Jack Floored, Then Puts Firpo Away

Damon Runyon

Buffalo Courier/September 15, 1923

Champion, Dizzy in First, After Downing Foe Four Times, Ends It in Second

Throng of 90,000 in Bedlam at Fiercest Battle of Heavies in All Time – Firpo, Groggy, Knocks Champion Through Ropes – Only Dempsey’s Great Experience Saves Him – Jack, Furious in Second, Puts Challenger Down to Stay After 57 Seconds

POLO GROUNDS, Sept. 14–Four times the Tiger Man, Dempsey, knocked the Wild Bull of the Pampas to the floor in the first round tonight, four times the Wild Bull staggered to his feet, punch drunk, glassy eyed, reeling.

Then one of the wildest, maddest flurry of human fists that men have ever seen in a prize ring, out of a brawling, crazy struggle that had 85,000 men and women on their feet screaming, the wild bull Luis Angel Firpo clubbed Dempsey to his knees, clubbed him clear out of the ring.

Dempsey Clings to Ropes

The timekeeper had counted three while Dempsey was hanging over the lower ring ropes, his head outside, his feet in mid-air, a strange expression on his face, an expression of deep surprise.

Then the champion of the world hauled himself back into the ring and flung into another mad attack that he carried into the second round more ferociously than ever, until he had the Wild Bull of the Pampas stretched at his feet for good.

A left hook to the jaw, followed by a right chop to the jaw, both delivered at close quarters after 57 seconds of the round had elapsed, settled Firpo. The wild bull fell, or rather floundered to the canvas of the ring like a real wild bull suddenly pole-axed, his ponderous flanks heaving, his hairy cheat rising and falling, the blood trickling in a tiny stream from his mouth and nose. He rolled over on his back as he hit the floor, and there he lay, his gigantic limbs stirring but feebly as the timekeeper standing at the ringside yelled off “One, two, three,” and on up to ten.

Dempsey trotted over from his corner where he had been waiting, panting, while the timekeeper roared off the seconds, wrapped his arms around the huge figure on the floor and tugged it, trying to lift Firpo to his feet.

Slowly Regains Senses

Firpo’s seconds, the men from the Argentine, who had been looking on at the scene startled, jumped into the ring and helped Dempsey in the task of lugging Firpo back to his corner. There he sat while a second wiped his face with a towel, his eyes now open, his senses slowly returning, and gazing at Dempsey as if Dempsey were some mortal from another world.

Firpo was down twice for a count in that second round, a total of nine times.

But there was more thrill in the two times he put Dempsey down than in all the nine times Dempsey put Firpo down, because when Firpo fell it was in the eyes of the great crowd merely what they expected, the swift overcoming of a set up.

When Dempsey fell it was the American heavyweight champion of the world going down, with the famous title hanging In the balance. When, after a brutal beating in the first round, Firpo suddenly clipped Dempsey on the chin with his right, sinking the champion to his knee, there was an instant of almost death-like silence over the crowd, followed immediately by the wolf yell, the yell of human beings scenting blood.

As Dempsey straightened up Firpo rushed his famous wild bull rush, his great arms clubbing fiercely at Dempsey’s sides, at Dempsey’s head, at Dempsey’s back. His attack drove Dempsey to the ropes. The slender hotly of the champion bent over the top strand like a reed, the bronze had faded from his face, his eyes were staring.

Firpo clubbed and clubbed, clubbing with blind fury at the face before him. He did not know how to measure his man, he did not know anything scientific. He was fighting as the cavemen fought.

Firpo Fails to Follow Up

One of the wild smashes hit Dempsey on the chin, and he went through the ropes, the wolf pack yelling in his ears, if he heard anything at all that instant. Firpo stood flaring, dizzy himself from the terrific battering he had received early in the round, hardly knowing what had happened. Certainly not knowing what to do.

When Dempsey came back through the ropes, back to earth again, so to speak, he was the cool, experienced fighter who finds himself in momentary trouble. He steadied as Firpo tore in, then the bell ended the round.

Dempsey looked dazed at the bell. He scarcely seemed to know In what direction his corner lay. He walked to his stool with unsteady step. There Kearns, his manager, hair tousled, eyes almost staring from his head, worked over him, babbling in his ear. It Is doubtful if Dempsey heard, but Dempsey assuredly knew what he had to do without being told. He knew now that this big man over in the other corner, who was glaring at him with such a ferocious expression, was a strong, dangerous man, perhaps the strongest, and certainly the most dangerous.

Dempsey’s head had manifestly cleared as he walked out for the second round.

Firpo Tears Right In

Firpo, who had been sitting on his stool in the attitude of a man about to make a sudden leap, came tearing forward, hands flying. Dempsey quietly moved around him, then clipped him with a hard left hook.

They were in a clinch, their big bodies grinding against each other, when Dempsey clipped Firpo another little left hook, short, sharp. Firpo slumped down, the first time in this round—you will remember. He staggered to his feet immediately and rushed. From Dempsey’s corner came the shrill voice of Joe Benjamin, the California lightweight.

“Wipe off those gloves, wipe off those gloves!”

In getting up Firpo had rested his gloved hands against the floor, accumulating some resin dust on the gloves, which is regarded as dangerous.

Johnny Gallagher, the referee, short, stocky, buzzing excitedly about the two men, never had a chance to make Firpo “wipe off those gloves.”

Dempsey moved swiftly at the giant, his head bobbing, as the rattlesnake bobs before it strikes. Then, from close up, he cut the big man down, as you have already been told. No champion ever demonstrated his ability to come back after fierce punishment than Jack Dempsey, of Utah.

His title didn’t seem worth a dime as he hung over the ropes to those who knew Firpo’s power when he had a man going. That instant demonstrated the absolute fallacy of the theory that Firpo had “no chance” against Dempsey. He had a tremendous chance right then.

“I nearly had him,” the “Wild Bull” muttered to his handlers after the fight. He did. Carpentier’s smash in Dempsey’s chin in the second round at Jersey City, Willard’s uppercut at Toledo, were passing breezes compared to the smash that swept Dempsey through the ropes.

Dempsey walked out of his corner, or rather glided out as the bell rang for the first round, and moved quickly over to meet the oncoming Firpo, as if he meant to slug it out with the big South American. He seemed to make little effort at real boxing in that first round, which is perhaps because Firpo’s rushing, clubbing style prevents much boxing.

Or perhaps Dempsey wished to demonstrate that he was as good at slugging as Firpo.

No Trace of Fear

The shaggy man from Argentina, where they were all prepared tonight to hold a holiday carnival to celebrate a Firpo victory, did not act afraid as he stalked out of his corner. You never can tell Firpo’s real feelings by his expression anyway. He is always smileless in the ring. Dempsey let fly a left at Firpo, the blow landing on Firpo’s arm, as big as a jib boom. Firpo’s right swung wildly. They began fighting like a couple of barroom brawlers. Firpo fighting away without any sense of direction, Dempsey trying to slide his left through the swings.

A left hook hit Firpo on the chin and he went to the floor. Some of the crowd laughed, derisively. Some started to get up from their seats. They thought it was all over. The timekeeper leaped out of his chair, leaning forward, and began his chant of the seconds. “One, two, three.” A roar broke from the crowd as Firpo was seen lifting his giant body from the canvas. Dempsey hovering in the background like a bulldog in leash. The roar spread over the packed acres as Firpo not only got up, but met Dempsey’s attack swinging.

Dempsey closed with the giant and savagely ripped his hands to the great hairy body. Firpo tried to stop the attack by clinching, but Dempsey, strong as a prairie wolf, shook himself free from the big arms, and ripped and tore.

Timekeeper Busy

The knockdowns came so rapidly that it was difficult to keep track of it. The timekeeper was almost constantly out of his chair shrieking the count.

Men and women in the crowd were almost beside themselves with excitement, with the blood lust. “Kill him, Jack! Kill him!” roared some. But other voices were now for the first time throwing sympathy to Firpo.

Once, twice, three times, four times, seven times he went down, and got up again, his expression unchanged, unchangeable, grim, determined. And every time he got up he rushed, hurling his great fists, blindly, desperately. It did not seem humanly possible for him to survive the punishment he was getting, as his great body reeled, and shook, and slumped.

Over in his corner, his faithful countryman, Widmer, the interpreter, and Horatio Lavalle, who came to America to train Firpo for this bout, were looking on, expression of horror on their faces. They made no sound.

It was in mid-ring, when Firpo seemed to be absolutely “punched silly,” that he let go with that chopping right which landed flush on Dempsey’s chin. You should have seen the change in Firpo’s expression, in the instant he saw Dempsey’s lag, sensed his advantage.

Firpo Takes New Lease

His glazed eyes suddenly blazed with battle light, his tired limbs took on new strength. The crowd was now roaring for him, the fickle crowd that loves to cry “The king is dead, long live the king.”

But they reckoned without the resources of the king, the strength of mind, of body that makes him king. No one who saw the fight tonight will ever look on Jack Dempsey again as other than a high class ring man, a real champion.

“That was a lucky punch,” said Jack Kearns to the writer, leaning over from Dempsey’s corner after the fight, when Dempsey was surrounded by eager friends, trying to shake his hand. Just what punch the manager meant was the “lucky” punch, the writer is unable to state. Perhaps it was the punch that stretched Firpo out for the final count.

Firpo was not hurt. Dempsey was unmarked as he left the rung, to permit Jack Burke and one Bill Reed to fight while the crowd was leaving. This was stopped in the fourth round with Burke the winner. Few of the 85,000 remained to see it. They went out babbling of the terrific battle they had witnessed between the heavyweight champion of the world and the strange man from South America, called “the Wild Bull of the Pampas.”

A courageous man, they said of Firpo, lacking the experience that he himself said he should have before fighting Jack Dempsey.

He did not know what to do when he was hurt. After every knockdown, Dempsey would quickly walk behind the fallen man, and when Firpo would get to his knees the Argentinian would look around to find Dempsey before lifting himself upright, his expression that of a wounded animal gazing at its tormentor.

But in the heart of Luis Angel Firpo always and forever blazed the spirit of his forbears, who fought with the Spanish conquistadores of old. In the heart of Luis Angel Firpo was the blood of lions.

Jack Held Himself Up

Dempsey did not go to the floor the first time Firpo clipped him solidly, although some reckon it a technical knockdown. His knees bent, he held himself partially erect by clinging to Firpo’s big arm.

Some think he might not have gotten back into the ring as quickly as he did when Firpo punched him through the ropes, if he had not had a couple of kindly hands pushing him from beneath, these hands, the hands of friendly newspapermen. However, Dempsey was struggling upward, even as he was pushed, so he would probably have gotten there unaided just the same.

But Dempsey, unless he were the man he is, could not have lived under the smashing he got on the chin, while he was against the ropes, one huge hand following another, and Firpo put all his strength, made the greater by berserker fury into the punches. Dempsey can “take ‘em.” There will never be any doubt of that as long as Dempsey continues to mind his Ps and Qs in his manner of living.

Firpo will come again. You cannot keep a man of his courage and spirit down. Firpo, in the opinion of everyone who saw the fight tonight, can whip any man in America right now—bar Dempsey, and in another year a Dempsey-Firpo fight will be something to see.

“What about it?” asked Tex Rickard, the promoter, as he passed behind the writer, cane in hand, after the fight. “Was it a thrill?”

Those who heard the question answered in chorus.

“It was.”

(Source: https://www.newspapers.com/image/409995798)


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