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Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Springs Toledo Delivers With In “The Cheap Seats: Boxing Essays”

Boxing Writing At Its Best In This Fine Collection
by Bobby Franklin
Springs Toledo is back with another collection of essays on boxing.

Springs Toledo is back with another collection of essays on boxing. In 2014 his first collection, The Gods of War, was widely acclaimed. It has joined the ranks of boxing classics.

With this latest collection, In The Cheap Seats, he has created another contender. I am not sure it will go on to winning a world title the way The Gods Of War did, but it certainly deserves a wide readership unblocked games at school.

Many of the essays contained in this latest work by Mr. Toledo focus on more recent fights and fighters. Springs makes connections with the styles and personalities of past greats and those vying for greatness today. He does a fine job of this, but I have a hard time buying a lot of the comparisons. Maybe I am just old and cranky, but to me the glory days of boxing have long passed. While Springs does a wonderful job of linking the past with the present, he knows boxing history and understands the art, I sometimes found myself questioning if he truly believed what he was writing or was trying to convince himself as much as his readers about the quality of today’s sport.

He points out how when Henry Armstrong held three world titles simultaneously there were only a total of eight recognized divisions. It is staggering to look back on that time with the competition Armstrong faced and comprehend his accomplishment. Springs has written about the proliferation of divisions and titles that exist today which makes having a multi belt holder nowhere near the challenge it was in Armstrong’s time, so I wonder why he felt if Floyd Mayweather had added a middleweight title to his array of belts it would have put him up there in stature with the great Henry Armstrong. I am not trying to take anything away from Floyd, but it is a very different sport now than it was in 1938. Again, maybe I am just too jaded to get excited about almost anything in today’s world of boxing.

In The Cheap Seats has many other great essays contained between its covers.
Mr. Toledo’s piece on Bruce Lee and the influence boxing had on him is fascinating to read.

Mr. Toledo’s piece on Bruce Lee and the influence boxing had on him is fascinating to read.Not only does he explain how Lee adapted his martial arts style because of boxing, but, and here is where Springs’ knowledge of the fine points of the Sweet Science come into play, he explains the difference in defensive posture that gives a boxer the upper hand. It is essays like this that set him apart from so many of those who think they know the sport and try to write about the mechanics of boxing. I once remember a self appointed authority on boxing giving a lecture and telling the audience that it was impossible for a boxer to throw a double left hook. These pretenders should not be allowed to use up the perfectly good paper that could be utilized by writers like Springs Toledo.

I found myself really getting into the rhythm of Toledo’s writing when he was recounting a conversation he had in Hyannis, MA with former welterweight contender George Maddox. Using the magic of his pen Springs captured the humanity of this wonderful man. I know George and what I read could only be compared to a fine portrait of him painted by a great artist. This is Springs at his best, describing the movements and words of an eighty-one year old former boxer who still takes great pride in his accomplishments. In just a few paragraphs you will come to know George Maddox. You will also feel the respect the author has for such men. It is beautiful stuff.
There is much more to savor in this collection. In Where Have You Gone Harry Greb? you find out why the Pittsburgh Windmill is rated by Springs as the greatest pound for pound fighter ever.
You get the inside scoop on the sparring sessions between Greb and Jack Dempsey

You get the inside scoop on the sparring sessions between Greb and Jack Dempsey that will lead you to seriously wonder if Harry could have taken the Manassa Mauler. I believe Springs thinks Harry could have done it. I think it would have been a great fight and a difficult one for Jack, but his strength would have won the battle.

You’ll also get to read interesting pieces about how if boxing was more widely taught there could be less need for people to use guns. This subject is discussed in the context of the George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin tragedy. Springs strips away the knee jerk emotions on all sides of the controversy and takes a measured look at how to prevent such things from happening. It is a refreshing piece to read in this age of media sensationalism.

There is even a chapter devoted to the effects a vegetarian diet can have on punching power. Being a vegetarian myself it has made me want to get to the gym and test out my old left hook.

Springs closes out his fine collection with a piece about Mae West and her connection with the boxing world. It is a very interesting piece about a one of a kind personality, and will go down as a classic.Springs Toledo

While I find it difficult to share Springs Toledo’s love of present day boxing, I do enjoy his writing. He is a throwback, an old school writer along the lines of A.J. Leibling whom he admires. Throw in a dash of Raymond Chandler and stir it up with Springs’ own unique style and you have a writer who leaves you wanting more. Many younger readers of these essays will be hearing about the greats of the past for the first time. I hope, and believe they will, be inspired to find out more about the rich history of this great sport Unblocked Games Hacked.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

With a week in the books, the playoffs only offer more questions

Two different people with the same two words on the same subject: Chris Paul.

It appears the broken bone in his right hand will keep Paul out for the rest of the playoffs. What does that mean? Well, if we've learned from this postseason, it's that we don't know what anything means. The terms are too subject to change.

The Golden State Warriors began the playoffs as the heavy favorites to win the championship. Then Stephen Curry slipped and sprained his MCL and suddenly we wondered whether the Warriors could beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the next round. And now with the Clippers tied at 2-2 with the Portland Trail Blazers, Paul out and Blake Griffin hobbled by an aggravation of his left quadriceps injury, we don't know if the Warriors will even face the Clippers in the next round.

Let's not forget, there's still work to do for the Warriors to finish the first round against the Houston Rockets, who overcame a 3-1 deficit last season to beat the Clippers.

How is it possible that we know less after a week and a half than we did at the start of the playoffs? There's usually a certain order to the NBA postseason, which tend to adhere to form. The best players and the best teams move on. Not now. These are a pencil-only playoffs. Too much has changed over the past two days to give anyone confidence about predicting the next two weeks or the next two rounds.

What's past is not necessarily prologue, either. Last year, the Clippers split two playoff road games that they played without Paul. But that was with Griffin playing at a superstar level. Now Griffin can't even guarantee he'll play at all in Game 5 in Los Angeles on Wednesday.

"I'm not sure," Griffin said. "Tomorrow, I think we'll take a better look and hopefully go from there."

Asking Griffin to reproduce his 26 points, 14 rebounds and 13 assists from Game 1 of last year's Rockets series is probably asking too much. Asking him to match his 19-12-6 line from Game 1 of this series with Portland could be a stretch. On Monday night, he tried to take off the way he used to, when he dunked on people with reckless abandon. He got fouled by Mason Plumlee, didn't come anywhere close to throwing the ball through the hoop and soon found himself rubbing his quadriceps on the sideline and even heading back to the locker room to get checked out. He returned to the game, but his gait was noticeably affected.Chris Paul has put the Clippers on his back this season, directing them to a fifth straight postseason. They'll need another plan now that the star point guard is out with a broken right hand. AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer

The harsh reality for the Clippers is that even when Paul and Griffin were on the court together in Game 4, they were always a step behind the Blazers. This young Portland team is settling into the series. The Trail Blazers won Game 4 because no one tried to do too much; they just took advantage of the opportunities that were presented to them. Al-Farouq Aminu finally punished the Clippers for leaving him open by making six of his 10 3-point shots. C.J. McCollum scored 19 points on 13 shots. Plumlee served as the release valve when the Clippers pressured Damian Lillard, facilitated the offense from the middle of the floor and had 10 assists to go with his 14 rebounds. Ed Davis grabbed 12 rebounds off the bench.

It remains to be seen if the Trail Blazers can play this well on the road, just as it remains to be seen if the Clippers will completely fall apart while their two stars are ailing. (After all, the Warriors won a playoff game that Curry didn't start, and Golden State played its best quarter of the postseason after Curry went down in Game 4.)

"Obviously, people are going to write us off," Jamal Crawford said. "But what are you going to do? Are you going to fight or run?"

That's the primary decision -- and, really, the only one that matters. Doc Rivers said he didn't even know what lineups he'll go with for Game 5, in part because he's unsure of Griffin's availability. In a sense, it's almost futile -- an exercise in the existential predicament to ask him who will fill in for Paul.

"There's nobody, probably, in the league that's going to replace Chris Paul," Rivers said. "So there's nobody clearly on our team that's going to do it. As a group, everybody pitches in."

That's as honest an assessment as you'll ever hear from a coach whose own son is on the point guard depth chart. Family takes a back seat in the playoffs. Paul once said he'd hit his own mother if she were on the court trying to stop him.

"Your moms?" I asked him later

"Hey, she knows," Paul said.

We know how badly Paul wanted to end the narrative of his second-round playoff ceiling. We know what he did to carry the Clippers into the fourth playoff seed without Griffin for three months. And now we know his team will have to win without him.

The current conditions are the only certainty we have. What comes next in these ever-changing NBA playoffs feels more unpredictable than ever.

Iconic Dempsey exemplified the Roaring '20s

It's been debated, often and sincerely enough, whether the times make the man or vice versa. Jack Dempsey, the modern fight game's first real superstar, certainly was a product of his era, but no sports figure better epitomized what we recall in history books today as the Roaring '20s.

Forget pugs in general. There were some great ones in the 1920s -- Harry Greb, Mickey Walker, Benny Leonard and Jimmy Wilde, to name a few. Dempsey was on another level. His fame was such that he could mix with the fight game's various and sundry criminals and lowlifes as well as he could with Charlie Chaplin, Rudolph Valentino and Charles Lindbergh.

More people in America knew the name "Dempsey" than followed the exploits of infamous gangster John Dillinger in the daily papers. He was -- to apply a term that's overused in our modern, celebrity-based culture -- an icon.
Dempsey "was the greatest and most beloved sports hero the country had ever known," wrote author and writer Paul Gallico, whose career was launched by an article he wrote about Dempsey's having flattened him in a sparring session when Gallico worked for the New York Daily News.

You could argue that Dempsey was just one of many iconic figures enthralling the rabble in what sports historians consider the golden age. Indeed, Babe Ruth was a beloved figure, as were Bobby Jones and Red Grange, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean and others. Commercially, though, none approached Dempsey.

At the height of his career, Ruth made about $70,000 a year. Dempsey made a staggering $300,000 for his 1921 title defense against Frenchman and light heavyweight champion Georges Carpentier at Boyle's Thirty Acres in Jersey City, N.J.

When the receipts of roughly 91,000 spectators were totaled after Dempsey's four-round knockout, they equaled $1,789,238 -- boxing's first million-dollar gate.

It's true that much of the success of that event was attributable to the promotion of brilliant Tex Rickard, who enflamed the passions of the fans and the press in the buildup by touting Carpentier's successes during World War I. Why was that important?

In 1917, Dempsey had registered for the draft and was granted, as the sole support of family, a deferment. In the wake of World War I, he was indicted for draft evasion based on the claims of his ex-wife, Maxine Cates, 15 years his senior, who swore under oath that she had made her own money.

At the trial in San Francisco in June 1920, Dempsey produced a letter from the secretary of the Navy that supported his claim, and the jury acquitted him. But the damage had been done -- the country saw him as a "slacker," especially after a wartime publicity photo was circulated that showed him supposedly working in a Philadelphia shipyard but wearing patent leather shoes.

Thus was the first "good" versus "evil" match born in boxing. Carpentier was the former, scowling, menacing Dempsey the latter.

As a result, even the New Jersey crowd rooted for Carpentier, but that didn't help him in the ring, where he was no match for the "Manassa Mauler."
"It was impossible for us to root for Dempsey," Heywood Broun wrote in the New York Tribune. "He was too methodical and too efficient. It would have been like giving three long cheers for the guillotine as Sydney Carton went to meet it where it waited."

It wasn't until Dempsey's decision loss five years later to Gene Tunney that he fully became a national hero and fan favorite. Enjoying the spoils of being the world heavyweight champion, he hadn't fought in three years when he and Tunney met in Philadelphia's Sesquicentennial Stadium.
No fewer than 120,000 fans endured a steady rain to watch Dempsey, who -- soft from inactivity and easy living -- chased Tunney ineffectually for 10 rounds.

That was all it took for the world to love him: the loss of the heavyweight title -- especially to Tunney, an erudite, well-spoken college boy about whom humorist Will Rogers later opined, "Let's have prizefighters with harder wallops and less Shakespeare."

The rematch, which Dempsey earned with a knockout of former champion Jack Sharkey, drew another hundred thousand fans, this time 104,493 at Soldier Field in Chicago.

"The Battle of the Long Count" was the last of Dempsey's career, and the paydays of the participants demonstrated its importance, though Dempsey came out on the short end for the first time; he made $450,000 to Tunney's $990,000.

It was another first for Dempsey, boxing's first $2 million gate, and the controversy over how long Tunney was down and whether he could have gotten up not only added enormously to Dempsey's legend but became a permanent fixture in fight game lore.

"I look back on that fight, he wasn't hurt too bad," Dempsey told author Peter Heller in 1970. "Tunney would have got up. Naturally, I was in hopes he wouldn't get up. I stood there because I was anxious to get at him, see? I should have went back to the right corner but I didn't do it. If he hadn't have got up, maybe we could have had another fight."
By that time, Dempsey's fights were exercises in melodrama, as was the case in his highly dramatic second-round knockout of Angel Firpo in 1922, a fight that drew a whopping 80,000 to the Polo Grounds in New York.

The story of how the ringside media -- specifically, the New York Tribune's Jack Lawrence and telegraph operator Perry Grogan -- helped shove Dempsey back into the ring after Firpo knocked him through the ropes is known to virtually every self-respecting fight fan the world over.

How exciting was it? A full 30 years later, a respected group of veteran sportswriters voted it the most dramatic sports moment of the century.

Dempsey's title-winning knockout of Jess Willard in 1919 was no less memorable and even today is recalled as one of the most brutal beatings ever administered by a challenger in a heavyweight title bout.

In all, Dempsey made better than $4 million over his 13-year career, and even though he lost most of it in the 1929 stock market crash, he did all right for himself after retirement, boxing countless exhibitions and opening a popular restaurant and nightclub in New York.
Many deride him still for the lethargic rate at which he defended what then really was the most coveted prize in all of sport -- he made just five defenses in a seven-year reign -- and also for avoiding Harry Wills, his top contender for much of that time.

Dempsey insisted until his death in 1983 that it wasn't because he was afraid to fight Wills.
"I would have fought Wills," Dempsey told the New York Post in 1953, "but nobody would promote it. When Wills challenged, Tex Rickard would have nothing to do with the fight. He said he had instructions from Washington not to promote a mixed[-race] bout for the heavyweight title."

It sounds wholly contrived now, absurd even, but in the 1920s, just a few years removed from the reign of Jack Johnson, it seems perfectly plausible.

Even if Dempsey did duck Wills, and even if he was a lazy champion, his merit solely as a prizefighter has withstood the effects of the decades that wear down the accomplishments of lesser legends.

At various times in the past decade, The Ring magazine has named him the seventh-hardest puncher of all time, the 16th-best fighter of the past 80 years, the fifth-best heavyweight ever and the sixth-greatest fighter of the 20th century.

Sharkey, who was knocked out by Dempsey and later by Joe Louis, said, "If Dempsey and Louis ever went into a phone booth to fight, I have no doubt Dempsey is the one who would walk out [the winner]."

That can be forever debated. This cannot: Dempsey would have been great in any era. The Roaring '20s made him a legend.

This Jack Dempsey Was 'Nonpareil' : The 1880s Fighter Was World Middleweight Champion in John L. Sullivan's Era

He looks at us through mists of time, from faded, crinkled 19th-Century photographs.

It's the jaw that draws you to him.

Massive, clean, squared off. The jaw shows that here, plainly, is a man from the warriorclass.

And he was. He was Jack Dempsey, decades before anyone ever heard of that other Jack Dempsey, the 1920s heavyweight champion who took his name.

The original Jack Dempsey was also known as "the Nonpareil," which means without equal. This, even though his career paralleled that of the famed 1880s heavyweight champion, John L. Sullivan.

Dempsey was the world middleweight champion from 1884 to 1891. To a generation of American boxing followers, he was a fighter who first demonstrated that boxing can be performed as art, with style, grace and athleticism.

Where Sullivan vanquished foes with brute strength, Dempsey was a craftsman who employed technique, strategy and guile.

His life was short, but he touched nearly everyone who saw him fight. When he died in Portland, Ore., of tuberculosis, in 1895, he was only 32.

Dempsey's great-great grandson is Scott Weber of Huntington Beach. Recently, Weber showed a visitor the boxer's gold-handled, ebony walking stick, given to him in Portland at a testimonial.

Inscribed on the handle: "Presented to Jack Dempsey by a few of his Portland admirers. Sept. 91."

Weber also has an ornate pewter inkwell set, with the fighter's name across the base in bold, raised letters:


"I never really knew much about him, but I'm still proud to be related to such a greatfighter," Weber, 48, said recently.

"There are a lot of gaps in my knowledge of Dempsey, but among the things I do know is that he lived and died at 393 Grand Ave., Portland, the house he built when he was champion. It was torn down in the 1930s.

"Also, I know that his real name was John Kelly. I'm not sure why he didn't use his real name, but it might have been because he didn't want his parents to know he was boxing.

"My grandfather died in 1980 at 94, and he knew a lot about Jack Dempsey. I've always regretted not getting a lot of what he knew down on paper."

Fate relegated Dempsey to second-billing in his era, beneath the heavyweight champion, Sullivan.

The middleweight division was new (in Dempsey's time, the middleweight limit was 152 pounds instead of today's 160), and Dempsey is recognized today as the division's first true champion of the modern era.

Apparently, he was deserving of his nickname.

In his 1895 obituary in the Portland Oregonian, a writer penned:

"Dempsey was cool under fire and never got rattled. . . . He changed his tactics in almost every battle, and his adversary never knew just how to size him up.

"If a man made a rushing fight, Jack would give him a whirlwind scrap. If, on the other hand, his adversary made a defensive fight, Jack would take more time and whip him at leisure."

Dempsey and Sullivan, in the 1880s, were America's first sports superstars, known coast tocoast.

Born in Curran, County Kildare, Ireland, Dempsey grew up in Brooklyn. He was an apprentice cooper (a maker or repairer of barrels) when he began boxing, in 1883. He was unbeaten in 14 fights when he won the world middleweight title in 1884 by knocking out George Fuljames at Great Kill, N.Y.

Dempsey's earnings seem puny by today's standards, but in the 1880s, few athletes made more. For his early major fights, his purses ranged from $500 to $3,500.

When he was beaten by Bob Fitzsimmons in 1891, he earned his biggest purse, $12,000. It was a sum the New York Times reporter who covered the fight called "colossal."

After his defeat by Fitzsimmons, Dempsey began showing symptoms of the tuberculosis that would kill him.

Fitzsimmons went on to become heavyweight champion, knocking out Gentleman Jim Corbett three years later.

The reason Dempsey changed his surname in his youth has been lost to history. Curiously, the 1920s heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey, whose given name was William Harrison Dempsey, was the fifth known boxer to have used the name Jack Dempsey.

After the 1880s middleweight champion used it, heavyweight Jack Dempsey's three older brothers--Bernie, Johnnie and Harry--took the name. The youngest Dempsey then used it, after abandoning his Colorado mining camp fight name of "Kid Blackie."

After seeing Iraq up close, top U.S. general wary on Syria

America's top military officer General Martin Dempsey has already seen one Middle Eastern civil war. He is much more cautious about involvement in another.

While Dempsey, 61, has argued in favor of the White House's idea of limited military strikes against Syria and arming moderate rebels, he has made clear his lack of enthusiasm for widening America's role in the conflict much beyond that.

A decade ago, Dempsey was a brigadier general commanding the 1st Armored Division in Baghdad. The United States had toppled President Saddam Hussein, expecting to bring stability to Iraq. But Iraqi insurgents took advantage of a power vacuum to launch a bombing campaign that targeted mosques, hotels and embassies - including a blast that killed the U.N. envoy.

Dempsey acknowledged in 2011, the year he was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that U.S. political and military leaders - including himself - had failed to fully grasp the strength of sectarian hatreds in Iraq.

"I didn't understand the dynamic inside that country, particularly with regard to the various sects of Islam that fundamentally, on occasion, compete with each other for dominance," he told a hearing in the U.S. Congress.

"I've reflected about that a lot," he said. "I've learned that issues don't exist in isolation. They're always complex," said Dempsey, who has been criticized by Republican Senator John McCain for not pushing harder for military action in Syria.

The chance of a U.S. attack has lessened in recent days as Washington and Moscow explore a way to secure Syria's chemical weapons, but Obama told Americans in a televised address on Tuesday that he is ready to use force if the diplomacy fails.

Dempsey has warned against setting up a no-fly zone or U.S. intervention that would change the course of the civil war and lead to the collapse of the Syrian government without a clear understanding of what might follow.

In Iraq, Dempsey's division was the biggest single U.S. military element at the time, and he frequently went out onto the streets of Baghdad.

"General Dempsey realized early on that there were going to be issues developing institutions and stable governance in post-Saddam Iraq," said Lieutenant Colonel David Gercken, who served with him in Iraq.

Dempsey's forces had their tour of duty extended to deal with rising violence from the followers of Shi'ite militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

He left Iraq after 14 months and returned in August 2005 for a two-year tour as head of an effort to train Iraqi security forces to handle their own national security.

That was the height of the sectarian war that ripped the country apart as Shi'ite militias and death squads as well as Sunni groups linked to al Qaeda slaughtered thousands of people. Mosques, including one of the holiest sites in Shi'ite Islam, were bombed and desecrated.


Dempsey belongs to a cadre of warrior scholars who have inhabited the upper ranks of the U.S. military in recent years. Two others are Admiral James Stavridis, who became dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University after retiring from the military this year, and retired Army General David Petraeus, who has a doctorate from Princeton.

Dempsey, who holds a master's degree in English from Duke University focusing on Irish literary figures, said Iraq had made him ponder America's haste to use military force.

"I've been scarred by rereading a quote from Einstein, who said if you have an hour to save the world, spend 55 minutes of it understanding the problem and five minutes of it trying to solve it," he told lawmakers two years ago.

"I think sometimes, in particular as a military culture, we don't have that ratio right," Dempsey said. "We tend to spend 55 minutes trying to ... solve the problem and five minutes understanding it."
His approach to Syria has aroused the ire of critics who have pushed for quick, decisive U.S. action to help the collection of rebel groups fighting to oust Assad.

McCain said in June that the "situation is much more dire than it was" when Dempsey became chairman and suggested that U.S. "inaction" had created an even greater threat to American national security interests.

"You say ... we need to understand what the peace will look like before we start the war," said McCain to Dempsey, noting the rising death toll in Syria. "Do you think we ought to see how we could stop the war by intervening and stopping the massacre?"

Others have joined the chorus. Retired Major General Robert Scales, a former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, wrote in The Washington Post that the chairman's "body language" at recent congressional hearings about whether to attack Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons made it clear that he "doesn't want this war."

Supporters say, unlike Secretary of State John Kerry who has led the push for action against Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, out of respect for civilian control of the military, has to walk a fine line between advice and advocacy.

"What McCain was asking Dempsey to do was to make a choice about what's in the best interests of the United States. That is a policy ... choice that is not the role of the chairman," said Richard Kohn, a professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina who has studied civilian control of the military.

"We have a long tradition of the proper norms and behaviors of the most senior military adviser to the president of the United States," said Kohn, who has advised Dempsey. "It is definitely not his role to be pushing the president to be doing anything in particular."

Gen. Martin Dempsey Leaves a Legacy of Caution

Tuesday’s nomination of a new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman began the formal winding down of Gen. Martin Dempsey’s tenure. Yet Gen. Dempsey’s vision—one of caution about U.S. military engagements and reliance on local partners—is expected to prevail through the end of Barack Obama’s term.

Mr. Obama nominated Marine Corps commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. to the Joint Chiefs chairmanship that Gen. Dempsey vacates Oct. 1. Gen. Dunford is largely built from the same mold as Gen. Dempsey, U.S. defense officials said.

Like the current chairman, Gen. Dunford has been unconvinced of the utility of many long-term deployments of American troops. A former top international commander in Afghanistan, he arrived there skeptical of the counterinsurgency mission taken on by his predecessors.

He sped up the transition to having American forces focus nearly exclusively on training the Afghan military, a critical part of the U.S. exit strategy. Gen. Dunford, associates say, has long been wary of having U.S. forces carry out missions that could be done by local forces.

All this squares with the approach taken by Gen. Dempsey in his nearly four years as the nation’s most senior uniformed officer—the top military adviser to both the president and the defense secretary. Like most senior generals active today, Gen. Dempsey was shaped by the long Iraq war.

So when the U.S. military returned to Iraq in 2014 to combat Islamic State, he pushed for tight restrictions on how American forces could operate, to make Iraqis do more themselves. These are restrictions that defense officials expect Gen. Dunford to continue.

This caution about the use of force mirrors and reinforces Mr. Obama’s, with the result that Gen. Dempsey has emerged as the most consistent voice inside the administration arguing for a limited role for the U.S. military. Gen. Dempsey often tells policy makers the use of force rarely turns out as predicted.

His critics charge that this view has led to America’s slow withdrawal from the world stage and left the U.S. too timid in the face of crises.


“One thing Gen. Dempsey has proven,” said Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), who is among his leading critics, “is if you don’t want to intervene anywhere, in any country, you can invent reasons not to get involved. The military always errs on the side of caution, but not to the extent I see with Gen. Dempsey’s advice.”

While long taking a skeptical view of Gen. Dempsey, Sen. McCain has been supportive of Gen. Dunford, admiring how the Marine leader effectively pushed for troops to remain in Afghanistan after 2014.

Gen. Dempsey declined to be interviewed for this article, and Gen. Dunford, who faces Senate confirmation, also wasn’t available for comment. In an interview in December to discuss Iraq, Gen. Dempsey invoked an insight of theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg, which, in simplified form, is that scientists observing the world cannot help but alter its path.

“It requires a degree of tactical and strategic patience before you rush in,” Gen. Dempsey said. “It is the Heisenberg problem: When you touch it, you change it.”

Gen. Dempsey is hardly an isolationist or reflexively against intervention, associates say. But neither does he shun the description of him as cautious. Senior officials say he has come to realize his boss is even more so. That difference emerged on the issue of whether to provide some weapons to Ukraine—an idea embraced by Gen. Dempsey but blocked by Mr. Obama.

Much of Gen. Dempsey’s approach stems from his experience in Iraq. In 2005, for instance, he took charge of the training of Iraqi security forces, at a time when the U.S. had intelligence that some Iraqi commanders were leading sectarian death squads. In a room inside Baghdad’s Green Zone, he got into an argument with Robert Ford, a political counselor at the U.S. embassy.


U.S. Army trainers instruct Iraqi army recruits at a military base in April in Taji, Iraq. Gen. Dempsey is determined both that the Iraqis be well-trained and that they take on the bulk of the work in pushing back Islamic State from territory it captured last year. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Mr. Ford said the military should fire some of the Iraqi police commanders to set an example. Gen. Dempsey, who former associates say has a temper, turned red-faced, according to participants in the meeting. He later told other officials he knew that bad commanders had to be rooted out, but he was furious that this problem was being laid at his feet when its cause stemmed from the rushed way the forces had been created in the first place.

For Gen. Dempsey, there was a lesson from the mess: Don’t train a large force in a short amount of time.

Today, with the U.S. military again engaged in Iraq, top military officers say the renewed training of Iraqi forces won’t be rushed.

Like Mr. Obama, Gen. Dempsey was reluctant to return the U.S. military to Iraq. Yet when Islamic State forces threatened America’s Kurdish allies and mounted genocidal attacks on Yazidis, Christians and others who weren’t Sunni Muslims, Gen. Dempsey advised that the U.S. should act.

The U.S. had to make sure the Iraqis were taking charge, though, Gen. Dempsey said in the December interview.

He cited the example of an Iraqi government request for a humanitarian aid drop in northern Iraq. U.S. commanders refused, noting the Iraqis had their own cargo planes; the U.S. ended up helping rig the load, but it was the Iraqis who flew the mission.

“At end of the day, that is what has to happen,” Gen. Dempsey said. “Otherwise, we become the 911 service again.”

Gen. Dunford, his chosen successor, takes a similar approach. Although Gen. Dunford argued for the extension of the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan past the scheduled departure date of 2014, he agreed to a strict time limit on those forces.

“Gen. Dunford is very conscious in every way that his decisions will be carried out by a lot of young Americans,” said Sen. Jack Reed (D, R.I.), the senior Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee led by Sen. McCain.

As difficult as Iraq is, Syria has been the U.S.’s most complex national-security crisis in Gen. Dempsey’s time as chairman. Supporters say he helped craft a reasonable approach that has kept the U.S. from involvement in a fight that can’t be won. Critics, for their part, say Gen. Dempsey’s caution helped prevent the U.S. from intervening on behalf of moderate rebels battling Bashar al-Assad’s regime at a time when it could have made a difference.


President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is nominating Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr. to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photo: Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

In early 2012, Gen. David Richards, then the British armed-forces chief, began talking with Gen.

Dempsey about an ambitious proposal to train moderate Syrian rebels on a large scale. Gen. Dempsey expressed initial enthusiasm but later told Gen. Richards that something so large was a nonstarter in Washington.

“Marty is instinctively cautious, and by the way, that is no bad thing,” Gen. Richards said. “Most military men who have seen combat are cautious. If you are going to go to war, do it properly or don’t do it at all.”

In the late summer 2012, the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency began pushing to move forward with aid to the Free Syrian Army, then the leading moderate rebel group. Inside the tank, the room where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet, the discussion came back to lessons of the U.S. proxy war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Would Syrian rebels turn on the U.S. just as the U.S.-backed Afghan mujahedeen ultimately had done?

The Joint Chiefs realized the rebel force was changing, according to a person present. But they didn’t understand exactly how, so the consensus was to proceed cautiously.

Leon Panetta, then defense secretary, said that in contrast to “the panicked approach” to decision making that can prevail during security crises, Gen. Dempsey’s “instincts are to take that deep breath and think through what you’re going to do and what you’re facing so that you do as much as you can to avoid the kinds of mistakes you are going to regret.”

Military officers close to Gen. Dempsey say his role isn’t to advocate a course of action but to offer advice on options. Advocates of doing more in Syria saw him as a roadblock.

In 2012, Mr. Ford, the diplomat who had squared off against Gen. Dempsey seven years earlier in Iraq, was the U.S. ambassador to Syria and a leading advocate of a more muscular response there.

Mr. Ford, who resigned in 2014 and has become a critic of the administration’s approach to Syria, said Gen. Dempsey and the White House should have better recognized the risk of inaction.

“The problem is they waited and waited and waited for the perfect. And the perfect never came along. We have waited for the perfect for so long that we lost the chance for good,” Mr. Ford said.

The CIA began a training program for moderate rebels in mid-2013. That program was widely seen as a failure, and this year the military began a separate training effort. Officials say it will start later this spring.

Gen. Dempsey is confident the U.S. understands cause and effect when contemplating conflicts with other nation states. But, he said in the December interview, fights with terror groups are “far more complex and require a degree of thinking and caution.”

Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, who has served with both Gen. Dempsey and Gen. Dunford, said both showed during the Iraq war that they were operational virtuosos. He added that both also learned hard lessons about American power, including that to have a lasting impact on the ground, you have to work through allies. “You help the good guys, but you don’t do it all for them,” he said.

Half-facetiously, Gen. Mattis cited another continuity between the current and the newly nominated Joint Chiefs chairman: “We have got one Irishman replacing another Irishman,” he said. “Both of them are comfortable in their own skin.”

Jack Dempsey, 87, is Dead; Boxing Champion of 1920's

Jack Dempsey was one of the last of a dwindling company whose exploits distinguished the 1920's as ''the golden age of sports.'' His contemporaries were Babe Ruth in baseball, Red Grange and the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame in football, Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen in golf, Bill Tilden, Helen Wills Moody and Suzanne Lenglen in tennis, Johnny Weissmuller and Gertrude Ederle in swimming, Paavo Nurmi in track, Man o' War, the racehorse, and Earl Sande, the jockey. But none of the others enjoyed more lasting popularity than the man who ruled boxing between 1919 and 1926.

Strangely, though, Mr. Dempsey's popularity never approached its peak until he had lost the championship. He was reviled as a slacker during World War I, and although a jury exonerated him of a charge of draft-dodging, the odium clung to him until the night Gene Tunney punched him almost blind and took his title.

''Lead me out there,'' Jack told his trainer after that bout. ''I want to shake his hand.''

'Honey, I Forgot to Duck' 
Back in their hotel, Estelle Taylor Dempsey was appalled by her husband's battered face. ''Ginsberg!'' she cried, using her pet name for him. ''What happened?''

''Honey,'' the former champion said, ''I forgot to duck.'' From that day on, the gallant loser was a folk hero whose fame never diminished. Almost 23 years after he lost the championship, he was having breakfast with friends in Chicago, where Ezzard Charles and Jersey Joe Walcott were to box the following night for his old title, left vacant by the retirement of Joe Louis. A stranger passing their table recognized the old champion.

''Jack Dempsey!'' he said, offering his hand. ''Oh, boy, Jack, do I know you! Do I remember how you gave it to Jack Willard back there in Toledo!'' Leaning forward, he put his face close to Jack's ear, and his voice dropped to a conspiratorial level. ''I hope you beat hell out of that guy tomorrow night,'' he said and turned away.

Speechless for an instant, Mr. Dempsey stared after him. ''Well, I'll be damned,'' he said. ''He thinks I'm still champion!''

Free Spender and Soft Touch 
To many, Mr. Dempsey always remained the champion, and he always comported himself like one. He was warm and generous, a free spender when he had it and a soft touch for anybody down on his luck. After retirement from the ring, he made his headquarters in New York in Jack Dempsey's Restaurant, first at the corner of 50th Street across Eighth Avenue from the old Madison Square Garden and later at 1619 Broadway, where his partner was Jack Amiel, whose colt, Count Turf, won the Kentucky Derby.

At almost any hour, Mr. Dempsey was on hand to greet friends and strangers with a cordial, ''Hiya, pal,'' in a voice close to a boyish treble. (He wasn't much better at remembering names than Babe Ruth, who called people ''kid.'') He posed for thousands of photographs with an arm around a customer's shoulders or - if the customer preferred, and many males did -squared off face to face. Autographing tens of thousands of menus, he never scribbled an impersonal ''Jack Dempsey'' but always took the trouble to write the recipient's name and add ''good luck'' or ''keep punching.'' His ebullient good humor was even demonstrated against the occasional drunk who simply had to try out his Sunday punch on the old champion.

Grantland Rice said Mr. Dempsey was perhaps the finest gentleman, in the literal sense of gentle man, he had met in half a century of writing sports; Mr. Dempsey never knowingly hurt anyone except in the line of business.

A Tiger in the Ring 
In the ring, he was a tiger without mercy who shuffled forward in a bobbing crouch, humming a barely audible tune and punching to the rhythm of the song. He was 187 pounds of unbridled violence. That isn't big by heavyweight standards, yet in the judgment of some, this black-browed product of Western mining camps and hobo jungles was the best of all pugilists. In 1950, a poll by The Associated Press named Mr. Dempsey the greatest fighter of the half-century.

Certainly nobody surpassed him in color and crowd appeal. He drew boxing's first million-dollar gate in fighting Georges Carpentier, boxing's largest paid attendance in his first bout with Tunney and the biggest ''live'' gate in their second meeting. As champion, Tunney received $990,445 for the latter fight, which grossed $2,658,660. He gave Tex Rickard, the promoter, his personal check for $9,555 and Mr. Rickard wrote a check for $1 million, the biggest purse ever collected for a single performance in sports before the days of closed-circuit television.

Dempsey was less than two weeks past his 24th birthday but had been through more than 80 professional fights, some unrecorded, when he burst upon the championship scene like a mortar shell. It was July 4, 1919, a blistering day on the shore of Maumee Bay outside Toledo, Ohio. Awaiting the opening bell as challenger for the heavyweight title, the 6-foot-1-inch contender was tanned and fit at 187 pounds. But he looked no more than half the size of Jess Willard, the champion, a pale tract of meat measuring 6 feet 6 1/2 inches tall and weighing 245 pounds.

7 Knockdowns in 3 Minutes 
Three minutes later Willard looked like a case for the coroner. He had been down seven times, and one left hook had broken his cheekbone in 13 places. Thinking the seventh knockdown had ended the fight, Dempsey and his manager, Jack (Doc) Kearns, left the ring but were called back.

After two more rounds the helpless Willard was spared further damage when one of his seconds signaled surrender by throwing a towel into the ring.

Now it was Dempsey, heavyweight champion of the world, and the bottom line of his record read: ''KO 3.'' But the winner's jubilation was tempered by the discovery that Mr. Kearns had bet $10,000 of their guarantee on a first-round knockout, taking odds of 10 to 1, and the remaining $17,500 had gone for ''training expenses,'' an omnibus term in the manager's lexicon.

In a ghost-written autobiography many years later, Mr. Kearns took partial credit for the destructive effect of his man's punches. He wrote that he had used plaster-of-paris bandages on Dempsey's hand and that these had hardened into casts inside the gloves after being doused with water. Dempsey denied that his gloves had been loaded, and the tale never won general acceptance because Doc Kearns was known to be a creative artist who seldom let truth spoil a good story.

Overalls and Fancy Shoes 
The destruction of Willard convinced boxing men of the new champion's greatness, but the public was slow to accept Dempsey because of his war record. Ostensibly doing essential work in a Philadelphia shipyard, he had posed for a news photograph holding a riveting gun and wearing overalls, with patent-leather shoes. The fancy footgear raised noisy doubts about his contribution to the war effort.

More than two years after the armistice, Mr. Rickard capitalized on this unfavorable publicity to build up the first million-dollar gate. Carpentier, the light-heavyweight champion, had been decorated in the French armed forces. When Mr. Rickard matched Dempsey with the Paris boulevardier in a wooden arena called Boyle's 30 Acres in Jersey City, the ''hero'' became a sentimental favorite over the ''slacker.'' A crowd of 80,183 paid $1,789,238 to see Dempsey win by a knockout in the fourth round.

Having broken all financial records, Dempsey and Mr. Kearns proceeded to break the city of Shelby, Mont. After an oil strike near their small community, Shelby boosters gave way to delusions of grandeur and promised the champion $250,000 to defend his title against the light-hitting Tommy Gibbons. The promotion laid an egg, but Mr. Kearns collected the entire guarantee and had a locomotive and caboose waiting to rush the money and the champion's party out of town as soon as Dempsey had won on points. Behind them, the banks that had put up the cash closed. Shelby had a hole in the seat of its civic breeches for a generation.

Wild Bout With Firpo 
To those who saw it, the Dempsey-Firpo bout of 1923 was the most wildly exciting ever fought for the heavyweight title. Luis Angel Firpo of Argentina, unpolished and untamed, dazed the champion with a right to the jaw seconds after the opening bell. Only half-conscious, Dempsey dropped Firpo four times. Firpo knocked the champion into the press row, where reporters instinctively raised hands and shoved to protect themselves. Thus aided, Dempsey got back in the ring and put Firpo down once more before the bell. Two more knockdowns finished the Argentine in the second round.

The Firpo fight was Dempsey's fifth title defense (he had knocked out Billy Miske and Bill Brennan before meeting Carpentier). Three years later he made his sixth and last against Tunney, the Shakespeare-loving veteran of the Marine Corps who had moved into heavyweight ranks after winning the American light-heavyweight championship, losing it and winning it back.

''I never seed anything like it,'' Mr. Rickard said, watching 120,757 customers crowd into the huge horseshoe in Philadelphia then called Sesquicentennial Stadium. The promoter had been told the fight would draw big in Philadelphia, but he had not dreamed what a stir it would make.

Starter Is Late Scratch 
Down in Maryland, for instance, was a racing official named Jim Milton. He was the starter when the Havre de Grace track opened in 1912, and when he retired half a century later he had started every race at that track except the last one on the program on Sept. 23, 1926. He left that to an assistant starter and caught a train for Philadelphia and the fight.

Many years afterward Mr. Tunney was told about Mr. Milton's only dereliction. ''He probably was betting on Dempsey,'' he said. If he was, he lost. Jabbing and circling through a drenching rainstorm, Tunney won going away.

One day less than a year later, the pair met again in Soldier Field in Chicago in a match that would make Dave Barry the world's most widely known referee. In the seventh round Tunney was knocked down for the first time in his life.

Gracious outside the ring, Dempsey in battle was no slave to the rules. Not many years ago, when Joe Frazier was champion, he was scandalized by films of Dempsey crouching over a fallen Firpo ready to slug him as he rose. ''That's bad for boxing,'' Frazier protested.

The Long Count 
With Tunney on the floor, it did not occur to Dempsey to retire to a neutral corner until Barry stopped the count and led him across the ring. Returning, the referee started the count all over. Tunney got up at ''9'' - it was established that he had had about 14 seconds to recuperate - and won a clear decision, scoring a knockdown in the eighth round. To this day, the Dempsey cult believes Tunney was saved by the long count; Tunney always insisted he was in full control throughout.

That was the last time around for Dempsey as a fighter of importance. Thirty-two years had passed since his birth on June 24, 1895, in Manassa, Colo., to Hyrum and Celia Dempsey, who had paused there with their brood on a meandering journey from Mudfork, W.Va. Manassa was only one of many stops for a nomadic family, but years later the fact that Mrs. Dempsey had given birth there inspired Damon Runyon, the sportswriter, to dub the new champion the Manassa Mauler.

Hyrum Dempsey was a tough, restless descendant of Irish immigrants who had quit a job as schoolteacher to venture west. There was a strain of Indian blood in both parents revealed in the baby's blueblack hair and high cheekbones. They named him William Harrison Dempsey and called him Harry, but at 16 he went his own way and adopted his own names.

The first was Kid Blackie. For about three years he fought under that name in mountain mining camps. Between saloon bouts he worked in the mines, shined shoes, picked fruit and hustled, riding the rods on trains and sleeping in hobo jungles. Meanwhile, his older brother, Bernie, was boxing as Jack Dempsey, having borrowed the name of an oldtime middleweight known as ''the Nonpareil.'' One night in Denver, Harry substituted for Bernie and was introduced as Jack Dempsey. The name stuck.

21 First-Round Knockouts 
He was managed for a while by one Jack Price and later by John (the Barber) Reisler before he and Mr. Kearns became partners. They started slowly but picked up speed as they moved. By the time they reached Maumee Bay and the rendezvous with Willard, Dempsey's record included 21 first-round knockouts. If any other puncher ever dealt such swift destruction to so many, the record books do not report it.

Willard had won the championship in 1915 and defended it once in a 10-round no-decision match with Frank Moran in 1916. On Feb. 15, 1918, an item in The New York Times reported that Dempsey had knocked out Fireman Jim Flynn in one round, adding that Willard had agreed to meet the winner of a bout between Dempsey and Fred Fulton.

That bout took place on July 28, 1918. It lasted 23 seconds. One punch was thrown, a right by Dempsey. Fulton was counted out and his name entered in the long list of Dempsey's victims -Gunboat Smith, Carl Morris, Bill Brennan, Billy Miske, Battling Levinsky, Arthur Pelkey. There wasn't a heavyweight of repute Dempsey hadn't beaten, except Willard.

After taking care of that oversight, the new champion took his time about defending his title. In 1920 he took on two of his old victims, Miske and Brennan, and disposed of them. In 1921 he beat Carpentier, in 1922 he rested, and in 1923 he beat Tommy Gibbons and Firpo. Three years intervened before he fought again and lost to Tunney.

Attracted to the Stage 
Like John L. Sullivan, Jim Corbett and other champions before him, he gave the stage at least as much attention as he bestowed on the ring. He accepted a featured role on Broadway in a play called ''The Big Fight,'' directed by David Belasco. The feminine lead was Estelle Taylor, his wife.

In his early days in the mining camps, he had been married to Maxine Gates, a saloon piano player, but not for long. Miss Taylor was a star of silent films whom he met in Hollywood. After their Broadway adventure, they went back to Hollywood and made a movie called ''Manhattan Madness,'' which was also a disaster.

By this time Dempsey and his manager had fallen out. A series of suits and countersuits kept them in litigation right up to the Philadelphia match with Tunney in 1926. The distraction was no help to Dempsey in his preparation for the bout, but when he lost, he did not mention this as an excuse.

He had learned that fighters suffer many distractions. ''Some night,'' he told a young boxer, ''you'll catch a punch between the eyes and all of a sudden you'll see three guys in the ring against you. Pick out the one in the middle and hit him, because he's the one who hit you.''

Mr. Dempsey and Miss Taylor were divorced, and he married the singer Hannah Williams. They had two daughters, Joan in 1934 and Barbara in 1936. He and Miss Williams were divorced in 1943.

In 1958 he was married for the fourth time, to the former Deanna Piattelli, who survives. He later adopted her daughter from a previous marriage. She took the name Barbara Dempsey and helped him write his 1977 autobiography, ''Dempsey.''

Served in Coast Guard 
In 1938 Mr. Dempsey was the first winner of the Edward J. Neil Memorial Plaque, awarded by the New York Boxing Writers Association to the man who had done the most for boxing that year. He was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954. Except during World War II, when he enlisted in the Coast Guard and was commissioned a lieutenant commander, he remained identified with the ring, as a referee of boxing and wrestling and a participant in various promotions.

In the early days of Louis' reign as champion, Mr. Dempsey lent his name and restaurant facilities to a ''white hope'' tournament, a term that had survived in boxing long after its racial implications had evaporated. Dropping into Dempsey's, John Lardner, the writer, saw a horde of young males devouring steak and chops.

''Finest bunch of white hopes ever assembled,'' the proprietor said proudly. ''What about him?'' Mr. Lardner asked, indicating a husky young black in the middle of the pack. Mr. Dempsey fetched him a slap on the shoulder.

''You got a good eye for a fighter,'' he said. ''He's the best prospect in the bunch.''