The Second Coming Of Dempsey?

Jack Dempsey. That’s who David Lemieux reminds me of: Jack Dempsey. The Manassa Mauler. Maybe it sounds crazy, but bear with me for a minute. Because there are indeed similarities between the two fighters. Stick around. You may find yourself agreeing with me.

For starters, Lemieux, like Dempsey before him, is stepping into his first truly major bout at the age of 26. Yup, Lemieux will be four years short of thirty when he challenges Gennady Golovkin Saturday night in New York, just like Dempsey was when he stepped into the ring to face heavyweight champ Jess Willard in Toledo 96 years ago.

Lemieux after his win over N'Dam: calling on Dempsey's ghost? (photo by Manny Montreal)
Lemieux after his win over N’Dam: calling on Dempsey’s ghost? (photo by Manny Montreal)

The similarities don’t end there, though. For both Lemiuex and Dempsey are entering their first major fights as decided underdogs. Golovkin is clearly the favorite on Saturday. Likewise, Willard, who won the title from an over-the-hill Jack Johnson, was highly favored stepping into the ring with Dempsey. And Golovkin, like Willard before him, is said to be a superior fighter than his less heralded challenger.

Golovkin, as fans know well, is famous for being a ferocious puncher with incredible movement and impressive defensive skills. Watch the man cut off the ring if you want to see how there’s more to the guy than just his power. Likewise, Willard, who was as big as a modern heavyweight, was thought to be too much for the far smaller Dempsey.

Jack Dempsey
The legendary Jack Dempsey

But there’s more to delve into here. For Lemieux is not undefeated, as most respected fighters today are (for some inexplicable reason). Lemieux’s in good company, however, since Dempsey wasn’t undefeated when he entered into his first high level bout, either. Furthermore, both Lemieux and Dempsey lost to serious competition, the kind that one can actually learn from.

Lemieux, for instance, has taken an “L” from Marco Antonio Rubio. If your only image of Rubio is of the guy being manhandled by Golovkin earlier this year, you might be well advised to look into the fighter’s history. Dempsey, on the other hand, had taken an “L” from the nasty piece of work known as Fireman Jim Flynn before fighting for the heavyweight title. Google Flynn’s name if you question how tough an opponent he was; suffice to say, Fireman Jim didn’t believe the rules always applied.

Defending champion Jess Willard reels from Dempsey's ferocious attack.
Defending champion Jess Willard is overwhelmed by Dempsey’s ferocious attack.

Let’s go beyond this weekend, though, and take a look at other similarities that can be found between these individuals. Physically and stylistically, there are some noticeable differences. Both are aggressive and both love to throw big punches. That said, Dempsey was arguably more skilled than Lemiuex. Yes, Jack fought in a more archaic fashion than today’s brawlers, but if you watch the footage, you will see an incredible connect ratio. You will also find a man who could counter the jab with extreme effectiveness (just ask Gene Tunney), who could set up opponents through feints, and who could keep even slippery foes from escaping.

Yet Lemieux shares a big gift with Dempsey and that’s power. Thudding, thunderous power. The kind that turns out the lights. What’s more, he never resembles the great Dempsey more than when he’s using that power to finish off an opponent. Watch Lemieux’s knockouts. Those hooks might look awfully familiar if you’ve watched footage of Dempsey.

Rosado on the defensive.
Rosado on the defensive.

Furthermore, both men can effectively fight in a crouch and, more importantly, can throw punches with absolutely everything on them. There are times when, watching footage of both men, it’s wise to question whether they’re actually throwing too hard, if they are risking punching themselves out. Indeed, Lemieux, like Dempsey, tosses off punches with so much power and energy that he sometimes looks like a desperate quarterback launching a ‘Hail Mary’ pass.

Lastly, there’s the hair. Now look, I realize Dempsey wasn’t the handsome devil Lemieux is. Nor did he ever probably have a stylist (then again, for a time he was gracing both stage and screen with his acting talents, such as they were). Still, if you look at Dempsey’s hair during his beat down of Willard, you have to admit it is eerily similar to Lemiuex’s. I dunno, I’m not an expert on hair but both men’s “do” just seems to have a William the Conqueror, 1066 vibe going for it.

A coiffure that screams "Dempsey"!
A coiffure that screams “Dempsey!”

Perhaps you agree with me on some or all of the similarities I’ve presented here. Perhaps not. Either way, it’s good to keep in mind that some commonalities simply can’t be argued over. One is that Lemieux, like Dempsey before him, is going to step onto the big stage in front of a whole lot of people. And, what’s more, a whole lot of money is going to be involved.

Enjoy the fight.                        — Sean Crose

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