Dempsey and Firpo

by George Bellows (1924)

Dempsey versus Firpo took place on September 14, 1923, in New York City. Dempsey had been heavyweight champion since 1919, and Firpo was the first Latin-American to challenge for the title.

Firpo (purple shorts) dropped a stumbling Dempsey (white shorts) immediately with a right hand just after the start of the first round. Dempsey then rushed onto his rival and proceeded to drop Firpo seven times within a minute and a half. There was no “three knockdown” rule, and Dempsey was permitted to stand over the fallen fighter and immediately knock him down again, as there was yet no rule about going to a neutral corner.

But only half a minute later, towards the end of the first round, Firpo struck again. Trapping Dempsey against the ropes, he struck with another right to Dempsey’s chin. Dempsey tumbled backwards out of the ring, and a photographer caught him as his legs pointed upwards. Bellows painted this moment.

Proverbs 24:16-20

16For though a righteous man falls seven times,
he will rise again,
but the wicked stumble into calamity.

17 Don’t rejoice when your enemy falls;
don’t let yourself be glad when he stumbles.
18 Otherwise the Lord will observe and disapprove,
and he will turn his anger away from him.

19 Don’t be anxious about those who practice evil,
and don’t be envious of the wicked.
20 For the wicked man has no future;
the lamp of the wicked will be extinguished.

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