Carpentier vs. Levinsky a Set-Up?

Discussion in 'Classic Boxing Forum' started by Seamus, Jul 9, 2019.


  1. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    If you are talking about a reigning champion taking a dive, I don't think that it is enough to say "well this person thought it looked a bit suspicious."

    We should be looking for much stronger evidence, before treating it as anything more than speculation.
     
  2. Tonto62

    Tonto62 Well-Known Member Full Member

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    How would one go about finding definitive evidence?
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2019
  3. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    You wouldn't with very few exceptions.

    There might come a point where you could say that a fight was a fix on the balance of probability.

    Say that a well documented irregular betting pattern had emerged, or you had testimony from one of the fighters inner circle, and what they were saying stacked up.
     
  4. klompton2

    klompton2 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    Boxing was in the best position, legally, it had ever been in when this fight was held. Post WW1, with thousands of young men coming home having been trained in boxing and entertained by it during the war had legitimized in a way it had never been legitimized before. To say it was on tenuous footing is ridiculous. The sport was rapidly being legalized and regulated all over the country. In order to build up the Dempsey-Carpentier fight, which was already on tap, and already being designed as a million dollar gate, Rickard needed to legitimize Carpentier. Initially he did this by importing Carpentier to the USA for an exhibition tour but the tour wasnt successful and rather than build Carpentier up as a dangerous opponent it served to make discerning critics question whether he was sturdy enough to stand up to American HWs. Rickard was not going to let this fight be a failure and so the only other way he could was to get Carpentier a title. Levinsky was a perfect mark. He had been calling himself a champion for years and hiding behind the no decision laws to preserve that status but even so he hadnt made a fortune off his title. He was now aging and given that Dempsey had been the only man to ever stop him for the right price he be the perfect measuring stick whereby Carpentier could knock him out for the right price and people could draw comparisons between his punching prowess and Dempsey's. The fight was already rumored to be a fix well before it took place and when Levinsky showed up fat, out of shape, with a double chin, and looking disinterested, then flopped in four rounds most observers were skeptical. Plenty of writers close to the scene openly discussed how Levinsky had sold his title.

    This is laying it on awfully thick. First lets start with the assertion that Carpentier was 24-1 with 20 KOs going into the fight. This looks impressive taken WILDLY out of context but lets not forget that in the past 6 years Carpentier had just 5 fights. The combined record of those 5 fighters was 73-65-33. If you subtract Blink McCloskey (who was in his 18th year as a pro and fighting 25 pounds above his best weight) Carpentiers opponents in the past 5 years had a combined record of just 27-18-0. Thats some awfully weak competition. Furthermore Carpentier hadnt won a fight convincingly against a world class fighter in 7 years. Yes, he defeated Gunboat Smith, six years earlier, but that fight was highly controversial with most feeling Carpentier milked the foul. Then when you factor in that 99.9% of the American public had never seen Carpentier fight and that they most associated him losing to the best Americans he fought 30 pounds south of Dempsey, well, pretending that he was this dangerous guy is the same hyperbole that they were pushing on him back then. I dont know that Carpentier, based on his KOs over European stiffs like Wells, Beckett, et al really has a great record as a puncher. What world class fighter outside of Levinsky did he ever stop? See where Im going with this? In order to sell Carpentier as a dangerous puncher Tex needed to erase the association of him quitting against guys like Papke, Klaus, and Gunboat, or getting bounced off the canvas like a yo-yo by aging glass jawed ex WW Willie Lewis and have him associated with knocking a real proven fighter at the world class level, not the 15-6 Joe Beckett who had just struggled with a balding 30 year old middleweight Eddie McGoorty prior to getting knocked out by Carpentier. To say Carpentier was the biggest puncher Levinsky ever fought is taking it pretty far. Levinsky fought guys like Clay Turner who dropped and badly hurt Kid Norfolk, Billy Miske, Jack Dillon who hit hard enough to keep heavyweights honest, Jim Coffey a giant heavy handed HW, Jack Dempsey, Eddie McGoorty who had one of the best left hooks in the history of the sport, KO Bill Brennan who wobbled Dempsey every bit as good as Carpentier and did a lot better against him than Carpentier ever did, Tommy Gibbons, who proved who was the better man head to head against Carpentier both in punching and boxing, Gunboat Smith who dropped Carpentier and made him quit in their fight, Carl Morris a 6'4" HW with a long string of KOs to his name for the era. Then there were guys like Jim Flynn, Soldier Kearns, and One Round Davis who were all dangerous punchers if somewhat unskilled that if werent prepared could spark you out with one punch. Levinsky fought all of those guys and more and all of those guys were more proven than Carpentier was.

    Multiple bizarre comments here. Im not sure they were born out of ignorance of the subject or what. We have more ink and more film footage of Carpentier than any other fighter from that era. He is in fact less an enigma than any other fighter from that era. He have footage him ranging from when he was a skinny teenager just breaking into the limelight to the end of his career. Including footage of him boxing during the war when he wasnt even active. In fact I would argue that we know more about Carpentier than most people did in his lifetime given the easy access we have to media on the man. Furthermore, you cant in one sentence puff Carpentier up with some out of context statistic that he was 24-1 leading up to his bout with Levinsky and then use his young age (which much of that statistic covers) as a defense against criticism of his limitations. The fact is that we only got the Carpentier we got. Not some imaginary "What if" that magically developed into a better fighter and didnt lose five years of his career to the war. We judge him based on what he did, not what he could have done in a perfect world. The fact is that as a teenager Carpentier was deemed ready to fight guys like Papke, Klaus, Jeff Smith etc. He was man enough to tenuously claim to be the middleweight champion so I dont want to hear any excuses for him losing to those guys because of his age. In reality when Carpentier fought those guys he had been fighting for four years and had nearly 100 fights. He was also a physical freak who developed very rapidly and very young not unlike Tyson. By the time he was 18 he was in perfect physical condition. Ripped, vascular, and able to go 20 rounds with world class fighters. Did he ever prove he could beat someone on the same level as a Papke or a Klaus at any weight he was ever at? No. So why are we monday morning quarterbacking about his age here. Its not like he got better after those fights. Across the hours of footage on him that we have you can see that his style didnt change and his tactics didnt improve from 1912 on. So who is this enigma that we arent sure what he was capable of? We have footage of him against the leading middleweights, LHWs, and HWs for over a decade. We have a VERY good idea, down to a certainty, of what he was capable of and what class he was in as a fighter. And dont give me that horse**** excuse that he may have had a broken hand against Siki. Carpentier himself admitted in his biography that the fight was supposed to be a fix. Period. Siki ended up not going along with it and knocked Carpentier. Siki proved to be one of the weakest champions of the era. That right there tells you all you need to know. Coupled with the fact that fights against guys like Grundhoven and Townely (neither of whom should have been a threat) were clear dives, the Siki fight, the Levinsky rumors, and Carpentier's penchant for trying to get a DQ when the fix wasnt in its a safe bet that he wasnt averse to going along with skulduggery in order to win a fight and reap the benefits.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2019
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  5. klompton2

    klompton2 Boxing Junkie Full Member

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    This is such a nonsense excuse. Me thinks the lady doth protest too much. As stated above, boxing was in the best position it had ever been in and was growing stronger daily. Had it been as weak as you would have people believe then Rickard wouldnt have a hope in hell of gaining a million dollar gate. Claiming that boxing reporters would be biased against the sport really takes the cake. I'll chalk that up to you being obviously young and not understanding that in that era newspapers employed writers whose specialty it was to write strictly about the sport. They were hired based on their expertise, ability, contacts,and experience in the sport. In short they lived and breathed it, they loved it. They hung out in the gyms, they ate lunch and dinner with the managers and promoters, they spent time in their offices, they went to training camps, boxing was their livelihood. Often times they had been a part of the sport previously or were still in some capacity, as a judge, manager, promoter, trainer, or boxer. They knew far more about the sport than the so called boxing writers today particularly what was going on behind the scenes, on the ground. The idea that these guys were biased against the sport because they were progressives and thus wanted to destroy it from within by spreading rumors of a fix is literally the stupidest thing Ive ever heard.

    Uhhh maybe because he was trying to sell it since it had been all over the papers that the fix was in?

    Again, silly. The betting odds were being furnished largely off of the ballyhoo being put out by Rickard. The vast majority of the public had never seen Carpentier fight. EVER. After beating Levinsky Rickard had Carpentier agree to not fight until he met Dempsey. Why? Because he didnt want him to get beat and ruin the promotion. He made no such stipulation for Dempsey who fought two months later. In addition to this Carpentier's camp was closed for almost the entire training camp with the exception of a few select days the press was allowed. Why? So they couldnt get a line on him. When Harry Greb went to his camp he bet everything he had on Dempsey. When he offered his services as a sparring partner for Carpentier Georges manager refused. Instead they trained with Paul Journee who finished his career with a 18-36-3 record and having been knocked out 24 times, a balding retired Joe Jeanette, and a short little fat guy who was the camp cook. Sound like a guy who thought he was going to win? Why do you think Carpentier was the most deserving guy outside of Wills when in the previous 6 years his competition was absolute garbage? I can name a dozen guys who I not only think would have given Dempsey a better fight but who I think would have beat the living **** out of Carpentier. Greb for one, Carpentier never wanted any part of him. Kid Norfolk. Bill Brennan, who was a bigger, better, and harder hitting fighter and who had already given Dempsey a stiff fight. Tommy Gibbons. Charley Weinert. Chuck Wiggins. Bob Martin. Fred Fulton. Sam Langford. Throw in Harry Wills and you have ten men that had at least an even chance of beating Carpentier and had more proven records against stiffer competition in the recent past than he had. I didnt even name middleweights and I think there are a fair few of them who would have beat him as well. Maybe you are more impressed with **** Smith, Pierre Grundhoven, Jean Crosseilles, Joe Beckett, and Blink McCloskey than I am but I just dont see how those guys put you head and shoulders above the field for a shot at the most coveted prize in sports. I think the ten guys I named would beat all of those guys with little problem so I dont see Carpentier having done anything particularly special to be considered anything other than a hype job at this point. I understand why he got the title shot. He was the most famous boxer on the planet. Far eclipsing Dempsey even. The amount of money was too much to not make the fight happen. But mistaking Carpentier's fame for prowess (which is exactly what happened in that era when they didnt have the ability to easily see him fight) is akin to claiming that because Justin Beiber is famous and popular he must be as talented as mozart. The public couldnt possibly be blinded by star power could they? Could they? Of course they could. It happens all the time. The cult of personality almost always outweighs substance. Sad, but true.
     
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  6. Tonto62

    Tonto62 Well-Known Member Full Member

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    First class! Except for the personal asides JT is a very good poster, the jibes weren't necessary .
     
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  7. janitor

    janitor Obsessed with Boxing Full Member

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    It must also be pointed out that it is a manager or promoters god given right, to match their fighter against weaker opposition, and navigate a low risk path to a title shot!

    A European fighter would also be expected to be matched differently from an American fighter.

    If he lost to Harry Greb, he couldn't just come again against another top contender, a few weeks later.

    Even if he was a lot more confident against the top contenders than Carpintier was, he would still have to pick his fights carefully!
     
  8. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Member Full Member

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    klompton2--thank you for the very in-depth and informative reply post. You obviously are very informed about this era and make your case strongly. I agree with many of your points. It is certainly valid to point out that Carpentier had been in the service and so hadn't had that many fights over the last 7 years, with only Beckett and Levinsky name opponents. I do have a few quibbles, though, for debate.

    The political situation? I think it accurate that boxing was gaining popularity. Given the way the American political system worked at that time this doesn't necessarily rule out boxing being federally banned. When reformers couldn't go any further in banning alcohol at the state level, they took it to the Federal government. The same could have happened with boxing. I checked with the Illinois State Archives and found the text of the 1925 bill which created a state athletic commission and legalized boxing. The accompanying comments stated that Illinois was the 23rd state to legally permit boxing. This means in 1921 at least 26 states had not legalized boxing. If the Senate voted the way of their states, an outlawing bill would pass the Senate. The House? It was extremely gerrymandered toward rural districts and small towns in the early 1920's, decades before the one man-one vote ruling by the Warren Court. The cities in which boxing matches were held and where it was popular were badly underrepresented. I wouldn't be confident of how a vote would go without careful study of the House membership. As for President Wilson or Harding signing the bill, who knows with either? The majority didn't necessarily rule then or now in the United States. So the possibility of high profile fixes tipping the status quo into a move to ban boxing through a federal law should have been something Rickard took into account, and I think probably did. He had to note that alcohol consumers always vastly outnumbered boxing fans and still alcohol was Federally prohibited.

    There is another point with Rickard. He seems to have wanted badly to make boxing respectable with the "best" people, the Rockefellers, Harrimans, Vanderbilts, etc., and also among women. Fixes coming to light would hardly do that. Fixing a fight would be treading on dangerous ground and could certainly backfire. In fairness, getting "respectable" contenders like Carpentier, or later Tunney, for Dempsey certainly beat putting the champ in with a street tough, and such considerations probably played a role in Rickard's matchmaking and whom he built up for a title shot.

    Carpentier as fully developed at 18? I don't think so. He looks much thinner and weaker on the good Papke film and also on the less good Klaus film. He obviously filled out later. I think he grew from 150 or so to about 170. And I also think he improved his offensive skills over the years. Nothing surprising in this. Hard to buy that Carpentier peaked at 18.

    Clay Turner? I don't know much about him, but boxrec lists his record as 16 KO's in 79 fights and I am not familiar with anyone he knocked out. He is a bigger puncher than Carpentier?

    Grundhoven was a clear dive? I have seen a very clear film and I don't see evidence that he was not getting hit. Not that it means much, as Grundhoven wasn't much of a fighter, but what is the dive evidence? I haven't seen a film of the Townley fight.

    I think you are right that Carpentier was overrated. You just take it too far. And being world class is something the fans of the time decide. They clearly thought Beckett was world class as he was mentioned going into the Carpentier fight as a probable opponent for Dempsey in a title fight and supposedly would have gotten the shot if he had won the Carpentier fight. I do not dispute questioning Beckett's credentials from a 21st century perspective, but the issue for me is how these men were viewed in their own day.

    And as the guy who is really an expert on the era, was the Dempsey-Carpentier fight a no-decision affair?
     
  9. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Member Full Member

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    The Gunboat Smith fight interests me. Here is Gunboat on the fight from In This Corner:

    "In 1914 I began to slip. I lost that certain something. I wasn't right. I lost on a foul to Georges Carpentier. There was a good fighter, too, and a good hitter. He was a fellow you didn't know was standing on his head or if he was on his feet. In the first round, he hit me a terrific punch. I didn't go right down, but I kind of sunk. I took the count of 8 and I got up. I stalled around for a couple of rounds, just feeling him out. It took me two or three rounds to get over it. But he was always on the floor. Every time you'd go to hit him, he was a fellow that from the legs down he'd do all his ducking. You didn't know whether he was on the floor or up. Well, I says, 'I'll fix him. I'll wait till he goes down, then when he's coming up I'll bat him.' Well, he goes down and I thought he was coming up and I let one go and he goes down again, and he don't come up at all. He's still down. And that's how I come to lose it. The championship went to him. He had a crazy manager that come in the ring and made a big fuss about it. They said I hit him while he was down. I said, 'He wasn't down in the first place. I didn't hit him hard enough.' He ducked. That's the way he used to duck. He was a good fighter. I ain't taking that away from him."

    Two things stand out. He gives Carpentier credit as a fighter. And Smith didn't think he actually even knocked him down, as I interpret what he says.

    Here is the London Times ringside report from July 17, 1914:

    "Smith was disqualified for a foul blow and the fight was awarded to Carpentier. The blow for which Smith was disqualified was a light one. Carpentier fell, the fall being half slip, from the force of a missed lead, half knock-down, for Smith hit him on the side of the head as he was overbalanced. Then Smith turned quickly and hit Carpentier who was on his hands and knees, a light blow on the neck. M. Deschamps, Carpentier's manager and one of his seconds, rushed into the ring and claimed a foul, and Mr. Eugene Corri, the referee, had no choice but to disqualify Smith and award the fight to Carpentier."

    For Smith, "on the floor" and "going down" seems to mean crouching and he seems to have had trouble with Carpentier's crouch.
     
  10. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Member Full Member

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    Here is more of the London Times ringside report from July 17, 1914, page 9, as printed on this blog on July 4 of this year. It does give a picture of Carpentier's class.

    "Gunboat Smith in action was not as it turned out, so good as the Gunboat Smith of the gymnasium. He also was manifestly one of the brotherhood of Titans built up from the ground. From the very first he was out-paced and out-maneuvered by the French champion., who never had the slightest difficulty in evading his tremendous right swings. At infighting, Carpentier was much the cleverer boxer."

    "From the outset it was clear that Carpentier must win as he pleased in points if the contest went the full distance."

    "But after a quiet round, the shadow of a knockout began to hang over the American's head. He was badly shaken in the second round and one felt inclined to anticipate a quick curtain."

    "In the fourth round . . . he took a very hard right from Carpentier at the end of the round. Had this hit landed a little lower down on the side of the face he might have been knocked out. As it was, he was down (but not really badly hurt) to take a long rest, which was interrupted by the gong. In the fifth round the breaking up process was continued by Carpentier, whose infighting was excellent, and Smith was very weary when he went to his corner. One had only to look at the serious faces of his seconds to know that even they were expecting an early catastrophe."

    "In the sixth came the unfortunate conclusion. After an exchange of blows Smith rushed and Carpentier, missing a lead, overbalanced and fell. Smith chopped him on the back of his neck as he knelt with his had bowed, and the inevitable disqualification followed."

    "In view of his brilliant display in the first five rounds it cannot be said that Carpentier owed anything to luck. He would, in our judgment, have won decisively within 10 rounds."

    "Smith was hooted from the ring. The crowd always believes that a foul of this kind is deliberate. It is absurd to think so. Anybody who has been getting the worst of a fierce contest, when the whole body hums and racks to jarring blows, knows how easy it is not to see whether an opponent is down or not. Mr. Corri was not in time to interpose and order Smith back before the fatal blow was struck."

    I just typed what I consider key excerpts, but the whole article was printing under a Smith vs Carpentier thread on July 4.
     
  11. Jason Thomas

    Jason Thomas Member Full Member

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    Another question which troubles me. The close odds are credited to Rickard's ballyhoo. But on the other hand the press supposedly thinks the Levinsky fight was a fix. Who besides the press was the venue for the ballyhoo? There was no radio yet to speak of. Rickard would have to get his message out through a press which thought Carpentier was a fraud and the Levinsky fight a fix? Seems to be at heart a contradiction.

    There is the possibility that the excellent European films were brought over and shown to the public, but this would undercut that the public was in the dark about Carpentier's abilities. They would be able to judge if they watched him in action.
     


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