With the decimation of Deontay Wilder in their second fight now added to his resume, Tyson Fury is uniquely set up for fame. His persona is unique and larger than life. And with mental health an issue of increasing attention, his story is memorable, inspirational, and timely. It also doesn’t hurt that the man can straight up box. As with any sport, boxing regularly produces champions, but some of those athletes go beyond the world of boxing and enter the popular culture zeitgeist. Here is a look back at some of those who have come to define our understanding of how a boxer can be more than the man in the ring.
1. Jack Dempsey - Any list of boxing legends would be remiss not to begin with the ‘Manassa Mauler.’ Dempsey’s career in the 1920’s set standards not only for boxing, but for sports in general. He set numerous financial and attendance records, including the first million dollar gate, and his popularity even prompted the first live broadcasting of a sporting event. An aggressive fighter, he thrilled audiences with his puncher’s power.
After a 61 fight professional career with 44 wins – 41 by knockout – Dempsey retired, but did not sail off into the sunset. Instead, the Colorado native sponsored rodeo events, was courted by Hollywood, and financed a casino with Al Capone. He married a Broadway star, and later, during World War II, did publicity to help the war effort. In 1950, Dempsey authored a book, Championship Fighting: Explosive Punching and Aggressive Defense. He was an inaugural inductee into the Boxing Hall of Fame in 1954. In short, Dempsey remained in the cultural consciousness, a celebrity and the quintessential boxer of the early 20th Century.