Dempsey: Punchers made; Not...


Here is an expert from Jack Dempsey's book "Championship Fighting" written in 1950.

The title of this thread is actually taken from the title of one of the chapters in this book (chapter 3).

"Louis retired as undeated heavyweight champion in 1949. And I bet that, as he retired, Joe considered himself a natural-born puncher. I know that's probably true because I had the same mistaken idea about myself during my career and for a time after I hung up my gloves.

"If you're a punching champion it's natural for you to get the wrong appreciation of yourself. Hundreds of admirers pat you on the back and tell you what a "natural-born" fighter you are. And when you're swept along toward seventh heaven by the roar of the crowd in your magnificent moments of triumph, it's easy to forget the painstaking labor with which you and your instructors and trainers and sparring partners fashioned each step in your stairway to the throne. It's easy to forget the disappointments and despair that, at time, made the uncompleted stairway seem like "heartbreak hill". Ah yes, when you're on the throne, it's easy to regard yourself as one who was "born" to be royalty of the ring..."



"In your heyday as champion. you cant' "see the forest for the trees". As an historian might express it, you're too close to your career to get the proper perspective of highlights and background. It was only after I had retired and had begun trying to teach others how to fight that I investigated the steps in my stairway - analyzed my own technique. And that was a tough job. You see: by the time a fellow becomes a successful professional fighter, nearly all his moves are so instinctive, though long practice, that it's difficult for him to sort out the details of each move. Accordingly, it is nearly impossible - at first - for him to explain his moves to a beginner. He can say to the beginner, "you throw a straight right like this." Then he can shoot a straight right at a punching bag. But the beginner will have no more conception of "how" to punch with the right than he had before. That's the chief reason why so few good fighters developed into good instructors. They failed to go back and examine each little link in each boxing move. They tried to give their pupils the chains without the links...."



"When I began breaking down my moves for the purpose of instruction, I found it most helpful to swing my memory clear back to the days when I was a kid in Manassa, a small town in southern Colorado. I was fortunate as a kid. My older brothers, Bernie and Johnny, were professional fighters. They had begun teaching me self-defense by the time I was seven years old. In my break-down; I tried to recall exact details of the first fundamentals my brothers taught me. I jotted down every detail of those instructions I could remember, and every detail that dawned on me while I was practicing those early fundamentals. Then I moved mentally across the Great Divide to Montrose Colorado, the town where I spent my later youth. There was more interest in fightinging in montrose than in any place of its size I've ever known. It was a town of would be fighters. In some Montrose families there were four or five brothers who wanted to be fighters. I found plenty of kid sparmatesthere and plenty of instructors - some good, some bad.


"My investigation of technique took me on a long mental journey as I followed my fighting trail throug the West, where I had worked at any job I could get in mines, l.umber, camps, hash-houses, on ranches, etc. I was fighting on the side in those days and I was getting pointers on self-defense from the old-timers I met. Each trainer, each manager, each fighter had his own ideas and specialities. Like a blotter on legs, I asborb all that information in those days, and discarded what seemed wrong.

"Swinging back through Memory Lane, I found myself at 21, making my first trip to New York, where I fought Andre Anderson. "Wild Bert" Kenny and John Lestor Johnson, who craked two of my ribs. Although that New York trip was a disappointment, I received much valuable fighting information from top-flight heavies like Frank Moran, Bill Brennan, Bill Miske and Gunboat Smith, when i dropped into Grupp's Gymnasium. And I recalled the details of my post-graduate courses in fighting from Doc Kearns and Trainer Deforest, one of the best instructors in the world. Deforst's career went clear back to the days of Peter Jackson and London prize-ring rules.



"That geographic investigation of my own technique really humbled me. It hit me right on the chin with the booming fact that since I was 7 years old, i'd had the opportunity to learn punching from a long parade of guys who had studied it. I absorb their instruction, their pointers, their theories, in Manassa, Provo, Ogden, Salt Lake city, Goldfield, Tonopah, New York, San Francisco, Chigao, St Paul, and many other cities - before I met Willard at Toledo. And let me emphasis that in the days when I was drinking in all that information, the fighters, trainers and managers "knew" much mroe about punching then they generally know today. You must remember that when I fought Willard in 1919, it was only 27 years after Jim Corbett had beaten John L Sullivan at New Orleans in the first championship fight with big gloves. While I was coming up, the technique of the old masters was still fresh in the minds of fighting men. Now, it is 30 years since I fought Willard. During those 30 years fighting became "Big Business"; but in the scramble for money in the cauliflower patch, punching technique of the old masters - Sullivan, Corbett, Bob Fitzsimmons, Tommy Ryan, Joe Gans, Terry McGovern, and others seems to have been forgotten"

End of chapter 3!

Next time: Chapter 4: "Why I Wrote This Book"
and Chapter 5: "Differences Between Fist-Fighting and Boxing"


Best thread I've read in a looooooooonnnnnnnnnnnng time!

Great read!! More please?

great peice

Lovin' it... :-)


thank you for posting this!!!!!!!!!

on a separate note: if you can, i lost your email from way back when. pls. email me at

i received email which i think was meant for you after you referred someone to my site.


My email is:


sorry, should've posted that you have email.

this belongs on top along with chapters 4 and 5