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Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler [Paperback]

4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Jun 2003
Heavyweight Champion of the World from 1919 to 1926, Jack Dempsey, also known as the Manassa Mauler, began his boxing career as a skinny boy of sixteen, riding the rails and participating in hastily staged saloon bouts against miners and lumberjacks. In this incisive, fast-paced biography, Randy Roberts charts the life and career of a man widely regarded as one of the toughest ever to enter the ring. He details Dempsey's transition from barroom fights to professional boxing and his emerging reputation for fast, brutal knockouts. Roberts draws on a wealth of newspaper articles and interviews to chronicle Dempsey's rise to the heavyweight championship and his six title defenses. Also included are accounts of the eventual loss of his title to Gene Tunney in 1926, and the rematch in 1927, which Dempsey also lost in the infamous "long count." After continuing to fight in exhibitions, Dempsey retired from boxing in 1940 with an astonishing 64 victories, 49 of them knockouts. Roberts tells of the building of this record, including accounts of Dempsey's forays into Hollywood, the controversy over his alleged draft-dodging, his long life after retirement, and his enduring legacy as one of the greatest fighters in boxing history.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press (25 Jun 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252071484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252071485
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 470,204 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"In a creative and flowing literary style, but with keen attention to detail and judicious analyses of his material, Roberts approaches the heralded heavyweight champion as a legend and symbol of his age... Jack Dempsey: The Manassa Mauler is a first-rate slice of Americana. It is fresh, witty, entertaining, and serious." --Washington Post Book World

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AS ALMOST every frontier historian since Frederick Jackson Turner has proclaimed, the western frontier was the spawning ground for that nebulous figure of the late nineteenth century, the American hero. Read the first page
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Buy 22 Feb 2008
This is a good read but I prefered the book on Gene Tunney by Jack Cavanaugh as this covered alot on Dempsey plus what there was to know on Tunney, aswell as a complete ring record on both fighters.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Manassa Mauler 13 Jun 2009
By Nat
very good condition, not sure why it was listed as collectible but very good all the same with prompt postage. Thanks
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A solidly written biography 17 Nov 2003
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Jack Dempsy: The Manassa Mauler by Randy Roberts (Professor of History, Purdue University) is a solidly written biography of the famous Heavyweight Champion of the World who held that title from 1919 to 1926. From Jack Dempsy's childhood and his rough-and-tumble beginning of a boxing career at 16; to his rise to the top -- and eventual defeat; to his retirement from boxing in 1940 with sixty-four victories (forty-nine of them by knockout), and more, Jack Dempsy: The Manassa Mauler is an excellent and very highly recommended contribution to Professional Boxing History, and a "must read" biography for dedicated fans of "the sweet science".
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The manassa mauler 6 July 2006
By K. Hetrick - Published on Amazon.com
Jack Dempsey has always been my favorite boxer, , Randy Roberts did his home work before writing this wonderful book. He went into great detail, when Dempsey fought Firpo ,and when he lost his title to Gene Tunney.Anyone who enjoys reading about heavyweight champions from the past, will really love this book. i still go back and read my favorite chapters over again. Kenny Hetrick
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a solid Dempsey bio and an enjoyable read, but cd have been better 26 Oct 2012
By feedthecat - Published on Amazon.com
Having recently read - or, shd I say, re-read - a couple of bios about former boxing great Jack Dempsey (born William Harrison Dempsey in 1895, fought professionally 1914-27, heavywgt champ 1919-26, d. 1983, hgt 6' 1", wgt in prime 180 lbs), I found myself disappointed when I recalled that I had long ago lost my copy of Randy Roberts' JACK DEMPSEY: THE MANASSA MAULER (first published in 1979) and rued the fact that I had only "breezed" thru it, intending to thoroughly (re-)read it later. Well, more than ten (15?) years later, I finally got myself another copy (a used paperback) and, unfortunately, discovered that the book wasn't as good as I had "remembered".

NOT to say that it's a bad bio - just the opposite: it's rather good - but there were some things about it that I had forgotten, the main one being that the author made some unaccountable omissions. For ex, Roberts has little to relate about boxing immortal Harry Greb and simply refers to him in passing six times, which is strange considering that: 1) despite being a middlewgt - albeit likely the greatest 160 lber in boxing history - the "Human Windmill" was one of the leading light heavywgt (max 175 lbs) and hvywgt contenders thruout Dempsey's championship reign and, indeed, whipped, among others, Billy Miske, "KO" Bill Brennan, Tommy Gibbons, and Gene Tunney, each of whom Dempsey wd later grant title shots; 2) Greb had been publically calling out the Manassa Mauler since before the latter beat Jess Willard for the title in 1919 (the smaller man wd also needle the champ privately whenever they met); 3) Greb had easily gotten the better of the much taller and heavier champ during two sets of three public sparring sessions in July and Sept, 1920 (pls see Bill Paxton's The Fearless Harry Greb: Biography of a Tragic Hero of Boxing); & 4) the "Pittsburgh Wildcat" was one of the very few boxers to publically assert that Tunney wd beat Dempsey before their 1926 title bout, refusing Dempsey's request to be one of his sparring partners for that match and telling the champ that the "Fighting Marine" wd beat him.

Another of many omissions are the hgt and wgt of Dempsey sparring partners "Big" Bill Tate and George "The Leiperville Shadow" Godfrey, both of whom towered over the champ. Perhaps, this oversight isn't all that important, but some readers may have found it interesting that the Manassa Mauler prepared himself for bouts by working with boxers of various strengths and sizes, incl the 6'6", 225 lb Tate and the 6'3", 240 lb Godfrey, both of whom, incidentally, were African-American (though Dempsey never defended his title against a black man, most of his sparring partners were black, such as the quick middlewgt "Panama" Joe Gans, light hvy brawler Jamaica Kid, and "Battling" Jim Johnson, who had drawn with then hvywgt champ Jack Johnson in 1913).

On the other hand, there were some instances of Roberts not relating something that is quite pertinent to the story of Jack Dempsey, such as his sole kayo loss - to the then "over-the-hill" "Fireman" Jim Flynn - likely being a "tank job". Aside from the eyewitness accounts of knowledgable boxing fans, the best (circumstantial) evidence are that Flynn never bragged about that feat and that, in the rematch held almost to the day a year later, Dempsey crushed the former Pueblo, Colorado fireman in one round (or was it two?).

Needless to say, I wdn't be pointing out these oversights if the aforementioned info had not already been public knowledge before Roberts published this book ('tho, b4 Paxton penned his excellent bio of Greb, it had generally been thought that he and Dempsey had only engaged in one set of sparring sessions held over 3 consecutive days).

There are also some factual errors in this book, such as the author's claim that Tunney suggested that an elimination bout be held betw he and longtime contender Harry Wills, a 6' 2 or 3", 215 lb African-American, in 1926 to "decide which of the two shd meet Dempsey" next. I found this statement interesting - and funny - since no one had said so before (at least not in any of the many boxing books and mags that I have read or the tv interviews that I have seen) and since a) the future hvywgt champ had never - and wd never - fight a black opponent and b) the 6' 1/2" Tunney's manner of fighting (standing straight up, holding his hands relatively low and firing his stabbing jab straight out from the chest, etc, etc) was best suited - if not designed - for battling opponents who fought out of a crouch &/or were shorter than him, neither of which applied to Wills.

Nonetheless, as I stated, this IS a good boxing bio. A history prof at Purdue, Roberts writes in a straightforward manner and provides plenty of info and anecdotes both boxing fans and "general" bio readers will enjoy. "Hardcore" boxing fans will especially appreciate the detail with which he imbues his descriptions of Dempsey's fights and the fact that Roberts seems to have a much better grasp of boxing technique (which, of course, helps in relating the action when covering fights) than most boxing biographers and writers. However, while the biographer includes many endnotes/citations, an excellent bibliography, and an index, the Manassa Mauler's (bout by bout) ring record and (body) measurements weren't provided.

As for how JACK DEMPSEY: THE MANASSA MAULER stacks up against the two other bios that I mentioned above ... the following presents each book's respective strengths:

Jack Cavanaugh's Tunney: Boxing's Brainiest Champ and His Upset of the Great Jack Dempsey (which is also more or less a bio of Dempsey - published 2006):

- well-researched with plenty of citations
- provides the ring records of both fighters
- contains sketches - or even profiles - of many of their contemporaries, incl Greb, Benny Leonard, and "Battling" Levinsky, plus, of course, a "full-scale" bio of Tunney
- provides descriptions of many of the contemporaries' fights (with opponents other than the subjects)
- includes Dempsey's opinion of the great Sam Langford and why he didn't want to fight him
- has a detailed index, but the only photos are small ones beside each chapter title page

Roger Kahn's A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s (1999) (pls see my review at http://www.amazon.com/review/R114KFSJCP61C7/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm):

- author was friendly with the Manassa Mauler and spoke with him many times (which prob explains why he is the least objective of the 3 biographers)
- writes in a "breezy", entertaining, and easy-to-follow style ('tho he frequently goes off on tangents)
- provides many "celebrity bio"-like anecdotes, incl salacious ones like Dempsey's and US President Warren G Harding's sexual piccadillos
- includes Tunney's "imagining" as to how a hypothetical Dempsey-Joe Louis fight wd have unfolded
- has an index and 16 pages of pictures

Roberts' JACK DEMPSEY (1979):

- well-researched with many citations ('tho, again, with some unaccountable omissions)
- author interviewed his subject once
- notable fights described in detail
- has the most info of the 3 books about Dempsey's early bouts
- author is the most knowledgable of the 3 in regard to boxing technique and tactics
- has an index and 20 pages of photos (btw, the first picture in the book's photo section - at least in my copy - is the one that led many to suspect that Dempsey was a "slacker" during WWI - unaccountably, Roberts uses a photo that has been cropped above the Manassa Mauler's ankles, thereby obscuring that he was wearing new patent leather shoes while supposedly working in a shipyard, which is what tipped off people that the photo had been staged! - the same photo, uncropped, appears in Kahn's book)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Man of the Times 30 April 2013
By Pugwash - Published on Amazon.com
Randy Roberts wrote this fine biography of Jack Dempsey in 1979, at a time when Dempsey was still a living legend. He concludes his thoughts on his subject by stating that the Champion and the 1920's were a perfect fit. That Dempsey, in many ways was the embodiment of the roaring 20's. The wildness coming both to success and to heel.

Dempsey's incredible popularity and fame mostly could not have come either in the decade before, or the decade after. For one, he would likely not have been a match in the ring for either Joe Louis or Jack Johnson, his succesor and predecessors of the lineal Heavyweight title. For another, both decades were far more phlegmatic than the energy of the 1920's, which catapulted Dempsey to superstardom.

Yet it was Dempsey's incredible lack of pretension that endeared him to the Sportswriters of the time, who wrote in the Golden Age of reporting, and ergo, the sporting and general public. He was a man without guile, and he was a man of the people. He treated his fans as he would treat any other person or friend. He was accessible, he signed autographs freely, and he mingled with the public.

Dempsey fought with a Champions heart, which was never more in evidence after he lost the title, and doggedly waded through beatings from Jack Sharkey and Gene Tunney to knock each fighter down, and Sharkey out.

But it was after he lost his title that he really began to feel the love of the public, which lasted until the end of his life.

His lessons were simple. Never make excuses, say the truth as you see it, and never diminish the efforts of an opponent.

The fight sequences are a little sketchy in this biography. There are some piercing insights into Dempsey's marriage, and psyche. All in all, a well deserving biography of a 20th Century icon.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book 11 Feb 2013
By Theodore J. Jackson Sr. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I was born in 1947 so grew up hearing the name Dempsey quit a lot. The author of the book tells the story well and left me with an understanding of why of all the fighters/boxers who have come and gone through the years, the name Dempsey has had a louder ring to it than most.
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