View Full Version : History of the Heavyweights part 7 (Jess Willard )


kerrminator
01-02-2006, 09:06 AM
JESS WILLARD

The contest between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard was scheduled for 45 rounds, effectively making it a fight to the finish. It was the last championship bout that would be fought under such terms. It was actually setled in the 26th round, and boxing had a new heavyweight champion. It was far from a cut and dried affair, however. The end of the Johnson-Willard had sparked more comment, claim and counter-claim than any in the sports history. It is a controversy that continues to engage boxing fans, though inevitably a present day debate about a fight that took place over 90 years ago is bound to generate more heat than light.
The 8th man to try to wrestle the title from Johnson was a 6ft 6in cowboy and a somewhat reluctant fighter. Jess Willard was born in Kansas, on 29th Dec, 1881. He had Welsh blood in him on both his Fathers and his mothers side, but his mid-west upbringing was in the great American outdoors tradition. The sometimes ranch-hand and horse-dealer turned to labouring when his business was adversely affected by the burgeoning car industry. It was while wielding a pick-axe as if it were a matchstick that a fellow worker suggested that he ought to consider boxing. " I have never had a glove on in my life," replied Willard. "I have no inclination to punch others around."



His companion undertook to teach him the rudiments of the noble art, and Willard that he could knock men off their feet with consummate ease. He won a number of fairground fights, despite having turned 30, and slowly built a reputation as the man who might reclaim the crown from the reviled negro incumbent.
Although he was ponderously slow, Willards right hand could do a lot of damage, It was a punch that cost a boxer named Bill Young his life in 1913. Young got caught with a right from Willard in the 11th round, and died the following day. His neck had been broken. Willard was cleared of blame but vowed never to fight again. In fact the guilt ridden lay-off just lasted a few months, He had a few minor bouts where he took things easy, then drifted off the boxing scene for almost a year.


When promoter Jack Curley offered Johnson $30,000 to fight Willard, the champion laughed. He was 37 and out of condition, but seen no danger in meeting a man who had only been boxing for four years, and hadn't stepped into the ring at all in the last 12 months.
Willard was tempted by the prospect of fighting for the world title. The fact that the contest was set for 45 rounds convinced him that he could beat Johnson, who was as ring rusty as himself. The odds were 8-5 on Johnson, but it was Willard's analysis which proved correct. For 25 rounds he withstood all of Johnsons efforts to knock him out. The champion was streets ahead on points, but that was never going to be a factor. In the 26th round, after more than an hour and 40 mins under a baking sun, Willards famed right hand caught the champion square on the chin and put him on the canvas.
The picture of Johnson being counted out has been reproduced many times, and has become one of the most celebrated and controversial stills in sporting history.


The photo shows Johnson holding his hands over his face apparently shielding his eyes from the sun. This is a perfectly natural reaction under normal circumstances- but not for a man who had just been laid out and wasn't supposed to know what day it wa. Conspiracy theorists have used this to support the veiw that Johnson threw the fight. Why would he do such a thing? Years later, Johnson himself fanned the flames by saying he took a dive in exchange for his freedom to return to the United States, with all the charges hanging over his head dropped. In short, he cut a deal.
This is by no means universally accepted as a true account of what happened on thatApril day in Havana. Testimony from impartial ringside observers said that the unfit champion had simply been battered to exhaustion by the 26th round. Any limb movements from the beaten man were totally involuntary.
The new champion made just one sucsessful defence of his title, against Frank Moran, on 25th March 1916. Moran had been outpointed by Johnson over 20 rounds two years earlier and was no pushover by any means. Willard cannily insisted on a 10 round, no decision contest. He knew he was far too durable for Moran to knock him out over such a short distance, and it proved a comfortable, if tedious, defence.

The Moran fight was the only time Willard put his title on the line in four years. He preffered to make easy money with the touring circus he'd formed. When he was finally lured back into the ring, it was against a man five and a quarter inches shorter and four and a half stone lighter. Willard was confident that he could make short work of this obviously smaller man.

Unfortunately for him, that man was Jack Dempsey.

LondonRingRules
01-02-2006, 09:25 AM
Willard made Dempsey sign a waiver absolving Willard of any responsibility if Willard killed him in the bout. Willard had quite a reputation what with his size, his punch, and the Johnson victory.

Southpaw Stinger
01-02-2006, 09:58 AM
Great info. Watching the Willard v Dempsey fight, it was clear who had the "bigger" punch.

Dempsey 1919
01-02-2006, 05:00 PM
JESS WILLARD

The contest between Jack Johnson and Jess Willard was scheduled for 45 rounds, effectively making it a fight to the finish. It was the last championship bout that would be fought under such terms. It was actually setled in the 26th round, and boxing had a new heavyweight champion. It was far from a cut and dried affair, however. The end of the Johnson-Willard had sparked more comment, claim and counter-claim than any in the sports history. It is a controversy that continues to engage boxing fans, though inevitably a present day debate about a fight that took place over 90 years ago is bound to generate more heat than light.
The 8th man to try to wrestle the title from Johnson was a 6ft 6in cowboy and a somewhat reluctant fighter. Jess Willard was born in Kansas, on 29th Dec, 1881. He had Welsh blood in him on both his Fathers and his mothers side, but his mid-west upbringing was in the great American outdoors tradition. The sometimes ranch-hand and horse-dealer turned to labouring when his business was adversely affected by the burgeoning car industry. It was while wielding a pick-axe as if it were a matchstick that a fellow worker suggested that he ought to consider boxing. " I have never had a glove on in my life," replied Willard. "I have no inclination to punch others around."



His companion undertook to teach him the rudiments of the noble art, and Willard that he could knock men off their feet with consummate ease. He won a number of fairground fights, despite having turned 30, and slowly built a reputation as the man who might reclaim the crown from the reviled negro incumbent.
Although he was ponderously slow, Willards right hand could do a lot of damage, It was a punch that cost a boxer named Bill Young his life in 1913. Young got caught with a right from Willard in the 11th round, and died the following day. His neck had been broken. Willard was cleared of blame but vowed never to fight again. In fact the guilt ridden lay-off just lasted a few months, He had a few minor bouts where he took things easy, then drifted off the boxing scene for almost a year.


When promoter Jack Curley offered Johnson $30,000 to fight Willard, the champion laughed. He was 37 and out of condition, but seen no danger in meeting a man who had only been boxing for four years, and hadn't stepped into the ring at all in the last 12 months.
Willard was tempted by the prospect of fighting for the world title. The fact that the contest was set for 45 rounds convinced him that he could beat Johnson, who was as ring rusty as himself. The odds were 8-5 on Johnson, but it was Willard's analysis which proved correct. For 25 rounds he withstood all of Johnsons efforts to knock him out. The champion was streets ahead on points, but that was never going to be a factor. In the 26th round, after more than an hour and 40 mins under a baking sun, Willards famed right hand caught the champion square on the chin and put him on the canvas.
The picture of Johnson being counted out has been reproduced many times, and has become one of the most celebrated and controversial stills in sporting history.


The photo shows Johnson holding his hands over his face apparently shielding his eyes from the sun. This is a perfectly natural reaction under normal circumstances- but not for a man who had just been laid out and wasn't supposed to know what day it wa. Conspiracy theorists have used this to support the veiw that Johnson threw the fight. Why would he do such a thing? Years later, Johnson himself fanned the flames by saying he took a dive in exchange for his freedom to return to the United States, with all the charges hanging over his head dropped. In short, he cut a deal.
This is by no means universally accepted as a true account of what happened on thatApril day in Havana. Testimony from impartial ringside observers said that the unfit champion had simply been battered to exhaustion by the 26th round. Any limb movements from the beaten man were totally involuntary.
The new champion made just one sucsessful defence of his title, against Frank Moran, on 25th March 1916. Moran had been outpointed by Johnson over 20 rounds two years earlier and was no pushover by any means. Willard cannily insisted on a 10 round, no decision contest. He knew he was far too durable for Moran to knock him out over such a short distance, and it proved a comfortable, if tedious, defence.

The Moran fight was the only time Willard put his title on the line in four years. He preffered to make easy money with the touring circus he'd formed. When he was finally lured back into the ring, it was against a man five and a quarter inches shorter and four and a half stone lighter. Willard was confident that he could make short work of this obviously smaller man.

Unfortunately for him, that man was Jack Dempsey.

one of the worst hw champions of all time IMO.

Brassangel
01-03-2006, 02:03 PM
Dempsey turned Willard into a punching bag, and it made for brutal reading. Willard's team described every one of Dempsey's landed blows as off-guard and unexpected, making them even worse than normal. Add to that the fact that Dempsey didn't get tired after doing it for a few rounds and Willard nearly died. Go-go-gadget Dempsey.

Skydog
01-03-2006, 05:38 PM
One thing people never mention is how much heart Willard showed that day. He was getting beaten inches from life in the first round, yet he returned to his corner and remained standing for 2 more rounds.

Also, I think Dempsey got a bit tired. In rounds 2 and 3, his attack didn't have as much fire as it did in the first round.

Dempsey 1919
01-03-2006, 05:42 PM
One thing people never mention is how much heart Willard showed that day. He was getting beaten inches from life in the first round, yet he returned to his corner and remained standing for 2 more rounds.

Also, I think Dempsey got a bit tired. In rounds 2 and 3, his attack didn't have as much fire as it did in the first round.

yeah, but that's about all he had, cause he had no skill.

LondonRingRules
01-03-2006, 08:00 PM
yeah, but that's about all he had, cause he had no skill.
A Kansas plowboy with no skill and little experience layed out Johnson cold for 5 min and that wasn't the first or last time.......bottomline.

Skydog
01-03-2006, 09:20 PM
Well Willard had heart, and extreme punching power, and was one of the 3 strongest heavyweights of all-time.

Brassangel
01-03-2006, 10:01 PM
He also wore 4 oz. gloves; that makes most punches from a heavy guy hurt a lot more than it would today. Nonetheless, Willard did have power.

Dempsey had placed a bet on himself to win the fight in the first round, hence the reason he came out on fire. After that, he knew it was just a matter of time before the fight was stopped or Willard died.

McGoorty
08-07-2011, 06:47 AM
yeah, but that's about all he had, cause he had no skill.
Willard did have a good jab, Dempsey was simply a far better fighter and losing to Dempsey, no disgrace......... Big Jess had enough skill, toughness and power to beat up Jack Johnson.

JAB5239
08-07-2011, 04:39 PM
Willard did have a good jab, Dempsey was simply a far better fighter and losing to Dempsey, no disgrace......... Big Jess had enough skill, toughness and power to beat up Jack Johnson.

Gotta disagree with that my friend. Willard had enough stamina to outlast Johnson. Johnson dominated for most of the fight until he tired. Had that been a 12, 15 or even 20 round fight Johnson would have won going away and Willard's name would be a mere footnote in boxing history.

McGoorty
08-08-2011, 08:05 PM
Gotta disagree with that my friend. Willard had enough stamina to outlast Johnson. Johnson dominated for most of the fight until he tired. Had that been a 12, 15 or even 20 round fight Johnson would have won going away and Willard's name would be a mere footnote in boxing history.
I was referring to the latter rounds where Jess took control in those last ones I have on film, I defer to the reports of the majority of the fight that say Johnson was dominating,.--- ---- and why would he not ??? I know for a fact that Jack was many times better Pound 4 Pound than Jess, but the fight was scheduled to be a marathon,.......I just wanted to give Willard his due,....... I declare that a younger Prime Johnson would have destroyed Willard,.... AND KNOCK Him OUT COLD before the 15th,,,,,,,,,, ""Fingers McGoorty""