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newsletter 6 Dec 2011- Georges Carpentier
The Boxing Biographies Newsletter
Volume 7 – No 14 6th Dec , 2011
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This 48 page edition is devoted to
Ring Ace, Georges Carpentier, Still Remains One of the Best Box-Office Attractions in the Game—-and There's a Reason
By W. Stewart Robertson
WAVE after wave of applause rolled across the crowded theatre, breaking against the footlights with a final roar of appreciation. Under the sweep of the gilded proscenium arch a well proportioned figure in navy-blue silk tights bowed his thanks and smilingly made his exit.
Still the handclapping continued, like sustained drumfire, punctuated by shouts and whistles, until the object of all this demonstration eventually made his getaway after eight separate blows and the credit of "stopping the show." What man of the hour was this; what variety of popular hero ? Who was this performer on the precarious tight rope of temporary fame? Undoubtedly some one riding high on the crest of victory.
Business of shattering the academica theory of crowd psychology. The man in question was Georges Carpentier, whose pugilistic star has been sinking steadily for the last five years, but who is worth more at the box-office than any of his conquerors. And this in a country which is supposed to forget the winners of yesterday quicker than any other.
In 1921 Carpentier was light-heavyweight champion of the world, with no challenger in sight. Giving away more than twenty pounds, he went out of his class to battle Dempsey, and, as the world knows, was knocked out in four rounds. He never fully recovered from Dempsey's merciless body punching, the effect showing when he lost his title to Battling Siki and in subsequent defeats by Gibbons and Tunney. Yet Carpentier got more publicity out of his Waterloo than did Napoleon from all his victories.
Backstage, Georges, his face aglow, was praising the generosity of Los Angeles. "It is the same everywhere," he said, in his studied English, "and you know that applause to a Frenchman is like good wine. I do my act—a little acrobatics, some exercises, and then the boxing. The audience is pleased, therefore I am happy and we both go home smiling, which is altogether good.
When I was 7 years old I was one of a troupe of street acrobats. You do not have them here, but in Europe the competition is heavy. We would travel on foot through villages, and towns, making our headquarters in the Grande Place, which is something like your public square. There we would unroll our strip of carpet and perform our tricks, perhaps several times a day.
"Afterward I, as the littlest and most pathetic in appearance, would pass the hat for the centimes. That is where I learned the value of exerting oneself, and while I was going through my flips and hand balances I kept thinking of the reward in coins and approval."
Jack Curley, Carpentier's American manager and partner, took a hand in the conversation. "He never got over those boyhood ideas," he said. "Why, before the Dempsey fight we used to hold daily conferences and agreed that Georges must box him and not try to slug. Our plan was to tire Jack out, which would give Georges a better chance to slip over his famous right. "But what does he do? Two seconds after he's in there he rushes Dempsey and keeps it up to the finish. He nearly got him in the second round, at that.
When it was all over I asked him why he disobeyed orders, and he said that when those 90,000 people rose up and welcomed him he lost all thought of being careful. His only idea was to respond with everything he had."
Thirty-three years old, with a record of twenty years in the ring and absolutely unmarked, Carpentier looks like the sort of college senior we see in magazine illustrations. Without schooling, he lacks the blasé indifference that is super induced by a little learning. On the contrary, he is educated in life itself and is always reaching out for more knowledge of the things that interest him.
"There is only one Grand Canyon, he said, "only one Niagara Falls and one Petrified Forest. Therefore I rend a little about each one before seeing it and try to remember it as a store of memory against the time when I am old.
"It also serves to entertain my friends. Take the King of Spain. I taught him to box, and in between rounds he would ply me with questions about America. He is wild to come over here, and when he does you will see a real sport.
"Great people have been kind to me. Whenever I train for a fight in England Lord Derby gives me the use of his country estate, which is close to that of the King and Queen, at Sandringham.
One day Their Majesties came to see me do my stunts, and afterward Queen Mary made a place for me at her side. She wanted to know what methods I had used in bringing up my little girl and whether I had wished for a boy. We talked as one parent to another. A real personage, Queen Mary — no pose, no fuss. I wish I could say as much for the flappers.
"The Prince of Wales once offered to change places with me. I taught him the tango several years ago, before it was introduced into London, and he was much tickled at putting one over on his friends. Ever since, no matter where I fight, there is always a cable from him wishing me good luck."
It is hard to reconcile Georges appearance with his history. Most self made men carry the marks of their handiwork to the grave, yet he lacks the gaucheries and crudities that have a way of roughening the smoothest surface. He is never out of character because he is spontaneously natural.
BORN at Lievin, a village in the coal district of the Pas de Calais, he faced the dreary prospects of a life in the mines His excursions with the acrobatic troupe changed all that, and from La Savate he graduated to La Boxe, chaperoned by his lifelong friend and mentor, Francois Descamps.
At 13 he was bantamweight champion of France and advanced through the other classes as he grew older and heavier. At 21 he was undisputed champion of Europe, partner with Descamps in a box factory at La Guerche and owner of a coal mine between his birthplace and the neighboring village of Lens. Then came the war, and Carpentier enlisted as a private in the air service, proceeding to make a name for himself as an intrepid flier. His career in the air was ended one fine morning when he was wounded in forcing down an enemy plane in landing his foot was broken, and Georges spent a term in the hospital.
I was a sergeant by then," he said, "which was enough for me. I did not desire a commission, as I preferred the comradeship of the rank and file I was not allowed to fly again, but Marshal Foch sent for me to be his personal chauffeur. Truly, that was a combination of luck and honor.
Georges exhibited one of his most prized possessions, a cigarette case with the signatures of Foch, Clemenceau, Petain and other celebrities cut into the metal. "I drove them to the famous meeting with Lloyd George, Haig and Pershing at Doullens," he said, proudly. "It was there that Marshal Foch was given supreme command, the first step on the road to victory."
The armistice found Georges with a string of medals and a ruined coal mine. Lens and Lievin had been ground to powder, and the retreating Germans had flooded the mine galleries and wantonly destroyed all mine machinery.
Today the villages are rebuilt in modern style; the mines are running, and Carpentier is on the way to becoming a solid citizen once more. He will say nothing about the interval, but it is not hard to gather that he wishes politicians could have the diligence and perspicacity of the miners in the Pas de Calais.
Prizefighters rarely die rich. The trouble is that most of them come from poor parents, and being uneducated in the use of money, prosperity makes them take the count. Carpentier probably will be the exception that proves the rule. His first twelve fights brought him an aggregate of $200, which is hardly a rapid accumulation. In length of service he is the oldest man in the ring today, so he is able to look back over a rough road and read the danger signals.
He has the intelligence to avoid the mistakes of others, and even if he lacked it his sparkling wife would supply the needed foresight. All French women are naturally thrifty, and Georges freely admits that Mme. Carpentier is more than his match when it comes to finance. "When Jack Johnson fought Frank Moran in Paris I was the referee," he said, "and the result taught me an unforgettable lesson. Both men had been living high around town, and after the battle the receipts were seized by a swarm of creditors. Neither Moran nor Johnson received a cent.
I have always preferred secrecy in my training quarters, not that I much to conceal, but it gives me a certain amount of privacy. That discourages the parasites. that have a habit of infesting prize fighters camps. The hanger-on may be rich or poor, but he is always a nuisance. he is the same type that spoils the beauty of horse racing. A miserable cadger, always trying to get what he calls 'inside information.'
CARPENTIER'S body is that of a middleweight, with the legs of a heavy. So the Greek-god advocates are wrong again. The only resemblance he bears those fabled heroes is the cleanly hollowed stomach. His muscles are long and he will never be encumbered by the knotted masses that are the advance agents of hardened arteries and rheumatism.
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