“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Saturday, 28 April 2012

The Manassa Mauler.

Looking along my bookshelves the other day I came across something that I haven't picked up in years, Championship Fighting by Jack Dempsey.  My copy is a 1980's reprint of a book published in 1950 and it would have been this hardback original that I borrowed from the public library when I suppose I was 13 or 14 years of age. I doubt that I realised what a classic and what a link to the past I was reading. Championship Fighting was probably the last book published on boxing as, not only a combat sport, but a system of self defence as well; hence the sub-title - Explosive punching and aggressive defence.
Jack Dempsey was taught to box in the first place by his elder brothers but honed his skills, not in the more usual YMCA or amateur club but in the tough lumber and mining camps of the American West. When Jack left home in the first decade of the twentieth century it was to join an army of itinerant workers, wobblies, hobos and rough-house fighters. This was at a time when there were plenty of people around who could still remember the bare knuckle prize ring and the fight game was a world away from modern day boxing.  The Manassa Mauler as he came to be known, eventually battered his way up from fighting in the back room of bars in side stake matches to beating Cowboy Jess Willard for the Heavyweight Championship of the World in 1919. They don't make 'em like Jack Dempsey any more and with it's encouraging "you can do it" tone they probably don't publish books like Championship Fighting any more either.

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