Dempsey vs. Tyson – Part I
By Jason Petock (August 9, 2005)  
Mike Tyson
The conceptual idea of an imagined super fight between Roaring 20s phenomenon ‘The Manassa Mauler’ Jack Dempsey and the stylistically similar and devastatingly powerful former heavyweight sensation ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson is a matchmaker’s dream made in heaven, and the ideal fantasy bout for only the most devoted boxing fan.

While both warriors mirror each other upon initial review, it is this echoed style that a once young and hungry Mike Tyson started his career with. Under the ever watchful eye of the late, great Cus D’Amato (RIP), Tyson emulated Dempsey’s ferocity in the ring and resurrected the memory of a fighter and a man who once took over the boxing world by storm.

Mike Tyson paid tribute to Jack Dempsey every time he entered the ring for a professional prizefight. From his menacing scowl to the way he annihilated his opponents, it was all Dempsey to some extent. Tyson channeled this intensity and pure rage when he hit boxing like an out of control wrecking ball, leveling heavyweight hopefuls and champions alike, much like once towering skyscrapers that now remain fallen in a heap of forgotten rubble and ash.

An obvious argument can be made that Mike Tyson would easily overpower the lighter Jack Dempsey. Dempsey was no stranger to fighting men much larger than he was, whether it was against co-workers at the mining camps as a youth, or Jess Willard in the ring in Ohio. The size difference is apparent, so what would be more of a deciding factor is the impact of both competitors’ blows and who could take whose punches. In contrast, Jack Dempsey was only ever officially knocked out against Fireman Jim Flynn. At no other juncture in his career did ‘The Manassa Mauler’ suffer a defeat by knockout. He was knocked down by tactician, rival and good friend Gene Tunney when they fought, but his losses did not come from a knockout in those instances either.

‘Iron’ Mike Tyson on the other hand suffered disheartening knockout losses to both Buster Douglas and Lennox Lewis. This is not to diminish Tyson however, but merely to give small examples of some of both fighters’ experiences coming into this imagined bout.

So now the stage can be set as we are transported back to 1926, only this time there is no ‘long count’ or confusion over the neutral corner. There is only the deafening roar of the excited crowd, the dim glow of the arena lighting, and the sea of faces awaiting this war to end all wars. Static electricity charges the air as molls fix their makeup and sharks take their final bets in. The referee circles the ring, stopping in the center of it to adjust his bow tie and to survey the audience in attendance. The usual cigar smoke blankets the air and coats the crowd like a shroud of illusion and magic.

Jack Dempsey enters the arena first and makes his way to the ring with only a towel around his shoulders, donned in white trunks. His ring shoes are black and standard fare for the time. He has the look and stature of a man possessed and is clearly warmed up as expected. Dempsey is aware that this is the defining bout of his career, of his life. No man that he has faced before has ever come close to what he is about to face. On this brutal night it is going to take all the might and determination that the legendary Jack Dempsey has and then some.

Next enters ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson into the arena. Poised for battle, Tyson also wears his deep intensity on his face as his eyes pierce past the roaring crowd into the ring towards Dempsey. Jack catches Mike’s leer from his viewpoint and offers one in return as a sign of not backing down. Each fighter locks eyes with each other in a virtual stare down that is the precursor to when the opening bell rings and they lock horns instead of looks. There is no let up from either combatant as Tyson climbs through the ropes into the ring and across from a man as fierce and determined as himself, if not even more so.

The opening announcements are made and Dempsey and Tyson step to the center of the ring. A meld of two different generations stand face to face, prepared to break the will and spirit of the other through combat. They are similar yet opposite. Tyson’s ring shoes are the same as Dempsey’s, and his trunks are black in honor of his opponent on this night, but they also serve as a photo-like negative to Jack’s white trunks.

Perspiration adorns the forehead of Mike Tyson as he leers deep into Jack Dempsey’s eyes searching for something, anything, the slightest imperfection, or the slightest response. To face off against his idol is a true dream realized for ‘Iron’ Mike, but on this fateful eve there will be no indication of weakness, of breaking of his opponent in the early stages, as he grew accustomed to with prior competition during his youth. For he is fighting not only a legend in his own right, he is fighting himself in a sense. Jack Dempsey is the epitome of boxing and this is the opportunity of a lifetime for Tyson.

Jack Dempsey gazes back at Tyson with as much fury and rage as he is receiving from his challenger’s stare. While in full acceptance of Tyson’s commanding physical attributes, Dempsey knows that he too possesses incredible punching power, ring adaptability and an iron jaw. He is also confident in the fact that their styles are so similar that it will be he, the teacher, teaching Tyson the student.

The bell resounds throughout the arena as mists of smoke clear and gives way to spectators on the very edge of their seats, hoping to catch another glimpse of poetry in motion and history in the making. Round one is under way….
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