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.

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