GLANCE AT NONPAREIL JACK DEMPSEY, Jack Gibbons and Giusseppi Rosselli


JACK DEMPSEY NO. 1 BEGAN AS MATMAN (Tacoma News Tribune, circa 1919) By Henry P. Edwards The only world's boxing champion who ever started his athletic career as a wrestler was Jack Dempsey, the Nonpareil, who held the middleweight title for nearly 10 years, from 1884 until knocked out by Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891. Like his pal, Jack McAuliffe, Dempsey was born in Ireland, his birthplace being Curran, County Kildare, on December 15, 1862. Like McAuliffe, Dempsey came to America when a mere boy. His family settled in Brooklyn and that accounts for Dempsey eventually being apprenticed to the same cooper shop as McAuliffe. As a boy he became decidedly proficient in wrestling and won many a contest on the mat in New York, Boston and elsewhere in the East. In 1883, however, he decided there was more money in the prize ring than there was in wrestling and it is believed his change of heart inspired McAuliffe to become a boxer, also. The records indicate that instead of coming along slowly as an amateur boxer, Dempsey became a pro overnight. At any rate the ancient annals show that Jack's first fight was with Ed McDonald at a roadhouse on the North River, just outside of New York, on April 7, 1883, for a purse of $100. Dempsey, then a 130-pounder, won in 27 London prize ring rounds, which lasted 36 minutes. (ED. NOTE -- The Ring Record Books showed this fight to have taken place on Long Island.) He fought and won several more fights that year and the following year graduated from the lightweight division, of which he was considered the champion. Upon his entrance into the middleweight category, he immediately laid claim to the title of the class, there having been no champion for a year or so since the retirement of Mike Donovan in '82. Jack at once defended his new title by stopping George Fulljames in 22 rounds (The bout was conducted on Staten Island, New York.) In 1885, Dempsey started a more extensive campaign. Having beaten all comers in the East, he went to New Orleans, where he vanquished Charley Bixamos in five rounds for a purse of $1,000. He next went to San Francisco, where he stopped Jack Keenan at Golden Gate Park in two rounds, lasting 11 minutes. Again he received a purse of $1,000. Before the year was ended he had won several other battles in addition. George LaBlanche, the famous fighting marine, jumped into fame about that time and challenged Dempsey for a battle for the title. The bout was held at Larchmont, Long Island, the purse being $3,500. Dempsey was the victor in 13 rounds that lasted 50 minutes. Dempsey's next fight was one of the most unusual in the history of American ring annals. Johnny Reagan, a tough New Yorker, who lacked experience, was Dempsey's opponent. It was a grudge fight, the two being personalý˙˙˙,Z'' "".--z Prior to the fight, Dempsey wrote Jimmy McGlade of Cleveland that Reagan had a tough gang that intended to see that Reagan won by any means, fair or foul, but that he also would have his gang on hand and Reagan's bunch would have to go some to put their man across. The battle was fought near New York (Long Island). The principals, officials, seconds and spectators got on a steamer early in the evening and after sailing a few hours or until 8 o'clock, landed and pitched a ring on the beach. Dempsey protested that the spikes on Reagan's shoes were too near the toe. The following extracts are taken from the account of the battle printed in the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer on December 14, 1887: First round -- Reagan made a play on Dempsey's kidneys. Dempsey succeeded in back-heeling his antagonist and fell heavily upon him. Second round -- Dempsey claimed Reagan was spiking him. Dempsey again back-heeled Reagan and fell heavily upon him. Third round -- Reagan, in one of his rushes, spiked Dempsey in a terrible manner on his left leg. The bone could be seen, the cut being so deep. There was considerable wrangling, Dempsey's umpire claiming the fight. The referee, however, overruled the claim. Fifth round -- The tide, which was well on the flood, began to creep into the ring and Dempsey was compelled to move from his corner. Seventh round -- The water was several inches deep throughout the ring. Dempsey's leg was in terrible condition and the water in the ring did not help it any. In the eigth round the referee and umpires agreed, although Dempsey protested, another ring must be sought. The fighters then had battled 18 minutes. All hands went to the boat, where the fighters were put to bed and a search was made for a more suitable place to pitch the ring. At 12:10 in the morning such a place was found and the fight resumed, Dempsey winning in the 45th round when Reagan's seconds threw the towel into the ring, saying their man had no chance to win. In this bout, as well as most of the others which were fought by Dempsey under the London prize ring rules, which called for bare fists or skintight gloves, Dempsey's skill as a collar and elbow wrestler proved a big advantage and whenever there was a clinch the champion could wrestle his adversary to the turf and, falling heavily upon him, knocked the wind out of him. The year of 1888 was rather uneventful for the middleweight champion, who proceeded to take things rather easily and not train as faithfully as he had earlier in his career. In 1889, LaBlanche asked for a return bout and Dempsey journeyed to San Francisco to give it to him. This time, however, Marquis of Queensberry rules governed the bout, the boxers wearing five-ounce gloves and Dempsey no longer being able to resort to his famous wrestling tactics. Dempsey entered the ring weighing 151, while LaBlanche weighed ten pounds more. During the early rounds neither fighter inflicted much damage, but Dempsey then began to look like the winner. In the 26th round Dempsey had LaBlanche staggering, but the marine whirled completely around and caught Dempsey with a terrific right on the neck. It was that same blow, LaBlanche's famous "pivot blow," soon afterward barred in boxing, that eventually won the fight for the marine, as he used it again in the 32nd round. Dempsey, figuring he had the battle won, became careless. LaBlanche was stronger than Dempsey figured and, pivoting again, brought his right with terrific force on Dempsey's nose, flooring the champion, who fell flat on his face groaning and crying for a chance to regain the title. Dempsey put Australian Billy McCarthy away in 28 rounds in 1890 and again put in a claim for the title. Inasmuch as LaBlanche had used what was regarded as a foul blow in defeating Jack, the latter's claim was generally recognized as a just one. At any rate, he was matched to fight bob Fizsimmons in New Orleans, January 14, 1891, and on that night he mets his Waterloo in the 13th round, never having a chance against the lanky Cornishman. That practically ended Dempsey's career as a fighter. He won a four-round bout in '93 (at Portland, Ore.) and fought Billy McCarthy 20 rounds to a draw in New Orleans in '94. His last appearance was at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, a three-round loss to Tommy Ryan, himself destined for legendary status in the ring. Dempsey's last public appearance was at a June 8, 1895 benefit for himself at New York. He died that November 2 at Portland, Ore., just six weeks shy of his 33rd birthday. JACK GIBBONS DIES AT AGE 86 (St. Paul Pioneer-Press, February 5, 1999) By Jim Wells Jack Gibbons once was regarded as the finest athlete in St. Paul. He excelled at anything he tried: football, basketball, hockey, golf, handball, billiards, softball, speed skating. But Gibbons was best known for boxing, partly because of his ability and partly because of his family's long and storied association with the sport. Michael John Gibbons, 86, died Tuesday in Brainerd, Minn., where he had lived for the past decade with his wife, Vida. Gibbons fought when there was a single champion in each of the eight classic weight divisions. He was the No. 4-ranked middleweight in the world in 1935-36 and was the No. 6-ranked light heavyweight in 1936-37. He never lost as an amateur boxer, and he compiled a stunning record as a professional, winning 101 of 107 bouts from 1932 to 1938, including a 10-round decision over the rugged Tony Zale, who later defeated Rocky Graziano for the world middleweight title. A crowd estimated at 12,000 was at Lexington Park the night Gibbons outpointed Canadian champion Frank Battaglia. "It was Jack's first 15-round fight,'' said Dan Gibbons, Jack's brother. "It was a hot day, and it took a lot out of him.'' Gibbons knocked out 42 opponents and had a 72-fight winning streak, yet he insisted he never was as good as his father, Mike, known as the "uncrowned champion,'' or his uncle, Tommy, who lost a 15-round decision to Jack Dempsey on July 4, 1923, in the historic bout that bankrupted Shelby, Mont. "He was a natural at just about anything he tried,'' said Jim O'Hara of the Minnesota Boxing Commission. "But more than that, he was just a wonderful person.'' An all-state football and basketball player at Cretin High School, Gibbons also won the Northwest handball championship. He was an excellent bowler, too. "It all came very easily to him, but he was always very humble about it,'' said his daughter, Mary Pat Dobmeier of Baxter, Minn., who recalled an incident at the family home many years ago. "Dad was giving a golf lesson to my sister, Kathleen, in the front yard, and she put a shot through the front window,'' Dobmeier recalled. When their mother, Vida, appeared at the front door wondering what had happened, Jack answered calmly, ``It was a perfect shot, a beautiful shot.'' Gibbons' sister, Virginia Schwitz of St. Paul, recalled her brother as a "sweet guy,'' so gentle that many people were surprised to learn he had been a boxer. "My other brothers called him 'St. John of Brainerd' because he never went to sleep without saying the rosary,'' she added. "We took our rosaries with us when we went out fishing,'' Vida Gibbons said. "Jack would say that it would help us catch fish.'' Gibbons won the 1932 Northwest Golden Gloves title but turned down a trip to the national tournament to turn professional. Although he never got a world title fight, he fought some of the top boxers of his day. Gibbons was appointed to the Minnesota Boxing Commission by Gov. Orville Freeman in 1956 and was named the commission's executive secretary in 1968, holding that job until his retirement in 1975. He also served as the World Boxing Association's Minnesota representative for six years and was a vice president of the WBA for two years. A memorial mass will be Saturday in Brainerd and at noon Monday at St. Columba Catholic Church, 1327 Lafond Ave., followed by a private burial. ROUND 77, AND STILL COUNTING (San Gabriel Valley Weekly, Jan. 22, 1999) By Mark A. Peinado EL MONTE, Calif. -- Giusseppi Rosselli Jr. That name might not ring a bell. But if you're his alter ego, Joey Barnum, you sure have heard a lot of them. Walk into Barnum's Bail Bonds office in town and the first thing you notice is this is no ordinary Joe. Splattered across the walls are pictures of him as a hard-nosed boxer and man-about-town with some of Hollywood's most famous people. Talk to him for a minute, and before you know it, one hour, then two hours have passed. There are two reasons for that. First, the man known as "Mr. Bail" has a lot to say and will gladly tell you his story. Second, he's always on the phone bailing people out. The son of a mobster, he has been through a lot, and isn't about to slow down. Especially not now. This year, Barnum, 77, is up for induction into the World Boxing Hall of Fame. There are 250 voters, about 130 of them in the United States. The ballots will be sent out in two weeks; the inductees are expected to be notified on April 1. "It's just like politics," said Dub Harris, president of the World Boxing Hall of Fame. "You have to go out there and get the support. Compared to some of the other guys who have gotten in, I think Joey has a good chance." Barnum's boxing career really began back in Chicago, where he used to get into a lot of street fights. That's when Barnum said his father told him, "Look, if you're going to fight, you might as well get paid for it." His mother didn't like it, Barnum said, and had him taking piano lessons. She wanted him to eventually become a priest, but Barnum said he ducked the lessons and went to the gym to train. Barnum once was ranked as high as No. 3 in the world as a welterweight title contender. He lost to Bob Montgomery, the lightweight champion, after getting hit after the bell in the seventh round and not answering the bell for the eighth. Barnum defeated an eventual world champion in Johnny Bratton, and fought to a draw with Willie Joyce, the No. 1 contender at the time. Barnum doesn't know his career record. All he knows is that he won more than he lost. "Boxers today don't have enough amateur fights," Barnum said. "I had the experience. I had 140 amateur fights. "When I was fighting, there were 10 good fighters in each division. Now, you can't name 10 good fighters." Barnum retired from boxing in the early 1950s, becoming discouraged when he didn't get a shot at the title. His wife, Esther, also wanted him to stop. So he became a boxing manager. Eventually got back into the ring -- not because he wanted to, but because he said he had to. Barnum got into a beef with a former pupil and decided to come out of retirement and teach him a lesson. Barnum won the fight. Barnum didn't become a bail bondsman until 1964. "My brother was a policeman, and he said 'You know a lot of thieves, card sharks and guys who get in trouble. You should go into bail bonds,'" Barnum said. "I said that sounds like a pretty good idea." A friend introduced him to his bondsman. Barnum worked under him for a year, took a test, and started his own business out of his home. Being in the bail bonds business, a man can tell a lot of stories. But the one that cracks Barnum up the most is his "drag story." A man had jumped bail, Barnum explained. While at home, he got a call that the guy was at a bar, saying he was looking for some female companionship. The catch: He was carrying a gun. Barnum, ever the character, dressed up in some of his wife's clothes and headed down to the bar. "I see him sitting at the bar," Barnum said. "I get up next to him. I must have been quite a catch, because he bought me a drink. Well, somehow my wife found out what I was I doing and comes walking through the door. I had to think fast, so she wouldn't blow my cover. So, I spill the drink on him, and hit him with a left hook and a right cross. He's out. "The bartender says, 'Man, that broad can hit!'" Barnum has been dubbed "Bail Bondsman to the Stars" because of his association with Hollywood. During his fighting days, "Gentleman" Joey Barnum was the man the stars came out to see fight. "Back then, for movie stars, it was a big thing for them to go to boxing," said Barnum, who is seeking a publisher for his autobiography. In 1953, on the set of "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," Barnum was hired to be a bodyguard for Marilyn Monroe. "I enjoyed it," Barnum said. "Marilyn would go to all my fights. She was a big fight fan of mine. She was very nice." Not long ago, Barnum sued Sylvester Stallone over the premise for the movie Rocky V." A similar movie, made in 1959, was called "The Killer Instinct." It starred Rory Calhoun and was based on the fight Barnum had with his protege. "Rocky V," which starred boxer Tommy Morrison as Stallone's pupil, bore several similarities to Barnum's story. The lawsuit was settled out of court. "I got $1 million worth of publicity from the Sylvester Stallone lawsuit," Barnum said. Barnum was 12 when he found out what his father did for a living. He was a hit man for Al Capone. His mom, a nun before meeting his dad, tried to keep it a secret. Barnum never met the renowned gangster, although he did see Capone come to his Chicago home. For a while, Barnum thought Capone's name was God because his mother, when she'd open the door to the mobster, would say, "Oh, god." Barnum said his father wanted out of the business, not only for his safety, but because he saw his son heading down the same road. He said his father changed their last name to protect the family and then moved them to California in 1936. Barnum's father died in 1939. "I would have become a gangster if we hadn't moved," Barnum said. Not all of Barnum's life has been filled with joy and happiness. Almost 20 years ago, his wife fell victim to Alzheimer's disease. Today, she lives in a nursing home. "She has been holding on for a long time," Barnum said. "She's a fighter, just like I am." Two of Barnum's three daughters help him with the business. "He is a good person. People love my dad," said Joanne Taylor, Barnum's daughter. "He's had an exciting life. He treats his customers like family. We stay in the background and do the paperwork, and let him be our public relations person." Even today, Barnum said he dreams of going back into the ring. "If I were 20 years younger, I'd make a comeback," Barnum said. "I watch my diet and exercise daily. No doubt in my mind, I could be a champion today."