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Doc Kearns’s Last Dirty Trick

April 2023
1min read

Doc Kearns, Dempsey’s hustling manager, fought bitterly with the champion later in his career, and, as was his way, showered abuse on his former protege. The two men never really made up. In fact, the last piece of nastiness that Doc tossed at Jack came virtually from the grave. Shortly before Kearns died in 1963, he had completed the manuscript for his autobiography. In talking about the Willard fight, Kearns described how he had started worrying about the $ 10,000 he had bet on a first-round victory, and how he had decided to help the results along. Unknown to his fighter, he asserted, he had sprinkled the wrappings that go under a boxer’s gloves with plaster of Paris, and had then doused them with water before lacing on Jack’s gloves.

The first that Dempsey knew about this was in January, 1964, when Sports Illustrated published Doc’s account with the headline “ DEMPSEY’S GLOVES WERE LOADED .” Dempsey promptly sued for libel. In his forthcoming autobiography, Dempsey describes how evidence flooded in to support his case. One man turned out to have the actual bandages, which he had picked up off the floor of Dempsey’s dressing room and kept for a souvenir. Another fan, an ex-fighter, had kept the gloves Dempsey wore in the fight. Manufacturers of plaster of Paris wrote to say that it would take about five layers of their product to create a rock-hard wrapping, and that anyway there had not been time for it to set. Various doctors and experts assured Dempsey that had Kearns’s charge bee.i true, he would have broken all the bones in his hands, let alone every bone in Willard’s face. In short, the story seemed preposterous. The case was settled out of court, and a formal apology was printed. Three years later, when the book was published, the charge had been deleted. “From wherever he was,” Dernpsey writes in his new book, “Jack Kearns had managed to give me one more good swift kick in the butt. The man was not to be believed !”

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