By Tracy Callis

Jack Dempsey has been called the “Eternal Champion”, the ultimate yardstick by which all heavyweight fighters are judged (see International Boxing, July 1969). He was the most thrilling, brutal, and savage fighter who ever entered the ring. His vicious intent was the complete and total destruction of his opponent, and he didn’t care how he did it. This usually meant disaster for his foe.

He had the equipment to carry out his plans. As Litsky (1975, p 86) put it, he had “fast hands, fast feet, and frightening power”. He was durable with high cheekbones that protected his eyes. He could take a punch. Dark-bearded, mahogany-skinned, busted nose, hair cropped close and high above his ears, Dempsey “came to fight” (see McCallum, 1975, p 23).

Durant (1976, p 68) described him as follows, “He had a perfect build and appearance of a fighter – high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, a bull neck, and a beautifully proportioned body. He was hard all over, in muscles and in mind. He was always in condition.”

He went on to say, “He was an exciting fighter, as aggressive two-fisted cyclone in action, all flame and power. He seemed to burn with a white rage at the sound of the bell.”

Crouching, bobbing and weaving, chin-on-chest, teeth bared, scowling at his victim, smashing with piston-like, bone-crushing hooks and uppercuts, Dempsey attacked. He was rough and dirty, the prime example of “anything goes”. He hit low, after the bell, and on breaks. He butted and used rabbit punches, thumbs, and laces. The killer instinct was always visible. If a man wanted a fight, he had it. If he didn’t, he’d better not get in the ring with Dempsey.

Grantland Rice (1954, pp 116 117) called Jack the “greatest attacking” star in sports that he’d ever seen and said he was keen, lithe, and fast. He writes,

“It was his speed, speed of hand as well as foot, that made him such a dangerous opponent … In the ring, he was a killer – a superhuman wildman … He was a fighter – one who used very trick to wreck the other fighter.” (also see McCallum, 1974, p 89)

Durant and Bettman (1952, p 170) wrote, “He was all fighter – a tough, 190-pounder with whipcord muscles and a scowling face”.

Dempsey was a two-handed hitter who could knock out a man with one punch from either hand. He threw heavy, blockbuster punches that pulverized and flattened bigger, stronger men. Keith (1969, p 127) asserted that Jack’s hook was a “close second” to that of Jim Jeffries.

Often, he threw “controlled punches” so that he could follow one stiff blow quickly with another. He had great balance and quick hands that could get to vulnerable spots and therefore beat or knockout light, fast men – although he had his toughest times against this type of fighter.

He was accused of using plaster of Paris in his gloves but Carpenter (1975, pp 64 67) asserted that his hands alone were enough to tear out a man’s heart and guts.

Joe Benjamin, old time fighter, said “Jack’s hands were hard as rocks. He was the perfect fighting machine – hands, legs, fighting brain, and disposition. He was simply a super-human wild man” (see McCallum, 1975, p 23).

Cooper (1978, p 7) called Dempsey “mean and merciless” and said (1978, p 9), “He let his fists hammer out their own message, and if he had to trade punches, take two to land one, well the one that landed was going to be a good one”.

John J. Romano (1931, p 94) said “Dempsey was known for his terrific punching. A tiger man in the ring he did not know the meaning of the word ‘quit’ …”

Gutteridge (1975, p 71) wrote “He was once the most powerful, ruthless, and dangerous unarmed man in the world” and added (1975, p 76) “Dempsey’s greatness, apart from the power of his punches, was his ability to crush much heavier opposition with the sheer viciousness of his attacks.”

He was scintillating and explosive and lost little time in getting his man. His 25 one-round knockouts, the highest total among the heavyweight champions, attest to this fact.

Houston (1975, p 31) called him “a true hungry fighter” and contended “It is doubtful if any heavyweight fighter before or since could have surpassed Jack Dempsey’s sheer savagery in the ring. His style was one of unbridled aggression.”

Bromberg (1958, p 39) wrote “his ring savagery was the outgrowth of a wandering adolescence in the hobo jungles of the far west.”

Grombach (1977, p 54) commented that he bowled over opposition with “startling speed and dynamic knockouts” and observed that a nonstop “two-handed attack and killer instinct” was his order of the day. He later added (1977, p 100) that Dempsey in his prime was probably the greatest boxing champion of modern times.

Odd (1974, p 25) wrote, "To name Jack Dempsey as the most exciting of all the heavyweight champions is no exaggeration, for he packed more thrills and drama into his ring battles than any other and carried a knockout punch in each fist.”

He further said Dempsey was game, durable, and dedicated to physical fitness, and these qualities made him a terrifying opponent for anyone.

Jack had the upper body strength of the old school fighters but could move on his feet like the new. Tipping the scales at 190 pounds, his upper torso was equivalent to that of a 210-pound man. He was lean and mean with the skill and will, 190 pounds of hate!

Lardner (1972, p 217) remarked, He may not have been the greatest fighter who ever lived – though denying it will get you a stiff argument in any bar in the land – but he was certainly the most exciting, the most colorful, the most dynamic, and the most savage. There was an immense fury coiled inside him waiting to be released.”

He asserted that Dempsey’s appeal lay in the fact that “he was willing to take six blows to land one”, had a “panther-like concentration on demolishing his enemy”, and carried “explosive charges in both hands”. He called Dempsey a swift and accurate hitter who was able to flatten a foe with a blow traveling no more than eight inches, and said the punch could come at any moment.

Gene Tunney felt that Dempsey was the greatest of all heavyweights (1952, pp. 36-38) and pointed out Dempsey’s ability to take it saying, “Jack could recover faster than any man I ever fought. He was dangerous with a five-second interval” (also see McCallum, 1975, p 27 and Rice, 1954, p 131) 

Nat Fleischer ranked Dempsey as the #4 All-Time Heavyweight. Charley Rose ranked him as the #3 All-Time Heavyweight. In the opinion of this writer, Dempsey was the #3 Heavyweight of All-Time.


Bromberg, L. 1958. World’s Champs. Retail Distributors, Inc.

Carpenter, H. 1975. Boxing: A Pictorial History. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company

Cooper, H. 1978. The Great Heavyweights. Secaucus, New Jersey: Chartwell Books, Inc.

Durant, J. 1976. The Heavyweight Champions. New York: Hastings House Publishers

Durant, J. and Bettman, O. 1952. Pictorial History of American Sports. Cranbury, New Jersey: A.S. Barnes and Co.

Grombach, J. 1977. The Saga of the Fist. New York: A,S, Barnes and Co.

Gutteridge, R. 1975. Boxing: The Great Ones. London: Pelham Books Ltd.

Houston, G. 1975. SuperFists. New York: Bounty Books

International Boxing. July 1969.Rockville Centre: G.C. London Publishing Corporation

Keith, H. 1969. Sports and Games. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell and Company

Lardner, R. 1972. The Legendary Champions. New York: American Heritage Press

Litsky, F. 1975. Superstars. Secaucus, New Jersey: Derbibooks Inc.

McCallum, J. 1974. The World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company

McCallum, J. 1975. The Encyclopedia of World Boxing Champions. Radnor, Pa: Chilton Book Company

Odd, G. 1974. Boxing: The Great Champions. London: The Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited

Rice, G. 1954. The Tumult and the Shouting. New York. A.S. Barnes and Company

Romano, J. 1931. Champions All. In Everlast Boxing Record, pp. 92-126

Tunney, G. 1952, September 23. Dempsey Could Flatten Today’s Heavies All in One Night. In Look, pp 36-38

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