Title fight and controversy

On July 4, 1919, he and World Heavyweight Champion Jess Willard met at Toledo, Ohio, for the world title. Some knowledgeable observers such as Benny Leonard predicted a victory for Dempsey against the vastly larger champion but many called the fight a modern David and Goliath. In the event Willard was knocked down seven timesЧall in the first roundЧalthough it should be remembered that rules at the time permitted standing almost over a knocked-down opponent and hitting him again as soon as both knees had left the canvas. Willard's corner would not let him answer the bell for the fourth round. He was widely reported to have suffered a broken jaw, broken ribs, several broken teeth and a number of deep fractures to his facial bones, an unprecedented level of damage in boxing which aroused suspicion that Dempsey had cheated. Many questioned how the force capable of causing such damage had been transmitted through Dempsey's knuckles without fracturing them.[12] Although some reporting in the aftermath of the match mentions no real injuries[17] The New York Times account of the contest is representative of ringside coverage of the actual event from major newspapers, it describes severe swelling being visible on one side of Willard's face.[18] A still photograph appears to show an unusual degree of discoloration and swelling on the face of Willard.[12] A disgruntled Kearns, who had been sacked by Dempsey, gave an account that became known as the "loaded gloves theory" in Sports Illustrated, January 20, 1964. Kearns claimed to have informed Dempsey that he had wagered Dempsey's share of the purse on Dempsey winning with a first-round knockout and had applied plaster of paris to the customary wrappings under Dempsey's gloves. Historian J. J. Jo nston said "the films show Willard upon entering the ring walking over to Dempsey and examining his hands." That and an experiment conducted by a boxing magazine seem to disprove Kearns' story.[17] However, Willard's actions in checking the wraps of his opponent, not a normal procedure, implies he was concerned about foul play, and Willard later claimed to have been defeated by gangsterism.[12] Nat Fleischer, later founder of The Ring magazine, was there when Dempsey's hands were wrapped: "Jack Dempsey had no loaded gloves, and no plaster of paris over his bandages. I watched the proceedings and the only person who had anything to do with the taping of Jack's hands was Deforest. Kearns had nothing to do with it, so his plaster of paris story is simply not true. Deforest himself said that he regarded the stories of Dempsey's gloves being loaded as libel, calling them "trash" and said he did not apply any foreign substance to them, which I can verify since I watched the taping."[19] Sports writer Red Smith in The New York Times obituary of Dempsey was openly dismissive of the claim.[20] Another suggestion is that Dempsey had an object resembling a rail spike in his gloved hand which he used as a knuckleduster during the first round, the only one in which Willard was knocked down.[12] In the Los Angeles Times (July 3, 1979), Joe Stone, an ex-referee and boxing writer, asserted that in film of the fight an object could be seen lying on the canvas after the final knockdown and that this object appears to be removed by someone who seems to be from Dempsey's corner. The countervailing view is that Dempsey can be seen pushing and holding with the palm of the glove which would have made it all but impossible to keep a spike hidden or in place.