A Big Payoff Awaits Jack Dempsey in Los Angeles

Damon Runyon

Wilkes-Barre Evening News/January 15, 1926

You may take the news that went out of Los Angeles the other day about the movement to produce the Dempsey-Wills fight here not only as quite authentic, but as the one movement that will probably bring the Manassa Man Mauler and the Brown Panther of New Orleans together.

I am inclined to think that you will find them squaring off at each other in this city along toward Labor Day, and I might add that this about the first time that I have ever really thought the spectacle stated as a strong probability.

I have never taken the plan to pitch the struggle in the middle west very seriously, although I give Mr. Floyd Fitzsimmons, the celebrated promoter of Michigan City, due credit for trying, and you can’t rule ’em off for trying.

But I did not believe, and do not now believe, that Dempsey and Wills can be successfully presented in any of the theatres that Mr. Fitzsimmons had in mind, with the possible exception of Chicago. And you can’t be certain of Chicago until they get boxing there.

It could be done in New York to be sure, but Mr. Jack Dempsey, the party of the first part, says he doesn’t wish to fight in New York. Some will argue that this statement makes it a sure thing that Mr. Dempsey will fight in New York, if only because Mr. Dempsey invariably does the thing he says he doesn’t wish to do.

But I believe the inducements that will be offered by Los Angeles will offset any that can be offered anywhere else, because, to begin with, the men behind the movement out here have no thought of personal profit in connection with it. That cannot be said of promoters anywhere else in the wide world.

They are substantial businessmen of vast means, whose names would float any venture in the business world far up into the millions. They are bankers, and businessmen, who are interested heart and soul in Los Angeles, and in California generally, and who have hit upon the Dempsey-Wills fight as a means of attracting attention to Los Angeles, and of bringing visitors out here.

Not one of them cares to be the object of any publicity in connection with the venture. They are putting forward Jack Boyle, who is a sort of Tex Rickard of Southern California, as the promoter. Doyle has been operating boxing shows in this part of the country for years. It is a species of advertising by men who know that advertising pays. The plan is to present the pugilistic spectacle in the coliseum of Los Angeles, the most majestic structure of the kind in the land, which can be arranged to seat over 100,000 for a boxing contest. They can put 90,000 spectators into the place for a football game.

The most casual estimate of the total gate, scaling the premises all the way from $5 to $50, is $2,500,000 and of this amount the fighters would probably get in the neighborhood of a million. The profit is to go to public charity. Not even the promoter is to make anything out of it, although of course, behind the plan is the thought that the influx of visitors for the fight is bound to produce financial benefit to California business.

I believe that it would bring in not less than 50,000 visitors from outside of California, and you can conservatively figure that each of these visitors would spend at least $1000 on the trip. I believe that as many more would come from the other cities of California. 

Furthermore, Los Angeles would hold datelines in the newspapers of the world for months, which is something to be considered in connection with a movement based primarily on a theory of advertising. 

For a long time I rather doubted that Mr. Jack Dempsey cared to meet anyone in defense of his title. In fact, I had commenced to doubt that Mr. Dempsey cared to meet anyone in defense of his title of heavyweight champion of, the world.

From the fact that he is hopscotching around the country giving exhibitions for comparatively small money, I deduce that Mr. Jack Dempsey finds himself in the position of many other mortals on this mundane sphere of needing ready dough.

If he can get $750,000 in one chunk for his pugilistic efforts against Harry Wills, I think Dempsey will seize the opportunity to chase the wolf from his door for some time to come, and I doubt that he can get that kind of money anywhere else in the world outside if Los Angeles.

I think the thing that is worrying Mr. Dempsey at this time more than any one other thing is how much money will they lay “on the line” for him?

That is to say, how much can he get in advance? I understand that Dempsey is thinking of $250,000 as about the right and proper advance payment, but I doubt that any promoter would give him that sum for his own immediate use. They might give it to him in escrow, the actual payment to be deferred until he crawls into the ring, otherwise what guarantee would they have against his demise, or the demise of Wills?

I talked with Mr. Jack Dempsey over the telephone on the subject of the proposed struggle in Los Angeles and I gathered that the matter of the immediate payment was uppermost in his mind at the moment. He said he had a couple of angles of his own, apparently meaning that he had offers elsewhere.

But he said that Mr. Floyd Fitzsimmons is out of the picture but I believe that has been said before. No sooner is it said, however, than it is almost immediately said that Mr. Fitzsimmons is back in the picture.

Wherefore, I hesitate about assigning definite status to Mr. Fitzsimmons at this time. He may still be trying, and I repeat that you can’t rule ’em off for trying. However, I think it is almost a sure thing that the curtain has descended on South Bend, and adjacent ports, as the potential scene of the Dempsey-Wills encounter, and is rising in Los Angeles.

If Mr. Dempsey really wishes to fight the Brown Panther in New OrIeans, I believe the thing will be duly signed, sealed and delivered with a comparatively short time, and if he doesn’t wish to fight him, this is a right good time to so state.

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