Dempsey Emerging From the Fog

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/April 2, 1925

Jack Dempsey is emerging from what might be called the mental doldrums.

For a considerable period the heavyweight champion has had the idea that he couldn’t fight any more.

That is to say, he had doubt as to his ability.

He said as much to the writer on a number of occasions. He has told others the same thing. Once he remarked. “I never could fight.”

Now there is nothing unusual in this mental altitude.

Men who write for a living will tell you they are frequently similarly affected.

Some very brilliant writers have told this reporter that they often had spells when they felt they couldn’t write another line, that their ideas were exhausted, their ability forever affected.

They would mope around depressed, moody, for some time. Then suddenly they would discover themselves anew and begin writing more brilliantly than ever.

Perhaps this mental attitude comes at times to men in every line of endeavor.

Certainly Jack Dempsey has been severely afflicted for some months past. The reader will recall that he was talking of retiring not long ago.

Now he is training daily in his new gymnasium, boxing four and six rounds, working hard “on the floor” which means punching the bag, calisthenics and the like.

He doesn’t say he can’t fight any more now. He is more apt to say others you mention can’t fight. His old belief in himself, his confidence, has returned.

The writer has been watching the champion at his boxing.

He takes on the little men, Tod Morgan, the Pacific Coast featherweight; “Gentleman Gene” Delmont, the Memphis lightweight; Harry Galfund, the Eastern welterweight; and others.

Most of the bigger men around the gymnasium decline to box with Dempsey. They have a horror of his punches, even with the large gloves. The tales of Dempsey’s devastation of sparring partners have become pugilistic tradition. Bald-headed old Frank Farmer, of Seattle, tackled him one day, and Dempsey turned loose his heavy artillery.

It seems impossible for him to resist the temptation to let his punches fly against men as big as himself. He finds it difficult to “pull” his punches even against the little fellows.

“Gentleman Gene” Delmont told the writer that Dempsey’s arms are so heavy that when he merely drops one of his huge hands on a small man the effect is stunning.

Dempsey usually contents himself with chasing the little chaps around, weaving, bobbing, blocking.

The other day Harry Galfund, the welterweight, let several well-directed left hand jabs fly at Dempsey’s synthetic nose.

Dempsey was obviously “sore” for an instant. His eyes flashed. He “cocked” a punch that would have knocked Galfund out of the ring, then held it back.

It wasn’t the blow as much as Galfund’s obvious intent that made Dempsey angry.

An erroneous impression prevails about Dempsey’s “new” nose.

It is less susceptible to injury than the ordinary nose because there is no bone in it. The cartilage was long ago removed from Dempsey’s nose.

The “new” nose is constructed mainly of gristle and skin taken from behind one of his ears. This had commenced to lop down as the result of old Bill Brennan’s punches in the battle in Madison Square Garden some years ago. The surgeon tacked this ear closer to Dempsey’s head while repairing the nose.

You can twist Dempsey’s nose around in your fingers, if you are not afraid to twist the nose of a lion. It is like India rubber.

Dempsey seems to have much of his old speed afoot in his boxing.

His wind is very good considering that he hasn’t done any real training for a long time. He weighs in the neighborhood of 200 pounds, is lean flanked and sleek looking.

Dempsey keeps himself in remarkable condition, no doubt of that. His nervous energy probably prevents him picking up any real fat.

He will be thirty years old June 24, is right now probably at the peak of his physical development. He didn’t really commence to fill out until he was around twenty-two.

He told the writer the other evening that he weighed about 165 pounds when he fought Andre Anderson, John Lester Johnson and Wild Burt Kenny in New York. He was then twenty-one, a tall, raw-boned fellow.

“When I started real training I’ll first go out into the country for a long rest,” Dempsey said, “You can’t train properly in town.”

Only a week or so before he was obviously avoiding all discussion of boxing. Now he is back in the environment, the atmosphere of the game, eagerly talking of it.

He busies himself trying to make matches for the men who train in his gymnasium, discussing terms and conditions with the matchmakers, dickering, parleying like an old manager.

He refereed a bout the other night, he has served as chief second to Mickey Walker and Joe Benjamin recently, and personally directed Walker’s training for the bout with Bert Colima.

Jack Kearns stands back watching his champion’s activities with mingled feelings of relief and amusement. Kearns’s keenly commercial sensibilities are doubtless harassed. He knows he could be getting thousands of dollars for the things Dempsey is doing for nothing.

But Kearns knows also that Dempsey is emerging from his mental fog, that he is returning to normal, that soon he will be saying, “Say, get me a fight, will you?”

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