I grew up in and around the Southern Colorado town of Manassa (20 miles south of Alamosa). A man
born there was well known in the sports world, and became World Champion boxer, still considered by
many to be the greatest boxer of all time. Jack Dempsey, "The Manassa Mauler" was scheduled to
go up against world champion Jess Willard on July 4, 1919 in Toledo, Ohio.
There was a lot of concern for not just his safety, but his life. Willard had previously finished a bout
against Bull Young who died from the injuries received from Willard. Dempsey was listed at 187-1/2
pounds, but actually weighed only 180 pounds, and was a slender 6'-1" tall. Willard weighed in at
245 pounds, 65 pounds (over 1/3) heavier than Dempsey, and a full 5-1/2" taller. He was a giant!
The fight lasted 3 rounds. Willard could not continue after the third round. It was the worst beating
a champion ever took. Willard's injuries included: caved-in cheekbone, broken jaw, teeth knocked
out, broken nose, broken ribs, lost hearing in 1 ear, eyes swollen shut, multiple contusions, cuts, and
abrasions. The fight became know as "The Massacre in the Sun".
During the 1920s, Jack Dempsey was more famous than Babe Ruth.
Here is a video of the actual fight:http://www.youtube.com/v/VawHgrLvbD4
The temperature in the arena was 112 degrees!
Thought you guys might enjoy that bit of history from another "Manassa Mauler" besides me (I was
in the next-to-the-last class to graduate from Manassa High School ("The Manassa Maulers") in 1961.
14 years later, Senator Ken Salazar graduated from Centauri High School, a consolidation of Manassa
and two other school districts, where my cousin's husband was principal. Ken's brother, John, is a
U.S. congressman. I went to school with their babysitter, their father's cousin, and we graduated
The Salazars are from a small hamlet called Los Cerritos, a few miles SE of Manassa. My mother
taught school in a 1-room schoolhouse in Los Cerritos in the 1930s, and may have taught
the Salazar brothers' grandfather, but I don't know for sure. I have a picture of what I think is
the ruins of that very small structure. The family was quite poor, as were most people in that
area, and of eight children born to their parents, only three brothers survived, no doubt due to lack
of available medical care or being able to afford what little was available in the area. Conejos and
Costilla counties have the lowest income levels in the entire state.
It's amazing what can come out of really out-of-the-way places, even in adverse circumstances.
Info about the bout is from http://www.slvdweller.com
(August 13, 2006 entry).