Before Ty Detmer, Johnny Miller or Merlin Olsen, Utah was famous for a different kind of sportsman - a hard-hitting boxer by the name of William Harrison Dempsey, better known as Jack.
Jack Dempsey was born on June 24, 1895, the ninth of 11 children to Hiram and Celia Dempsey in Manassa, Colo. When he was 13, Dempsey's family moved to Provo, where Jack fought his first professional bout.He was actually the third member of his family to fight under the pseudonym "Jack."
Two older brothers, Bernie and Johnny, both spent time in the boxing ring before Dempsey left home at the age of 15 to make his fortune under the name of Young Dempsey. When Dempsey turned 19, his brothers decided it was time to pass the name "Jack" on to their younger brother.
Other names Dempsey went by were the Mannassa Mauler and the Utah Mauler. He started to make a name for himself as a boxer in Salt Lake exhibition bouts. Although he eventually moved to Manhattan and founded the Jack Dempsey restaurant, Dempsey still considered Utah his home.
On July 4, 1919, Dempsey won the world heavyweight title from the 6-foot-6, 250 pound Jess Willard in Toledo. The fight, held in 110-degree weather, ended after Willard was unable to respond for the fourth round.
Dempsey's trainer, Jack Kearns, billed him as "Jack the Giant Killer," a name that Dempsey lived up to in fight after fight.
But Dempsey would have been an enigma to modern fans familiar with Mike Tyson's tantrums and other boxers' out-of-the-ring fights. It wasn't long after Dempsey won the world title that someone asked him what his next ambition was.
"I want to be a gentleman," he said.
In 1970, Dempsey had an even more philosophical approach to boxing.
"When you're fighting you're out to win. It's no holds barred. It's either you or the other guy. But outside the ring, being nice doesn't cost a cent. I think the heavyweight champion should set an example of clean living, being nice to people and helping people," he said.
When Dempsey retired from boxing, his professional record was 60 victories out of 81 bouts, 49 by knockouts.
In 1947, Dempsey opened a restaurant across from the old Madison Square Garden. The restaurant, which later moved to the heart of Broadway, was Dempsey's pride and joy for 27 years.
On May 31, 1983, at the age of 87, Dempsey died of natural causes in his Manhattan apartment.