JACK DEMPSEY ALMOST DIDN’T BEAT FIRPO, JETS-PATRIOTS

September 17, 2009

Dick Heller wrote in the DC Post, “The nation’s most renowned sports writers were tapping typewriters or dictating to Western Union operators at ringside when a surprise package weighing 192 pounds landed in their midst with about 45 seconds left in the first round.
It was Jack Dempsey, heavyweight champion of the world.
The date was Sept. 14, 1923, and challenger Luis Angel Firpo, a menacing Argentine known as the “Wild Bull of the Pampas,” had knocked Dempsey clear out of the ring in the first round of their title fight at New York’s Polo Grounds.
In his 1954 autobiography, “The Tumult and the Shouting,” famed sports writer Grantland Rice related how promoter Tex Rickard had asked Dempsey to “carry” Firpo for four or five rounds to give the crowd of 125,000 its money’s worth.
“I told Tex to go to hell, that Firpo was too strong and hit too hard to play with,” Rice quoted Dempsey as saying. “I told him I’d put Firpo away in the first round if I could.”
He couldn’t, not quite, and the reverse almost came to pass.
Today Firpo would never have been around long enough to throw the overhand right that sent Dempsey sprawling between the ropes onto press row. Jack already had knocked him down seven times – hovering over his opponent and battering him anew as soon as his knee left the canvas – but somehow the 206-pound South American champion retained enough strength – or instinct – to fight back.
As it turned out, that was Firpo’s only moment of blood-spattered glory. Dempsey, fighting for his life as well as his title, finished him off 57 seconds into the second round. Yet Jack never forgot his closest call before master boxer Gene Tunney did lift his crown three years later.
“I had no memory then, none at all, of the most spectacular moment of my career,” Dempsey admitted years later. “To find out about it, I had to look at [movies].”
Dempsey landed on the wooden board where reporters had their typewriters and growled to the assorted newsmen, “Push me back – I gotta get back.”
Several writers and spectators helped him, probably in the interest of self-preservation, although the rules stated that a fighter who was knocked out of the ring must return unassisted. Referee Jack Gallagher never explained why he did not stop the bout and declare Firpo “the winnah and new champeen.”
Heywood Broun of the New York World described the electrifying scene thusly: “Dempsey lay as helpless as he did on the day he received his first spanking. …
He did not know where he was or what was happening. … His head lolled and his mouth was open. We saw his eyes wandering about hopelessly in search of something to remind him of what this fearful thing was all about.”
After getting back on his feet and into the squared circle, Dempsey’s mind remained in a fog. At the bell, he kept on punching until the referee tugged at his arm and the crowd started to boo.
Mercifully seated on his stool, he asked trainer Doc Kearns, “What round was I knocked out in?”
Replied Kearns: “You slipped. You’re coming out for the second. Now!”
So Dempsey did. After wrestling briefly with Firpo, he shoved his huge opponent across the ring, administered a left hook and followed with two right crosses as the Wild Bull went down and finally out. Following the count, Dempsey tenderly picked up his fallen foe and helped him to his corner. An incredibly brutal 3 minutes and 57 seconds of boxing was over – but hardly forgotten. (The film can be seen on YouTube.)
A short time later, Firpo astonishingly was digging into a huge spaghetti dinner at a Manhattan restaurant. Pocketing a check for $156,250, his share of the purse compared with Dempsey’s $500,000, he spent the next day buying a flashy red sportscar.
Always smart and careful with money, Firpo ended his boxing career in 1926 with a record of 32-6 with 26 knockouts and returned home to become a
multimillionaire businessman and national hero in Argentina. And he never lamented the fact that he had come so close to the heavyweight championship without winning it. After all, nobody else ever slugged Dempsey, aka the Manassa Mauler, out of the ring.
As fierce boxing rivals sometimes do, the two men later became friends. In 1957, three years before his death, Firpo threw a huge party for Dempsey in
Argentina and handed him an envelope. When Jack returned to New York and opened it, he found $20,000 in cash and this note: “Just a small token of
friendship and appreciation from one old friend to another.”
That might have been the second time Luis Angel Firpo knocked Jack Dempsey for a loop.”

 

 
The Boston Globe’s  Christopher Gasper, wrote, “Jets coach Rex Ryan has brought an entirely different tone to what was already a bitter division rivalry between the Patriots and the New York Jets and given the Jets their own voice in the process.
Under Eric Mangini, the Jets always seemed to be trying to parrot the Patriots; now they’re polar opposites.
The candid comments of the former Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator whose attacking style is a reflection of his aggressive personality have taken a rivalry that was defined by icy silence and words that weren’t uttered – Mangini’s name, initially – and redefined it with his rhetoric. Ryan’s remarks serve as the backdrop as the teams, both 1-0, prepare to meet Sunday at the Meadowlands.
A quick Ryan recap: “I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings,’’ he told a New York radio station in June. “I came to win, let’s put it that way. I’m
certainly not intimidated by New England or anybody else,’’
When the first-time head coach was asked about those comments last month, his response only added more motivational fodder.
“How much motivation are they going to get by putting a quote from me on the wall saying that I believe in my football team, that I’m not going to be intimidated by a coach or anyone else?’’ Ryan said Aug. 18. “If that’s where you’re going to draw motivation from, we’ll probably kick your [butt].’’
“He doesn’t hide anything under the rug,’’ said Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez. “He’s direct. Blunt-force trauma, I guess you would call it, because he tells you exactly how it is.’’
Ryan avoided more verbal salvos yesterday, striking a far more reverential tone regarding Belichick and the Patriots, whom he referred to as the No. 1-rated team in the NFL. He even left a voice-mail for Jets season ticket-holders imploring them to help the Jets because he is not as good a coach as Belichick.
He said Belichick was one of the few guys in the game he really respected on the defensive side of the ball, and acknowledged that he had borrowed a
defensive coverage he saw the Patriots use. He also borrowed Belichick’s favorite phrase: “It is what it is.’’
However, Ryan, whose twin brother, Rob, coached linebackers under Belichick from 2000-03, didn’t recant any of his remarks.
“It’s how I felt, and it’s how I feel,’’ said Ryan. “I have a lot of respect for Bill Belichick, but again, hey, I’m not his friend on Sunday. I’m going to compete
against him. I’m a competitor.
“I have a great deal of respect for him. I have a great deal of respect for his team, but we’re in the win business, and we’re going to go out and compete and try to win.’’
Ryan conceded that the Patriots are better at head coach and quarterback, but his team isn’t conceding victory.
“We expect to win here with the Jets – I don’t care if we’re playing New England or a Pro Bowl team,’’ said Ryan.
The silence on the other side from Belichick and the Patriots has been deafening. They’re not going to get into a war of words. When asked about Ryan’s comments, Belichick said, “I have a lot of respect for him and his football team, what they did in Baltimore, and what he has done at the Jets.’’
Just as Ryan’s team has taken on his persona, the Patriots are molded in Belichick’s image. They are careful, calculating, and unflappable in the face of
controversy. They speak with actions and not words. As Tom Brady said, it’s just not the Patriots’ style to make predictions and declarations before a game.
“Come Sunday at 1 o’clock, we’ll be ready to go,’’ said safety James Sanders. “During the week, we don’t feed into the hype or the fueling bulletin-board
material. We do our talking on the field.’’
Those who have trash-talked the Patriots in the past have often found themselves eating their words. Just ask Mike Vanderjagt, Anthony Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Terrell Owens.
The scary part for the Patriots is that Ryan might have a team capable of backing up his words, especially now that defensive end Shaun Ellis is returning from a suspension.
The Jets defense is just as formidable as the ferocious units Ryan had in Baltimore. Ryan imported linebacker Bart Scott and safety Jim Leonhard from Baltimore and added them to Jenkins, linebacker David Harris, safety Kerry Rhodes, and cornerback Darrelle Revis.
Last week against the Houston Texans, Ryan’s defense held the Texans to no points – Houston’s only touchdown came on a fumble return – and 183 yards of offense.
“I’d say it’s a while before teams get into midseason form, but it looks like the Jets might be pretty close to being there already, a real impressive win for them,’’ said Belichick. “The Texans are a real impressive football team, and they made them look bad.’’
To paraphrase Belichick, Ryan is who he is.
He said he doesn’t ever think he’ll be able to self-edit. Cue the Frank Sinatra, because Ryan is doing it his way, which is now the Jets Way.
“I don’t think that I can coach any other way,’’ said Ryan. “I think I have to be myself to be successful, just like Belichick is himself.’’

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