Jack Dempsey and the Roaring Twenties
In a nutshell, if you were White and wealthy, it was a great time to be alive. If you were Black and poor, it sucked. The good stuff first: Jazz, flappers, frolic, speakeasies, bathtub gin, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemmingway, Babe Ruth and the ’27 Yankees, the Charleston, the radio and unprecedented wealth. The bad stuff: It was also a time of the Klu Klux Klan, lynchings, few, if any social security nets and for the underclasses, poverty.
Jack Dempsey, who had won the heavyweight crown by demolishing Jess Willard in 1919, rivalled Babe Ruth as an icon, defending his title memorably against Georges Carpentier in the first million dollar gate, and a thrilling encounter against Argentinian Lewis Angel Firpo. In between that 1923 encounter and his loss of the title to Gene Tunney, he managed to marry a Hollywood movie star and elevate boxing to an unprecedented level of popularity. After three years of dissipation, Dempsey lost his crown to an ex-Marine, Gene Tunney in front of more than 120,000 people. He answered his movie star wife who asked him what happened with the later plagiarized line, “honey, I forgot to duck.”
There was more to boxing than Dempsey or Tunney. The light-heavyweight division brought the dashing French war hero Georges Carpentier to the world stage as well as the tragic Senegalese Battling Siki who lost it to an Irishman, Mike McTigue in Belfast on St. Patrick’s Day.
More excerpts from the book coming soon! Stay tuned.