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Monday, January 31, 2011

“The Fastest Count Jack Ever Got”: Jack Dempsey Meets His Match

The current Story of the Week, Irvin S. Cobb’s “Cobb Fights It Over Again,” is a ringside report of the fight between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier in 1921, one of the most famous boxing matches of the last century. Our research for the introduction to the story turned up some interesting tidbits about the fight: it was the first million-dollar gate in boxing, the arena (which held nearly 100,000 spectators) was built especially for the event, and among the crowd were a gaggle of the rich and the famous, from Henry Ford to Al Jolson.

We also found the marvelous clip below, of Jack Dempsey when he appeared on the TV quiz show What’s My Line? in 1965, just after he turned 70. The blindfolded contestants identify Dempsey in no time (“The fastest count Jack ever got,” the always quick-witted Arlene Francis quips). During the rest of the segment Dempsey and the panelists talk briefly about his testimony before the ongoing Congressional hearings into the corruption and mob influence that had long plagued boxing; the recent rematch between Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) and Sonny Liston, which ended in a controversial knockout; and Dempsey's longtime friendship with Gene Tunney—the boxer to whom he lost his title in 1926.

The Irvin Cobb selection is one of dozens of literary essays and classics of journalism included in the forthcoming At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing, which has just arrived from the printer and will be in bookstores on March 3. You can see the complete table of contents here.


  1. I would enjoy seeing Rod Serling's original teleplay "Requiem for a Heavyweight" back in print, an intensely powerful story and indictment of boxing at a time in America's social history when the sport was becoming a pre-packaged entertainment event. The ending of the script is chilling.

  2. "Boxing may be cruel and pitiless to its practitioners, but bountiful to its gifted chroniclers." Joyce Carol Oates

  3. It has been a great fight between Jack and Georges. I also like to see the boxing. I am a great fan of it. I very soon will watch a very tough competition of the mosely. That day every one will
    watch pacquiao vs mosley


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