Dempsey In Nevada
by Guy Clifton
Jack Dempsey first rode into Nevada clinging to the underbelly of a train, too poor to purchase a ticket for one of the passenger cars. In later years, Demspey, the heavyweight boxing champion from 1919 to 1926, returned to a hero’s welcome with newspapermen, children and divorcees following his every move.
Many people are surprised to learn that Demspey once called Nevada home. Little remains to commemorate that time other than the yellowed archives of Nevada newspapers and the memories of a handful of old-timers. The fact is Dempsey left footprints all over the Silver State that affected the entire sporting arena.
Dempsey helped usher in the era known as “The Golden Age of Sport.” Along with baseball’s Babe Ruth, football’s Red Grange, golf’s Bobby Jones and tennis’ Bill Tilden, Dempsey was a giant of the era and made more money in a single fight than all the others combined. Babe Ruth’s largest salary with the Yankees was $85,000. Dempsey made $717,000 for his first fight with Gene Tunney.
He lost his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929 and set about reclaiming it with Reno as his base in the early 1930s, first as a fight promoter and then, once again, as a fighter as he set out to reclaim the heavyweight championship.
This rags to riches story of sports legend Jack Dempsey as played out against the background of the Silver State’s early 20th century exemplifies the American spirit of man and place.
About the Author
Guy Clifton, a third-generation Nevadan, has been a sportswriter since 1982, receiving state, regional and national awards for his writing. He has worked for the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, Gardnerville Record-Courier, Fishing and Hunting News, and the Tahoe World. He is currently a senior reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Dempsey in Nevada” is his fourth book. He has also written “Reno Rodeo: A History,” and two volumes of “You Know You’re a Nevadan If…”
Best 'Nevada' book of the year
"It's a technical knockout for any boxing aficionado who seeks to understand one of the fight game's historical giants... For Clifton, an award-winning reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal, working Dempsey's corner was as natural as a hook off a jab. Clifton goes a long way to returning the legend to life and cutting through the hyperbole that followed his career. Clifton's work tops my list of favorites by local authors in 2007."
- John L. Smith, Las Vegas Review-Journal