Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Max Baer -vs- Tony “Two Ton” Galento | All Rounds w/Interview

Max Baer -vs- Tony “Two Ton” Galento
(All Rounds w/post-fight Interview)
Roosevelt Stadium, New Jersey
July 2, 1940
16mm Sound Transfer 

This is an update to a previous post.

The Fight
The Max Baer vs Tony Galento fight film is a classic document of pre-war Sports Americana.  In 1940, Max Baer and Tony Galento, the two most colorful boxers of their day, met for a title elimination showdown in Jersey City.  It was a titanic slugfest.  The fight began even before the opening bell as Galento threatened Baer during the referee’s instructions. The two went right to work in the first round, with Galento on the attack. By round 3 however, Baer was taking control, fighting in flurries, in between clowning and taunting the relentless Galento.  After 7 rounds of bruising action, Galento collapses in his corner and cannot answer the bell for the 8th.  It was Baer’s last victory.

The Movie
The film is noteworthy for several reasons.  The fight was among the best filmed bouts of the day.  It was also among the first fight films produced as the interstate traffic of boxing films was lifted.  For the first time since 1910, boxing films could be distributed across state lines and shown across the country.  As a result, fight films became feature productions in theatres, rather than simply newsreels.  In the decade prior to the television boom, movie audiences were treated to complete fight pictures only days after the event.

The Film
This footage in this video is taken from three sources and shows all rounds of the fight.  The opening potion is from a VHS copy that suffers from generation loss.  Despite the lack of quality, I thought it was important to show the ring intros and referee’s instructions, as it includes Galento’s trash talk and threat to get “twice as rough” as Baer, as if Tony ever needed an excuse.  The remaining (and superior) source footage begins after the opening bell, and is taken from an extended 16mm print, with Round 3 taken from the Castle Films highlight.  The final minute includes the famous “after-battle” interview with Max Baer, Lou Costello and Joe Louis.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Jack Dempsey Sparring with Big Bill Tate

Jack Dempsey Sparring with Big Bill Tate, June 1919
From Dempsey-Willard Fight Pictures
16mm Film Transfer

The Source
I saw this short film of Jack Dempsey sparring with fellow contender Big Bill Tate when it was posted on Youtube several years ago.  I’d never seen it before.  The quality was poor from multiple VHS copies, so I began a search for the source footage.  I discovered that the clip was actually part of the official Dempsey-Willard Fight Pictures, which not only included the Dempsey-Willard fight, but prefight footage of both Dempsey and Willard in training.   I recently acquired a short 16mm documentary on Jack Dempsey.   As I was scanning the footage to video, I discovered it included the same sparring session footage, and in excellent quality.

The Film
It’s less than two minutes long, but what a story it tells.   This is among the earliest surviving footage of Dempsey in action, and among the best single film of him in training.  Though Dempsey is 6’1” at 190 pounds, he looks like a middleweight compared to the 6”6” Tate, who was also a ranking contender.  Even after I adjusted the film speed to real time, Dempsey appears amazingly fast.  The boxers are clearly not going full out, but it’s a genuine workout, and not staged playing for the cameras.   Dempsey’s bob and weave style is on full display, as well as his brilliant footwork propelling him under and inside Tate’s persistent jab.  This is the first glimpse of modern boxing.

Tate was very agile for a boxer his size, though not particularly fast.  You can see the Jack Johnson-era influence in Tate’s style, and yet how effective Dempsey is in overwhelming him.  Tate and Dempsey were good friends and Bill was employed in the Dempsey’s camp through the championship years.  Tate retired along with Dempsey in 1927.

Tate was not only a crucial sparing partner in helping Jack to fight bigger men like Willard and Firpo, but he was also important in comparing Dempsey to Harry Wills, who was unjustly denied a title fight by promoters.   Wills and Tate fought six times between 1916 and 1922.  They were the same age, but Wills had more experience and won the early fights, two by KO and two by decision.  But as time went on Tate either improved or Wills declined.  For in their final contest in 1922, Big Bill, the man we know as Dempsey’s sparring partner, fought Wills to a 10 round draw. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jack Dempsey’s MMA Fight

Jack Dempsey’s MMA Fight
Jack Dempsey -vs- Cowboy Lutrell
Ponce De Leon Park, Atlanta
July 1, 1940
16mm Sound Transfer

The Fight

Compared to many sports figures and celebrities, Jack Dempsey remained a visible and respected figure long after his boxing career ended.  He kept in shape, managed his restaurant, trained boxers, performed service for the military during World War II,  and did charity work.  Even through his forties, Jack was never far from the ring, sparring for the camera with Max Schmeling, Max Baer, Aturo Godoy and others to promote fights.  Dempsey also worked as a referee for boxing and wrestling matches. 

One evening in 1940, Dempsey was refereeing a wrestling match between Cowboy Luttrell and Dorve Roche.  There was an argument in the ring, and an altercation between Dempsey and the Cowboy.  To settle what was apparently a genuine public grudge, and to make a fistful of short money, business manager Max Waxman arranged a boxer vs wrestler match between Dempsey and Lutrell in Atlanta on July 1, 1940.  Neither an exhibition or a sanctioned prizefight, and certainly not a comeback attempt, the contest was akin to n MMA beatdown.  The Referee was Ring Magazine published Nat Fleischer, who worked the fight with as much energy as the fighters themselves.  Though a seasoned wrestler, Lutrell never managed to grab hold of Dempsey, as Jack began pounded him without mercy from the opening bell.  Most accounts describe the event as a disgrace, and has since been largely forgotten.   

The Film

The contest was captured (poorly) by a film crew, from a single camera angle, so low that spectators get in the way of the action.  Yet, the film was shown later in theaters in the weeks after the fight.  In this edition, the narrator describes the fight as an historical and nostalgic event for Dempsey, who was 45 years old at the time.

The rarity of this film is not so much the bout, as is the pre-fight newsreel footage, and the post fight interview between Dempsey and referee/publisher Nat Fleischer and wrestler Dorve Roche standing to the left.