg muscles.

Then champion and challenger were called to the center of the ring tor a conference, a conference protracted by Firpo’s need of an interpreter. They grew restless as technicalities were expounded to them.

Then the gong.

Start In Like Savages.

The fighters flew at one another like savages. Dempsey hurled himself across the ring, slipping to one knee with the fury of his rush, which carried the South American against the ropes. Then a right to the body and a left to the jaw and the challenger crashed to the canvas.

A short count and Firpo again was on his feet. His eyes shone with the fire of battle as he lunged at the man who had felled him.

Dempsey stood his ground. For the second and third times he knocked his heavier opponent to the floor. Firpo’s mouth gushed blood, but, though stunned, he was far from out.

He drove his sledgehammer right into Dempsey’s ribs with a thud that could have been heard a block away. But the champion’s ribs weathered the blow and he returned the attack with a fury that sent Firpo to the floor for the fourth time. A few seconds and he was down again, this time in Dempsey’s corner. This time It seemed as if he could not rise again and the champion stepped over the fallen body of his adversary looking as if he thought the fray had ended.

But it hadn't.

With the count of nine the South American was on his feet again and rushed his rival. It was a stupendous, a staggering rush that sent Dempsey to his knees. Jack rose, battered but game.

Jack Is Knocked Out of Ring.

But Firpo was at him in an instant. He loosed a right swing that landed squarely on Dempsey's jaw. The crowd, crazed by the drama it was witnessing, gasped as it saw Dempsey dashed through the ropes out of the ring, landing flat on his back on the press benches.

In an instant he was back, but he was groggy, stunned. His legs quivered under him. He was pale.

But Dempsey hud fought more battles than the daring youngster from the Argentine and his strategy saved him. He fell promptly into a clinch until his brain cleared. Had Firpo then been able to land one of his staggering rights a different story I might be told, but he was unable to follow up his advantage before the bell tolled. Before walking to his corner Dempsey cuffed the South American several times about the head, but the referee appeared not to notice it.

The crowd was quite unable to recover from the thrill of the first round when the fighters were at it again, fighting like wild men. Neither thought of putting- up a defensive fight. Each was out to win immedlI ately, to crowd all his chances Into ! the first few rounds.

Once, twice more Dempsey sent the Argentinian crashing to the rosined floor, but when it seemed impossible for the fallen giant to rise, he was on his feet again.

Firpo Goes Down to Stay.

And then the knockout.

A left to the body, a tremendous right to the jaw and the great Argentine lay flat on his back under the cluster of arc lights. His face worked in agony. Blood streamed from his mouth. For a count of two he lay quite still. Then he struggled to rise, but the champion’s magnificent attack had been too much for him. He flung his left arm across his body, half rolled to his right side, strove valiantly to get his legs under him, but the count of ten sounded.

Dempsey rushed to his fallen foe and lifted him to his corner.

An ovation worthy of the fighting man he is awaited him. Frenzied fans crashed down on the press section, i stormed it, captured it. leaped to the ring itself. For a moment it seemed as if the police would lose control of the crowd, but finally victor and conquered were escorted to their dressing rooms.

The whole evening had kept the police on their toes, for outside the grounds was gathered a throng as great as that massed within the stadium walls, and on several occasions, during which prospective spectators rioted around ticket wagons, mounted officers had to be called into action to club the crowd into line.

The champion himself, who arrived at the main gate, had difficulty in entering, and Jess Willard, who sat at the ringside, spent forty-five minutes fighting his way through the throng.

$1,200,000 AT GATE

By the Associated Press.
NEW YORK, September 15. -- Approximately 85,000 fans paid more than $1,200,000 to see Jack Dempsey knockout Luis Angel Firpo, according to the estimates early today of Promoter Tex Rickard. Fully 25,000 more were massed around the Polo Grounds, unable to gain admittance.

The battle, in point of both attendance and receipts, ranks second only to the Dempsey-Carpentier spectacle two years ago at Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, where 93,000 paid $1,600,000 to see, the champion conquer his French rival. The Willard-Firpo fight at the same arena last July was credited by Rickard with attracting close to 100,000, but official figures showed a paid attendance of only 75,000.

Dempsey reaped with this triumph the greatest fortune of his career. Receiving 37 1/2 per cent of the gross receipts. his share, on the basis of estimated receipts, would be about $450,000, while Firpo, with a 12 1/2 per cent portion, would get $150,OO0. This amount Is nearly twice as much as the Argentine received for knocking out Jess Willard.


By the Associated Press.

BUENOS AIRES, September 15. -- The great Firpo was beaten by the greater Dempsey.

This is the way last night’s fight for the heavyweight championship of the world is epitomized here. Although gloom pervades all Argentina over the defeat of the country’s idol, expressions of pride are heard on all sides for the magnificent battle he fought and for the stout heart he displayed.

"The next time," say the Argentinians, "’will be different. The next time he’ll win."

The defeat of Firpo was a stunning disappointment to the tens of thousands of people who thronged the streets of Buenos Aires last night, hopeful of receiving the news that the Argentine fighter had won for his country the championship of the world.

When it became known that Firpo had lost groans were to be heard among the crowds in front of the bulletin hoards, and some of the people wept. Several vented their disappointment by throwing stones at the large electric sign reading "Dempsey wins."

The streets leading to the newspaper offices where the bulletins were displayed were jammed by the thickly packed crowds for a distance of several blocks. Street car service was deviated. The mounted police had strenuous efforts in keeping order.

Felix Bunge, the so-called mentor of Firpo, apparently took the defeat of his champion philosophically. "The best man won. that is all I can say," Bunge declared.


By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK. September 15. -- Tex Rickard, who promoted the Dempsey-Firpo bout, announced at the close of the drama that he was ready to stage another bout between the champion and his Argentine challenger next summer and a bout between Firpo and Harry Wills, American negro.

Os tonight’s contest Rickard said: "It was one of the greatest fights in the history of the ring. It gave me the thrill of my life.

"Firpo is one of the best fighters I ever have seen. It was touch and go and the lucky man won.

"Firpo is not done for yet. He will be heard from again. He is a big, young fellow and a terrific fighter.

"I stand quite ready to match Firpo against Dempsey again in another year. I would be quite prepared to stage such a bout next summer.

"Moreover, I am quite ready to match the South American against Harry Wills tomorrow, if Firpo will fight Wills and Wills will fight Firpo."


By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jack Kearns, who handles Champion Jack Dempsey’s financial battles, issued a statement after the Firpo battle tonight in which he declared joyfully that his champion had "done his stuff."

He admitted, however, that he got the scare of his life when he saw Dempsey go through the ropes.


By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jimmy De Forest, veteran trainer, who schooled Luis Angel Firpo for his victory over Jess Willard and then was deposed, shrugged his shoulders expressively when his former protege ended the evening on his side.

"If I’d trained him, he’d have been a winner," said De Forest, who viewed the battle front the ringside. "He has the stuff."



I FOUGHT and failed. I can say no more. But no man who saw me fail can say that I did not fight. In the first round, after I had been knocked down five times, I knocked Jack Dempsey, the champion of the world, through the ropes. When he crawled back into the ring I staggered him and almost had him out. The crowd which saw me fight and fail also saw me knock the champion of the world through the ropes into the press box and nearly knock him out later.

Before the fight I said that if I were knocked down I would get up and fight. I did as I said. I got up five times in the first round and fought back until the American champion was knocked through the ropes and was nearly out. In the second round again I was knocked down, and again I rose and fought.

Then came the finish. The crushing blows of Dempsey that beat with such fearful force upon my face and body finally beat me to the canvas in such a state of agony that I could not rise. If you will ask any man who sat near and saw he will tell you that I strove to rise and fight on as I had promised. Nothing of flesh and blood could have risen after the punishment that I received. I admit that the blows of Dempsey were harder than I thought any man could deliver, but I believe also that Dempsey will admit that the blows of Luis Firpo were harder than he thought any man could deliver. I lost, but even my worst enemy cannot say that I did not nearly win. Neither can my worst enemy say that I did not prove that I wasn't entitled to a chance at the championship, and I feel it sure that no one will say that I do not deserve yet another chance when I have had more experience.

Spirit Still Unbroken.

I am heart-broken, but not broken of spirit. No. I told the American people through their newspapers that I would wish to have waited a year before I fought Dempsey that I might have had more experience. When the proper time has passed I will ask that I again have the chance to fight Dempsey for the great honor of being heavyweight champion of the world.
I will learn and develop. Next time I believe that I can accomplish the task I so nearly finished last night. Dempsey is a great champion of the world. I am heart-broken, but not ashamed to have been beaten by so great a fighter. I am a little proud to have come so near to defeating him. I shall be greatly proud some day to finish the work that I could not finish last night. I feel that I am beaten, but not disgraced and I felt that in time I will be entitled to a chance to erase whatever of disgrace attaches to my short but furious attempt of last night to wrest the heavyweight crown from the head of perhaps the greatest fighter whoever wore It. I think, too, that any one who saw the fight will agree that if I do win the crown from Dempsey at some future time it will not have passed into the keeping of one unworthy to wear it.

Future Plans Undecided.

I go to Canada soon for a short auttomoblle trip. Then soon also to the Argentine. My plans beyond that I do not know. I fought and failed, but I am not ashamed. I think that now the critics of Luis Firpo can never again say that he is not a fighter. Luis Firpo took the blows of Dempsey and then knocked the champion of the world through the ropes. Remember that please. I have tasted the bitter medicine of defeat, but I am confident the time will come when my palate shall know the delight of the cup of victory,


By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jack Dempsey admitted last night after his victory over Luis Angel Firpo that he never had received such a socking in his life.

"I won as I thought I would," said Jack, "but I can truthfully say that I never had such a fight in all my life. When he socked me on the chin in the first round, knocking me through the ropes after I had knocked him down, I thought my finish had come.

"Those who told me that Firpo would be a soft mark certainly were talking through their hats. After he slammed me with that first right I knew that I had a fight on my hands. Firpo is dangerous every second. I hit him with everything I had and certainly was surprised when he continued to crawl off the floor.

"He is game, and the hardest puncher I ever faced. It was the first time I was knocked down since I became champion, and I’ll never forget it. I saw eight million stars when I got that punch on the chin that knocked me out of the ring."


Barely Weathers Wallop That Sends Him Through Ropes, But Superior Ring Craft and Punching Power Stop Formidable Rival. Hy the Associated Press. NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jack Demsvey still holds undisputed sway as heavyweight champion of the world, but only after the crown he has worn for the past four years had come perilously close to being toppled from his scowling brow.

The champion stands out as a mightier figure than ever, one of the greatest title holders of all time, as a result of his smashing, dramatic knockout of Luis Angel Firpo last night at the Polo Grounds in the second round of a match that for savage fury of attack has no parallel in pugilistic history. But only a masterpiece of generalship, plus the7 inexperience of the Argentine giant, saved the champion from defeat toward the close of that spectacular first round, when Firpo, with the ferocity of a wild beast, rose from his fifth knock-down to drive Dempsey through the ropes with a terrific right swing to the jaw.

Dempsey, never knocked down since he battered Jess Willard into a helpless mass and ascended the heavyweight throne, found himself dazed, his knees quivvering. but a few moments after it seemed that he had beaten his challenger into submission.

But then, Just when Firpo had the championship and fortune almost within his grasp, the champion's generalshlp, his instinctive defense, saved him. He gripped Firpo's arms, blocked the challenger's rush, and before either could start another assault, the bell ended the round.

Master of the situation once more, Dempsey made short work of his battered opponent in the second round, flooring him twice before a short right uppercut to the jaw -- it did not travel over a foot -- brought his foe down for the eighth, and last, time.

The champion’s greater speed, the versatility and unerring accuracy of his attack and strategy, plus his terrific punch, had brought him victory.

Firpo Put Up Great Fight.

Firpo, beaten for the first time since his meteoric rise to prominence, fought the greatest fight of his career. His right was never mightier; he I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt his gameness under the hottest of fire. But when his great opportunity came he was out-maneuvered and out-generaled.

Dempsey was the quicker on attack with a two-fisted assault where Firpo had but one big gun. The champion was constantly beating his challenger to the punch. Thus it was that Luis was stretched on the floor five times before he suddenly turned the tables on the titleholder. Firpo was the first to land, his right thudding against the champion's side. Several times later in the round the Argentine brought home his right with all its power to Dempsey's ribs, but where they had broken down all opposition before, those blows did not check the champion’s drive. The latter’s hooks and jolts, delivered at close quarters were tearing the South American to ribbons.

Jack Seemed Too Confident.

Weaving in and out with pantherlike rapidity, Dempsey shot home his thrusts, while he checked and blocked most of Firpo's counter rushes. He wrestled and "roughed" the challenger, and these tactics. It seemed, almost as much as his jolting punches forced Firpo to the canvas. Perhaps the champion grew too confident as he sensed victory, but he was caught "wide open" and unprepared when Firpo came back to drop Dempsey first to his knees, then through the ropes to the press benches.

Dempsey's victory removed all doubts whether he retained his old punch, doubt that had been a source of unending debate ever since the champion failed to stop Tommy Gibbon, at Shelby last July. Against Firpo the tltleholder was the same "man killer," the same relentless assailant that had wrested the championship from Willard.

Firpo Not Through Yet.

And in defeat Firpo gained glory and prestige that stamped him as still one of the most dangerous of all title challengers. His future has not been crushed by defeat. Experts who thrilled to his gallant stand last night grant him all the requisites of a champion except training and experience. Another year of development under proper tutelage, they believe, will bring this swarthy giant back again to the top. a far more formidably equipped challenger.


World Lightweight Champion.

NEW YORK. September 15. -- It was a typical Rickard night. I don't think Tex ever picked a date for an outdoor boxing show which had to be postponed by rain. What a crowd it was, too. It seemed every one in the world was on deck. The weather was nice and warm for September. Lots of people wore coats, but they didn’t need them.

It was quite a treat for me to attend a championship bout in the capacity of a reporter instead of being a boxing principal. However, I was just as anxious to make good as a fight expert as I have ever been to make good in the ring. A fight takes on a far different aspect when you are a spectator instead of one of the men that perform with padded mitts.

It seemed the crowd would never get seated. Right up to the time of the main event the people kept filing in, although when I arrived arround 8:30 the place seemed filled to capacity.

Nobody seemed to be interested in the preliminary bouts. They hardly got a hand from the immense gathering.

It’s funny how hard the preliminary boys strive to please, often putting up a better exhibition than the big timers, yet their work scarcely gets a rumble.

When It came time for the star event between Jack and Luis, the fans were impatient. Nothing that the "preliminary" boxers did satisfied them. All that interested anybody, apparently, was whether Jack would be able to successfully defend his championship crown against the mighty Argentine.

There was all kinds of Dempsey money in sight at ringside, but few fans willing to cover it.

Firpo Seemed Scared.

Firpo was well received by the crowd as he edged his way to the ring from the aisle near the base ball press stand. He seemed to be sort of scared to me, but that, I guess, is only natural when you consider he is a stranger in a strange land.

The fans were standing up all over the stands waiting for Dempsey’s arrival. He came in the same way as did Firpo. Jack was in a white sweater and appeared confident. Jack Kearns and Joe Benjamin guided him through the crowds that blocked the aisles, eager to get a close-up of him.

Jack Dempsey proved that he is a real champion at the Polo Grounds last night. We always knew he was a great offensive fighter, but for the first time we learned that he is a game one.

It is easy enough for a champion when everything is coming his way, but to be on the verge of a knockout then come back and win by a knockout proves a man is a real fighter.

Jack Proved He Can "Take It."

No one ever knew for sure before that Dempsey could take It. He has been handing out punishment for so long that no one had any idea what he would do if he were on the receiving end. Well, Jack proved he is every ounce a champion, taking Firpo’s most dangerous wallops and then coming along and winning like a real one. It was a good thing that Jack was trained to the minute. Had he been in no better shape than he was at Shelby with Tom Gibbons he never would have been able to stand up under Firpo’s sledge-hammer blows.

Dempsey was trained to the minute, otherwise we’d probably be ringing the praises of a new champion today. It was well for Jack that he had the world of speed that he possessed. If he did not have the groat speed to carry the fight to the South American from the jump he probably would have been felled like an ox.

Firpo In another year will make a mervelous tighter. He is learning fast. He is a born fighter and, as I pointed out in my previous articles, he is a much better fighter than he showed in training.

Boxing for me in private. Firpo displayed some of the short, snappy punches that nearly spelled Dempsey’s Waterloo. His right uppercut sent Dempsey out of the ring.

Gave Jack His Hardest Fight.

Firpo gave Dempsey the hardest fight he has ever had. He didn't last very long, it is true, but while he was in there he made the champion realize he was up against it.

Had Dempsey neglected his training or had the financial worries he had at Shelby he probably would have had his title taken away from him.

Firpo is as game as a pebble. The twenty-five pounds or more he had on Jack counted in his favor. He wasn’t bothered by the hostile gathering and it must have gladdened his heart to see that the great army of fans present took off their hats to him for his surprisingly good fight.

He was even more dangerous than I thought he'd prove. I didn’t think that he would land on Dempsey unless the bout went over a few rounds. I thought Jack’s speed would keep him out of danger for at least five rounds.

Tex Rickard’s confidence in Luis wasn’t misplaced. Had he retained the services of Jimmy DeForrest he might have won the title, as Jimmy’s advice would have been a big help. Luis lost, but he was not disgraced. The bout proved that Dempsey is not invincible. He was badly hurt in the first round. Blood came out of his nose and mouth.
Both Groggy at End of First.

Both men went to their corners groggy at the end of the first round. It was a toss-up who would win In the second round, but Dempsey had the luck and the punch of a champion and his right under the heart caused Firpo to fall in a crumpled heap of flesh and bones, unable to get to his feet at the count of ten.

Dempsey showed he hadn’t lost his head for a second by going over to Firpo and helping him to his feet.

Firpo, as I pointed out was no wild bull. But he hit short and used a straight right that the fans hadn’t seen him display before, which went to prove how fast he is learning.

Dempsey fought better after being hurt. He needed to get stung to prove his real ability and he delivered the goods for the United States like the real champion that he is.

I saw Firpo at his house on 94th street after the bout. Tou’d think he had won by the way his friends rejoiced at the great showing. He didn’t have a mark and said that after six months more experience he’d like to get another crack at the title. He asked me to show him some fine points of boxing, which I agreed to do. I’ll box with him at his gym in the near future as I admire his pluck and willingness to learn. He took the defeat good naturedly and feels that It was more of a victory than a defeat from the standpoint that he knows Dempsey’s style and that with six months in the gym under his belt, learning the scientific side of boxing, and with the punch and natural ability to train he’ll dethrone Dempsey.

(Copyright, 1928. In United States and Canada by North American Newspaper Alliance. All Rights Reserved.)

Dempsey missed a left hook to chin and dug right to Firpo’s body, sending him to his knees. Dempsey floored Firpo with a left hook to the chin, but he staggered to his feet at a count of one. The champion sent him crashing to the floor for the third time with a hard right to the jaw, but he did not take a count. Dempsey, fighting furiously, knocked him to the floor for the fourth time with a right to the chin. When he got up, Dempsey chased Firpo to a neutral corner, flooring him with a right and left to the chin for the fifth knock-down. Firpo, battling like a tiger, chased Dempsey to the side of the ring, knocking him through the second and top ropes with a savage right to the jaw. The champion, bleeding from the mouth, was groggy. Firpo pounded the dazed Dempsey on the jaw with sledge-hammer rights when the round ended. Firpo also was bleeding from the mouth as he went to his corner.

Firpo swung a right to Dempsey’s shoulders. Dempsey hooked a left to the chin and then drove both fists to the body, and the challenger fell to the floor. Firpo, bleeding and groggy, was cornered and floored for the second time, but he quickly jumped to his feet. Dempsey chased Firpo to the center of the ring, whipping over a left hook and a right to the chin, knocking the giant Argentine flat. With blood trickling from his mouth, Firpo rolled over on his back, while Referee Gallagher counted him out. Dempsey nervously rushed over and helped pick up his fallen foe and then trotted to his corner.


By the Associated Press.

NEW YORK, September 15. -- Jack Dempsey's spectacular victory over Luis Angel Firpo takes rank as one of the shortest heavyweight title contests In history.

Records covering the past thirty years of major championship matches reveal but one shorter bout, the one round victory of Tommy Burns over Bill Squires of Australia at Colma, Calif., July 4, 1907.

Three years prior to that James J. Jeffries, before his retirement, had lifted Burns to the title, knocked out Jack Monroe in two rounds at San Francisco.

Two years after he captured,the world title from John E. Sullivan in 1892, Jim Corbett stopped Charley Mitchell in three rounds.

While Jess Willard's towel was not tossed into the ring at Toledo four years ago until the start of the fourth round, Dempsey was credited with a three-round knockout in gaining the championship.

Dempsey’s first battle in defense of his title was a three-round knockout over Billy Miske at Benton Harbor, Mich., in 1920.

Cine-Mundial, September, 1923

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