Dempsey's plastered wraps. Dempsey-Willard revisited. - Boxing Forum
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#1
Old 04-23-2009, 10:23 AM
BattlingNelson
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Default Dempsey's plastered wraps. Dempsey-Willard revisited.

This is from an excellent piece I found at Sports Illustrated's vault. The story is told by Jack Dempsey's flamboyant manager Jack Kearns and as such is his eyewitness account of the fight between Jess Willard and Jack Dempsey. I've made the excerpts only to cover the story of the alleged plastering of Dempsey's wraps. The full article is here:

http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.c...5547/index.htm

"...
I had bet $10,000, which we could not afford to lose, at 10 to 1, that Dempsey would win in the first round. If he did, we would make a tidy $100,000—equivalent to Willard's guarantee and substantially more than our own $27,500 guarantee.

I had schemed and connived over too many years to let anything go wrong with a bet like that, let alone with the championship of the world. The hell with being a gallant loser. I intended to win.

My plan had to do with a small white can sitting innocently among the fight gear on the kitchen table. I poured myself a nightcap and picked up the can, grinning at the neat blue letters on its side. All it said was "Talcum Powder." Then I latched the kitchen door and went to a corner cupboard that extended from tabletop height to the ceiling. I pulled over a chair and stood on it to reach into a niche far back on the topmost shelf. Not even a drunk would have thought of hiding a bottle in that spot. Several days earlier, on an unaccompanied trip into Toledo, I had bought another can of powder. This one was labeled "Plaster of Paris," and I was looking for it now. It was there.

I put the two cans side by side on the kitchen table. Then I found a knife and pried off their lids. I spread out a handkerchief and dumped the talcum powder into it, then knotted the corners together. Next I poured the plaster of paris into the talcum-powder can and replaced the lid. Set back among the fight gear—the bandages, the Vaseline, the razor blades, the cotton—it looked as innocent as any of them. There was just one more thing to be done. I picked up the plaster of paris can and the handkerchief full of talcum powder, unlatched the kitchen door and walked the 50 yards to the shore of Maumee Bay, where I pitched the whole business out into the dark waters. That was why the party had to end before dawn. That was something I wanted no man to see. Standing there in the dark, I knew we were as ready as Dempsey's condition and my plotting ability could make us.

It may seem strange but, returning to the house, my conscience was easy. I was a product of the days—have they ever ended?—when it was every man for himself. In those times you got away with everything possible. Turn your head, or let the other guy turn his, and knuckles were wrapped in heavy black bicycle tape or the thick lead foil in which bulk tea was packaged. The net result was much like hitting a man with a leather-padded mallet. The rules were lax then, officials were not at all fussy and there were few boxing commissions.

...

A witness from each camp was to observe the bandaging of hands as insurance against jiggery-pokery. I was to supervise Willard's preparations, and his chief second, Walter Moynahan, was to oversee the putting on of Dempsey's wrap.

This is standard practice at all big fights, and wisely so, because the stakes are so large. Even today, when prizefighting is at a low ebb, one fixed fight can orbit a mediocre boxer into the 90% income-tax-bracket status. We didn't know it at the time of the Dempsey-Willard fight, but this was the most important prefight moment in boxing's history. It was a moment that would usher in the era of the million-dollar gate.

Willard was waiting, completely relaxed, as I walked into his quarters. When I waved a greeting he gave me a look I believe he reserved for panhandlers. He was very careful with his money.

Let's get on with it," he grunted.

Willard's reluctance to part with money was clearly evident in the caliber of his entourage. They were inexperienced and worked cheap. They were so nervous that they fumbled with his hand bandages.

"For God's sake," I butted in, just to help upset them a little more. "Don't wind them up on his wrists. Put them on his knuckles, where he needs them."

"If you want," I volunteered, pushing the blunt needle in a little deeper, "I'll do it for you."

"Get away from me," Willard growled suspiciously as I started forward.

I grinned at him.

"Suit yourself," I said. "Suit yourself."

As they finished with the bandages, I interrupted again.

"Take this here sponge," I snapped, grabbing one from a water bucket. "Put some water on his bandages to keep his hands cool."

Willard was getting mad now. His face flushed, and not altogether because of the heat.

"Why don't you get out of here?" he said, snarling.

"Just trying to help," I answered with a shrug. "But I got a right in here and I'll stay till the job's finished."

Leaving one of my handlers behind to make sure no one tampered with Willard's hands, I returned to our dressing room to bandage Dempsey under Moynahan's suspicious supervision. On the way I assumed a friendly and sympathetic attitude toward Willard's chief second.

"You should have dampened those bandages and put on some talcum powder," I told him. "His hands would've been much more comfortable."

Moynahan nodded in frustrated agreement.

"I know," he said. "But you can't tell that Jess to do something if he don't want to do it."

Reaching our dressing room, I quickly wound on Dempsey's bandages under Moynahan's vigilant inspection. After I finished with the wrappings, I turned to Jimmy DeForest, my trainer, and pointed to the water bucket.

"Give me that sponge well soaked with water," I ordered. "I want to keep the kid's hands cool."

In an aside to Moynahan, I told him again: "This is what you should've done for Willard."

The sponge, dripping with water, made a sloshing sound as I clamped it to the bandages on Dempsey's hands. In a moment they were drenched through.

"Now the talcum powder," I directed DeForest, and he passed me that innocent-looking, blue-lettered can. I sprinkled its contents heavily over the soaked bandages.

"No question," I rattled on to the unsuspecting Moynahan as I set the can safely aside, "this really is what you should have done for Willard."

Moynahan made no comment. Dempsey, who was entirely innocent of what had happened, stood there in what amounted almost to a stupor. I had to hide a smile as the call came to enter the ring."

I highly recommend reading the rest of the article that includes eyewitness accounts of the fight itself and a fun tale of Battling Nelson taking a bath in lemonade.

The fight is here:



PS: I originally posted this thread in NSB. It was intended for this forum.
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#2
Old 04-23-2009, 10:34 AM
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Just for interest here are some pics of Dempsey's wrapped hands before the fight.

Dempsey getting into the ring




Dempsey in his corner before the fight



No sign of plaster of paris.

The test sports illustrated conducted in 1964, using the method described by Kearns, they wrapped the hands of heavyweight contender Cleveland Williams with the plaster wraps. After hitting the bag a few times the plaster crumbled. They concluded it would be more hazardess for the wearer's hands than to the opponent.



Also Teddy Hayes (another Dempsey second) cut the wraps after the fight and had no trouble doing so. No trace of plaster. I think Kearns was just looking for a quick buck when he concocted that rumour, his fall out with Dempsey supports this.

Last edited by Southpaw Stinger; 04-23-2009 at 10:56 AM.
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#3
Old 04-23-2009, 10:48 AM
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I didn't know that SI did a test of Kearns story.

I did know that Kearns and Dempsey's relationship had deteriorated badly at the time Kearns wrote his story, giving him a motive to taint Dempsey's legacy.
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BattlingNelson View Post
I didn't know that SI did a test of Kearns story.

I did know that Kearns and Dempsey's relationship had deteriorated badly at the time Kearns wrote his story, giving him a motive to taint Dempsey's legacy.
And Kearns never missed an opportunity to make a little money.

And the test that SI conducted was with Cleveland Williams.
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Old 04-23-2009, 10:55 AM
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Interesting.....There was pice about this circumstances of this fights in Ring Magazine I read a few week backs. About Illegal Hand Wraps.And it talked alot about this fight (Dempsey v Willard) and the hand wrap situation which invlovled the fight here are some of the thing's they say and quotes from the Magazine.

''When Jess Willard was an eldery man, he use to invite reporters to touch his face ''Feel this he'd say, using one of his giant hands to guide the reporters fingers. Willard wanted them to feel the reminder of his bout that happened 40 years ago, in Ohio. Reporters never knew how how to respond. A section of Willards cheeckbone still moved around under the skin like a loose coin''

''This is what Dempsey did'' Willard wouls say ''Do you think a little guy could do that without something in his gloves''???

Jack Kearns claimed to have covered Dempsey's wraps in plaster of paris. Kearns was trying to ensure Dempsey would win by first round KO, because of a bet he had placed. according to Kearns Dempsey thought his wraps were being covered in talcing powder.

Dempsey who had suffered these rumours in the past, was livid when the pice came out. He claimed Kearns was just a bitter old man telling lies. Dempsey often clamied the loaded glove theory was started by Willard although he admitted to author Peter Heller ''that in those you could put all the tape on your hands you wanted''

In all subsequent career, Dempsey never inflicted such dredfull damage on an opponet. And he did it to this one in the very first round'' wrote Kearns.

''In those times. Turn head, or let the other guy turn his, and kncukles were wrapped in heavy black bicycle tape or the thick lead foil in which bulk tea was packaged. The net result was much liking hitting a man with a leather padded mallet. The rules were lax then, officails were not at all fussy, and there were few boxing commissions.

His bandages became hardened, no dout and that why he cut Willard face to ribbons''

As for the Kearns stroy ''He was dying and was broke. He would of said anything for money'' Also Kearns had once been a fighter himslef. He used to spin yarns of his days in boxing frontier towns, when he covered his own hands in plaster. Those close to Kearns wondred if the mental misfits of old age had caused him to confuse Dempseys life with his own.

''I was a product of the days-have they ever ended-when it was very man for himslef'' Kearns wrote.

Last edited by Southpaw16bf; 04-23-2009 at 10:59 AM.
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Old 04-23-2009, 11:32 AM
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I saw Dempsey's SportsCentury profile last year, during his last years he sued SI for talking about the ''plaster controversy'' on the Willard fight.

but looking on those pictures, i see no foreign substance, or any plaster involved.
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Old 04-23-2009, 11:51 AM
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I read the same article as Southpaw16bf in the Ring magazine a few weeks ago. It seems that there is still no explanation to the truth.

It's hard to imagine a small Heavyweight in Jack Dempsey, no matter how brutal he hit, to destroy a big man in Jess Willard in the fashion he did in a fair way.

Perhaps Kearns didn't entirely tell the truth. Maybe he was hiding what really happened, as i have read that the method Kearns used, was tried and tested to no avail.

One thing is for sure, Willard showed tremendous heart in that fight no matter if Dempsey had cheated or not. To take that sort of punishment and getting up for more, shocked me on first viewing the fight.

Great article Bat! I'm always interested in big boxing scandals (Liston/Ali, Mosley, Trinidad etc..)
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Old 04-23-2009, 12:08 PM
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has anyone ever heard of determination? think about it, jack dempsey didnt have a penny to his name, he was a ****in; hobo, barley enough food to survive, sleeping i the streets. and then he gat a shot at the heavywieght crown. imagine yourin his place. he didnt use plaster, he was just, at that moment in time, the hungreyest fighter in history. it was all or nothing for dempsey, and he knew. so he attack willard with every once of streagth he had, thats why willard lost, not plaster.
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Old 04-23-2009, 03:46 PM
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Here are pictures of Demspey landing on Willard.




Look closey at Willards face in this picture.. His face is a complete mess.
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Old 04-23-2009, 04:07 PM
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This guy claims to have Dempsey's glove without trace of plaster.

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