Thursday, July 4, 2019

Independence Day in Hudson, 1919

If we'd lived in Hudson a hundred years ago, here's what we could have done to celebrate the Fourth of July.

The "big Willard and Dempsey fight," which took place on that day in Toledo, Ohio, turned out to be the most brutal fight in boxing history. It is described on the website of the National Portrait Galley in the following way:
On July 4, 1919, challenger Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) met reigning champ Jess Willard (1881-1968) in an eagerly awaited bout for the heavyweight championship of the world. Having demolished a series of opponents to earn a shot at the crown, Dempsey was a decided underdog in the matchup with Willard, who was five inches taller and fifty-eight pounds heavier than this opponent was and considered unbeatable. Yet when the two boxers met, the contest was brief and brutal. In the opening round, Dempsey unleashed a torrent of punishing blows that felled Willard seven times. By the end of round three, Willard was finished, and Dempsey was the new champion.
We have the advantage over our predecessors here in Hudson. Instead of getting the fight by rounds by means of "a special wire," we can watch the fight from start to finish on YouTube.

In an article that appeared on in 2012 called "The Horror: Jess Willard's Toledo Injuries," Mike Casey elaborates on the damage done to Willard that day:
The famous beating that Manassa Jack administered to Willard in the searing heat of Toledo, Ohio, in the summer of 1919, remains the worst carnage that boxing has witnessed in the modern age. All sorts of colorful analogies were drawn as writers clattered away at their typewriters. Jess looked like the victim of a train wreck. Jess looked as if he had been hit by a speeding automobile. Jess looked as if a tall building had fallen on him.
For once, the bloody descriptions of a bloody fight didn't go far enough. The injuries that Willard sustained were horrific and more comparable to those suffered by shell blast victims in the recent Great War. One of his cheekbones had caved in. His jaw was broken, as was his nose. Many of his teeth had been knocked out. His ribs were busted, his eyes were swollen shut and he had lost his hearing in one ear. His face and body bore multiple contusions, cuts and abrasions. His lips were badly cracked.
Casey also quotes Jack Dempsey as saying, "I felt sick. I hadn't realized that my inner fury could do so much damage."

A hundred years later, Gossips wishes for Hudson a quiet and civilized Fourth of July, with neither violence nor fury.

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