The "Manassa Mauler" Jack Dempsey had many connections to the professional
wrestling world. He was friends with almost everyone, and his ties to sports promoters all
over North America gave him plenty of job opportunities as a wrestling referee. During
his heyday as a boxer, there was talk of a mixed bout against Ed "Strangler" Lewis, the
wrestling champion, and later on, Dempsey was rumored to be taking over the
managerial duties of heavyweight contender Everette Marshall. In the late 1940s,
Dempsey managed Ray Gunkel for a time.
In December 1919, Dempsey was said to weigh 187 pounds and stand 6'1 1/2". He had
a reach of 78 inches and a 13 1/2" bicep. Georges Carpentier weighed 170 pounds,
stood 5'9 1/2" and had a 69" reach.
Dempsey and his manager Jack Kearns were arrested in San Diego on January 24, 1920
On January 9, 1931 in Dallas, before a large audience, Dempsey refereed a bout
between wrestlers Jim O'Dowd and master heel, Billy Edwards. At one point, Edwards
socked Dempsey, only to be knocked out by the latter.
Dempsey was booked to referee the entire show (four matches) on Monday, October 18,
1937 in Altoona, PA at the Jaffa Mosque. The main event was Wally Dusek against Ray
The Toronto Daily Star (1/10/42) reported that Dempsey was trying to get into the Army
to serve during wartime, but was told that he was too old. Dempsey, 46, was four years
younger than Man Mountain Dean, a wrestler, who apparently was accepted by the Army
for duty in a tank unit. Dempsey was said to have been called a "slacker" during the first
World War because he was told his services were better fit for engaging in benefit bouts
for the morale of citizens. This time around, he wanted to fight.
On Tuesday, February 24, 1948, the Des Moines Reigster reported that local promoter
Paul L. "Pinkie" George left Monday for Salt Lake City to help Mrs. Effie Clark (Jack
Dempsey's sister) with preparations for the funeral of her father, Hyrum Dempsey. Hyrum
passed away on the Sunday before, and it was noted that Jack Dempsey was sick in
Miami. Jack was also having trouble getting transportation from South Florida to Salt
Lake City. Clark knew that Pinkie was a good friend of the family, and asked him to come
to her side to help her. A funeral was planned for Wednesday, but it depended on
whether or not Jack could arrive in time.
In early 1950, there was talk that the Dizzy Davis independent promotion in Houston
wanted to book Dempsey, even throwing out nice monetary offers to attract the former
fighter. The NWA, however, took credit in blocking the maneuver, claiming that timely
phone calls made the difference, plush the fact that "Dempsey had enough class not to
do anything against the NWA," according to one letter found in the public record of the
Justice Department case file against the Alliance.
If a trivia question ever comes up asking if Jack Dempsey ever encountered Primo
Carnera in the ring, you can recite the following story from Boston in December 1950.
Carnera was facing off against "Chief" Don Eagle with Dempsey acting as the third man.
Carnera, playing the heel, insisted on using illegal tactics, drawing the ire of Dempsey.
When he had enough of Primo failing to follow the rules, Dempsey landed a right to the
face of Carnera, and then a left to the body. Eagle took advantage of the situation,
landed a move or two, then pinned Carnera. The crowd went wild in appreciation. That's
exactly what they hoped to see Dempsey do in the ring.
On June 28, 1958, Dempsey was injured while refereeing a match between Pat O'Connor
and Killer Kowalski in Boston. He was smashed in his diaphragm by the back of
Kowalski's head and the accident nearly had him en route to the operating room. He
suffered a "hiatal hernia," according to one source. At the time, Dempsey was 63 years
old and according to the UPI report, many of his friends were tell him to quit refereeing.
Research by Tim Hornbaker