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Georges Carpentier

Fifteen years ago Georges Carpentier, at the age of 12, was a pit boy in a coal mine in Lens, France. That little obscure mining town had been the scene of his childhood play days and of his early schooling. He was born of poor parents and as soon as he was old enough, Joined his father, a miner, in daily trips to the insides of the earth. The youth’s weekly earnings went to help keep the wolf from the Carpentier door.

In those days Georges was a timid-appearing, fair, haired youth, with an appearance far from that of a lad who would indulge in anything that required muscle and brawn. He was generally looked upon as a fireside mother’s boy. Working in darkness all day long, away from sunshine and open air, didn’t appear to Georges. He wanted to do something else.
With that thought ever on his mind, he occasionally went, after working hours to a boxing school that had been opened in the town by Prof.

Francois Descamps. Like many other youngsters he watched fighters work. Finally he became well known as one of the youngsters: in. the town, and was now and then allowed to slip on a pair of gloves himself and mix in the sparring battles.

One night he gave a much bigger fellow a good drubbing Descamps witnessed the bout and was much impressed with the fair haired kid’s showing. Georges was encouraged to come to the school more regularly. Eventually the professor had a hunch there was something that goes to make a real battlers in the kid – at least a lot of nerve.

Descamps took the matter up with Carpentier’s parents .he wanted to take their son under his wing and train him. At first there was much objection, but Descamps persistency won out and Georges left his pit boy task for all time. From then on the youngster was at the gym almost day and night.

Rough edges were trained off of him and he was stacked up against the best fighters in Descamps lot in short notice. .Descamps’ mother in-law took an interest in the boy from the start.

Outside battles with a money angle to them, however, were few and far between, and money talked mighty loud with Descamps and his youthful pupil. Hence they went on little tours and Carpentier staged exhibition bouts in cafes at night. Let Georges tell you about it himself:

“First we staged a fight; then followed with an acrobatic turn. As a grand finale I allowed myself to be sent into a trance by Descamps and did “thought reading” Then Carpentier smiles and says “Bunkum”

But bunkum or not the money rolled in and this To say the least was pleasing to master and pupil. Finally Carpentier first real bout came in the later part of 1907 against Bourgeois. George trimmed him in four rounds and followed this with another four round Win over Wetink. Carpentier was battling as a flyweight being just 13 and Far from developed his third bout saw him get a drubbing From Mazoir a much touted battler in four rounds.

The year 1908 took him into the ring with men who had gained real reputations. In his first year Georges Carpentier had occasion for very little test of endurance. He had developed a flashy, dancing style of battling and seldom found it necessary to stay in the ring longer than four rounds. His nasty right mitt usually found an opening early in the bout

Early in 1908, after scoring his first real knockout, against Moinereau a countryman, in three rounds, he was matched to meet a jockey by the name of Salmon. This fighter had earned a reputation through cleaning up on all of the flyweight scrappers in the territory. Carpentier was several years younger than Salmon and many pounds lighter. Fight fans were amused at such a match.”What chance did the little slender fellow have ? “.

His Longest Fight
At any rate the bout was staged scheduled as a 20-round affair. It took Carpentier through his longest fight, thus far, and cleared up all suspicion that he would run out of wind in a long contest because of his peppiness from the first bell.

Georges stuck it out 18 rounds And quit then, only after his backers- tossed a towel in the ring. Salmon had knocked him down many times and had all the argument this was the second with Salmon. Carpentier had won the first on a foul, but was not satisfied with that sort of a win . he himself insisted on the second scrap.

Got Cheese Money

In spite of defeat in the 18- Round there was a bright side for Carpentier and Descamps George drew down about $8 for his share of the proceeds and this came in handy for crackers and cheese. Little money rattled in their jeans in those days. They were going from camp to camp on foot picking up grub change as they went along.

In the closing days of that year Carpentier won a six-round battle with Lepine, a much-touted boxer, and fought 6 and 20-round draws with Legrand, another fighter who stood high in fistic circles. He had now passed the 13 year mark and remarkable development had taken place. His weight held him in the flyweight class however. Early in 1909 Georges turned The tables on his previous two time opponent, getting a decision over Salmon in 10 rounds .shortly after this he matched with Glorin, the demon of the day in France. For five rounds Carpentier looked a winner. Then a sudden blow was slipped over and he went down and out. It was the first time he had taken the count

On the second meeting between Carpentier and Paul Til, there was much speculation as to what would happen. The first scrap, over the 20-round route, had been a draw. This time the go was for 10 rounds. Would Carpentier speed up, in the shorter route? That’s just what be did, and won the decision.

Georges was fast taking on weight and flirting with the feather division. Just previous to graduating he disposed of Pickard and Lampin, via the K. O. route and won on a foul from Young Warner. It was the second time he had darkened the lamps of Lampin.

Georges Takes Lacing

Few battles came during the featherweight days. One of the first was a setback at the hands of Buck Shine , an English fighter, Carpentier took a good licking in 8 rounds.

Following in short order came another defeat when he clashed with Young Snowball, another Englishman. Paul Til, still a topnotcher, then made a bid for a third match with Georges. The two fought to a draw in 15 rounds.

Fighting men whom he had already clashed with, was one of the best little things Carpentier did in the early days.

He was always willing to give a man. another chance. Young Warner followed Til’s attempted comeback. He had lost to Georges, in their first mix, on a foul, and contended another battle would see him winner.

Carpentier was willing and the two journeyed to Cambrai for a 10-round go. In the seventh frame the question of superiority was settled when Warner was knocked out into dreamland.

Wins over Percy Wilson, in 10 rounds; Geo. Gaillard, in.6 rounds; Cuny, in 8 rounds; Jack Daniels in 10 rounds and Demien ( Demlin) a Belgian star, in 10 rounds followed. And in the meantime Georges knocked out Jim Campbell in 5 frames and battled Jean Andony to a 10-round draw.

That finished the featherweight career. Georges was growing rapidly and when he next stepped into the ring it was as a lightweight Ed Brochet was one of the first battlers to connect -with him in this class. He connected, in the 7th round, with Carpentier’a right, and went down in a heap.

In those days George Randall was stepping SOME in the British pugilistic world. He was thought a fitting man to hand the fair haired French speed boy a cleaning. Randall eyed Carpentier’s record and set sail for Paris to conquer. Two bouts resulted. In the first Randall lost on a decision to 10 rounds and in the second he was knocked out in half that time

Daniels Licked Again

Then Carpentier drew a blank from one of his own countrymen. Henri Piet had all the best of a ten round argument. This gave Jack Daniels, British fighter, new heart and he requested a second go with Georges. Once more a 10-round go found Daniels on the wrong end of a decision.

England then bid once more by sending Young Nipper across the pond to fight Carpentier. This Britisher was a tough bird and before the fight his chances looked mighty good. After the fight, it was a different story. Carpentier got the decision in 8 frames.

Georges then moved into the welterweight class and won three straight 10-round bouts from Jack Meekins, Sid Stagg and Geo. Colbourne, all Englishmen. He than was matched to Meethis first American opponent
George Carpentier with a long string of victories over English fighters, had not yet clashed with an American opponent up to the early part of 1921.

Frank Loughrey, of Pittsburgh at this time was creating quite a stir across the pond, and Georges was signed to battle him in Paris. The bout went the full 15 rounds but Carpentier had all the best of it.

Success had been so kind to Georges, in bouts with his countrymen, that but one fighter stood between him and the welterweight championship of France. This battler, Robert Eustache, had cleaned up on all of the topnotch scrappers, and the welter crown rested on his head.

Wins Championship.

The scrap was arranged and Carpentier won a decision and, the championship in 16 rounds. Through all the training for his many fights, Mme. Vanhibroucq, Manager Descamps mother-in-law, had been Carpentier’s guardian angel. She watched over him, and always in Georges younger days, saw that her handsome “son” was not bothered by the young girls. “I do not blame the girls,” she says, “Georges is so handsome,clever and famous. But I scare them off.”

Shortly after copping the welter crown Georges licked two more English battlers. Jack Goldswain in 4 rounds, and Arthur Evernden, in 15 rounds, and was then matched with Dixie Kid, an American negro fighter. When “the battle” was staged on August 29, 1911,Jack had not had a fight in over a month. He was not in tiptop condition and the Kid handed him a beating in five rounds.

Georges then made his first trip to London. He startled English fight fans by trimming Sid Burns In 15 rounds and following closely with a win over Young Joseph, In 10 rounds. Two more battles, a knockout over Theodore Gray in nine ’rounds and a win over Harry Lewis in. 20 rounds wound up the year.

The year 1912 started off with knockouts over Battling LaCroix and Jim Sullivan. Georges had, In the meantime, taken on weight that put him In the middle class. This lead to a go with George Gunther, Australian champ, who had cleaned up all other, opponents In this division. It was a tough battle, for 20 .rounds, and Georges drew the decision. The glory heaped on him by this performance was greatly added to when he licked Hubert Roe, ex-heavyweight champ of France and stood well with the populace, as a scrapper. Carpentier went the full 20 rounds to gain a decision and then took on, two-more Americans.

Klaus Wins on Foul.

The first, Frank Klaus Pittsburg “Bearcat,” gave the little Frenchman a terrible mauling. Georges also slipped, in some telling punches and when Klaus was declared winner on a foul, In the 19th round, both battlers were I a bad way. The second, Billy Papke had trimmedMarcel Moreau, Carpentier’s main French rival, and Georges challenged him. The Yankee slipped over a wicked punch to Carpentier’s left eye, in the 17th round, and Manager Descamps withdrew Georges from the battle, giving Papke the decision.

Still putting on weight, Georges slipped into the light heavyweight division and was next matched with Moreau. All question as to Georges Carpentier’s right to the claim of champion of France was settled, when he won from Marcel Moreau in eight rounds, and later won from Albert Lurie, official heavyweight champion.

Bouts had been paying the French team, Carpentier-Descamp well, and Georges became a real idol of his country, while his manager reaped a financial harvest. Six knockouts in a row were next added to the long string of Wins Carpentier had accumulated. Bandsman Rice, Cyclone Smith and George Gunther fell in order, in l, 2, 3 and 14 rounds.

Jars England’s Pride

Bombardier Wells, English heavyweight, then took the count in four frames and Albert Lurie and Ashley Williams, both Frenchmen, toppled in three and four frames respectively. The Wells defeat was a blow to England’s fistic pride. A youngster several inches shorter and many pounds lighter ,had trimmed one of its leading battlers.

In the meantime Jeff Smith, an American, had run up a list of wins In Paris. Georges took him on and won in 20 rounds. This battle was followed with a knockout, and a second knockout of Wells, in one round. That was the last battle of 1913.

Throughout Carpentier’s fighting career there had been gossip of Descamp and Georges working the “hypnotic eye” on opponents. It traced back to the early days when the two played master and pupil In “thought reading” performances.

George Explains

In connection with this Georges says: “Descamps takes away from me, by his very influence all my cares and troubles when I am scheduled to fight, leaving me to enter the ring With only a fighting mind”.
“He subtly convince me that he is actually fighting at the same time I am. and fighting for me.”So much for the “hypnotic eye.” It was Carpentier’s wallops that were carrying him to victories.

His first battle in 1914 resulted in a knockout of Pat ‘Keefe , in two rounds. George Mitchell, Hubert Roe and Phillipe Robinson alsowent out over the sleep route. Gunboat Smith, topnotch American scrapper, then journeyed to Paris and lost to Carpentier in the sixth round, on a foul. Another foul gave Georges a win over Kid Jackson in four rounds.

Then Joe Jeannette, prize American negro husky, crossed the pond and handed the French wlz a lacing in 15 rounds.

Served as Aviator

This ended Georges pre-war battles except for a few exhibition bouts. When France went to war with Germany Georges enlisted in the aviation branch. He was twice decorated. During the fighting days he gave many boxing exhibitions for American troops in France.

The fighting game had piled up a. fortune for Carpentier. He bad even purchased an interest in the mines at Lens In which he worked as a boy. This fortune of a million francs was lost .through the war and Georges re-entered the ring, after peace came, to rebuild it.

That Georges Carpentier had kept his fighting trim during his war time days was evidenced by his knockout of Dick Smith, on his return to the ring in 1919. Smith lasted but eight rounds. Then the European championship bout, between Carpentier, king battler of France, and Joe Beckett, British champ, was pulled off in London, the latter part of December.

Cops Crown of Europe

Georges delivered a left to the chin and followed with a right knocking Beckett out in the first round and annexing the title. He gained favor by carrying his defeated opponent to his corner, after the count of 10.
Talk of a world championship battle between Carpentier and Dempsey, titleholder in America, resulted from this victory. In the meantime, early in 1920, Carpentier knocked out Blink McCloskey, in two rounds, and disposed of Grundhoven in the same length of time.

Early in March he was married in Paris, to Georgette Elsasser. Their honeymoon was spent in a trip to America. The French battling idol, and his bride, arrived in New York on March 23. Carpentier was flooded with money contracts which carried him into the movies and on a boxing exhibition hour of the United States.

After a rousing welcome and much entertaining in New York, Georges starred in a movie and then hopped aboard the same special train that carried Governor Cox and King Albert, of Belgium around the US , and went on a 70-day sparring trip, under the management of Jack Curley, well known American promoter.

Curley paid Carpentier $70.000 For this trip $1000a performance and when this was added to Georges’ movie money he had over $100,000 in American money when he sailed back to France on July 10. A new member of the Carpentier family was expected and Georges and his wife wanted it to be born on French soil.

In the meantime a Carpentier- Levinsky Match was boomed and Georges returned to America On September 13, his wife remained in France. The French champion trained at Jack Curley’s place in Great Neck, L. I., and at Freddie Welsh’s health farm at Summit, N. J, On October 12 he knocked Battling Levinsky out in the fourth round. It was a right to the Jaw that sent the American scrapper to the land of nod.

This battle was a lead-up to the big go with Jack Dempsey and as soon as articles were signed for the world’s championship bout, Georges returned to his. Native land. He took with him $50,000 his share of the Levinsky go.

Georges is a Daddy

Back in France he went on a short exhibition tour and on the strength of being the man matched with Jack Dempsey cleaned up a small fortune. On December 15 a daughter arrived in the Carpentier home. Georges was a proud daddy and said “I’ll make a champion tennis player of her”
In the early part of 1921 Carpentier and his manager Descamps went on another money making tour in Europe. On May 7 he sailed for America to train for the worlds title bout with Jack Dempsey at Jersey City July 2nd.

CHAPTER VIII
GEORGES CARPENTIER AND BOMBARDIER WELLS

BOMBARDIER WELLS has a most peculiar record. The chart of his successes and failures is like conventionalised lightning. He began with success and then failed miserably: then up again to the top of the tree and down again to the bottom of the ladder. His career, his temperament, the state of his nerves, have been more widely and more portentously discussed than the weight of Tom Sayers, the muscle of Tom Cribb, or the reach of Peter Jackson.

One school maintains that Wells is a first-rate boxer, another that he is a bad boxer. It all depends upon what you mean by boxing. If boxing is a game as golf is a game, an almost theoretical attack and defence, the rudest expression of which is what we call an “Exhibition” then Wells is a first-rater. But if boxing is the translation into rude and rough sport of a quite practical defence and offence, whereby one man disables another (but confined within rules which are unlikely to be obeyed in a very serious affair, any more than the Geneva Convention is obeyed in very serious wars) if, within these rules boxing means the real conflict between two men whose strength and endurance as well as skill are supremely tested then Wells is, on the whole, a bad boxer.

The explanation of Wells is extremely simple : he is a scientific boxer who does not really like fighting.

When we talk of a “natural fighter ” we mean a man who, however good-natured and good nature has nothing to do with it enjoys bashing people and is willing to run the risk of being bashed. He may be skilful too, though that is beside the point. Wells has been called a coward which is frankly absurd. He has never provided any evidence of cowardice. He does, no doubt, ” know the meaning of fear “: the bravest men always do. The ” man who does not know what fear is “clearly is a very useful man indeed, but he is not so brave as the man who knows all about it, is indeed afraid, but keeps his fear in hand. In this sort of discussion too sharp a line is usually drawn between brave men and cowards: too sharp a line is usually drawn in any discussion about primitive qualities. I don’t suppose that Wells enjoys being hurt any more than I do, but his difficulty lies in the fact, that he gets no enjoyment from hurting or, let us say rather, winning physical domination over other people. A boxer to be a good boxer must have the instinct for bashing. This may not be a highly civilised instinct, it may (for all I know) be highly reprehensible, but it is present in successful pugilists, and they can’t get on without it.

Wells was born in 1889, and as a soldier and amateur won the Championship of all India by beating Private Clohessey in 1909. Two years later he won the English Heavy-weight Championship by knocking out Iron Hague at the National Sporting Club in six rounds. Wells was one of the names mentioned as a ” White Hope” at the time when England, Australia, and America were being ransacked for a champion to beat Johnson. The match was actually arranged, but it was very wisely stopped by order of the Home Office. There was, as already said, a great deal too much “feeling” associated with the proposed contest which had nothing at all to do with the sport of boxing. It is impossible to say how any fight that never took place would have gone, and retrospective surmise is fairly unprofitable: but so far as we can judge from the two men’s respective records, there seems to be no doubt that Johnson would have won quickly and with the utmost ease.

The two most interesting encounters in Wells’s career were those with Georges Carpentier. The Frenchman’s record will be described in more detail later: it is enough to say for the present that he was the first French boxer of the highest order, the first to make us realise that boxing was not the sole prerogative of the English-speaking races.

The first encounter took place at the Ghent Exhibition, on June 1st, 1913. Wells stands 6 feet 3 inches, and his weight is generally in the neighbourhood of 13 stone. Carpentier is half an inch under six feet, and in those days was probably little more than a middle-weight, if that. On this occasion he fought, if not at home, at least near home: and there was a big crowd present of colliers from Lens, just over the border, amongst whom he had been born and bred.

Natural advantage was with the Bombardier. Three and a half inches is a great “pull” in height, and he had a corresponding superiority in reach. So it was plain to Carpentier and his advisers that he must do his utmost to get close to his man and to keep there. Wells, on the other hand, under-rated his opponent. Like most Englishmen at the time he could not understand how a Frenchman could be a real boxer. It seemed to be against the settled order of nature.

Now Wells was weak in the body, and he knew it. He could see that Carpentier was strong, and soon found him a hard hitter, and as he kept on attacking the body, the Englishman propped him off with long straight lefts. And for a time he kept at a distance, and Carpentier, misjudging the extra reach of his opponent lowered his guard. Then Wells sent in a hard blow at long range and all but beat him. A hard blow, perfectly timed, but not quite hard enough. Carpentier tumbled forward and remained down for nine seconds. But Carpentier really loves fighting for fighting’s sake, or did then. He had been all but knocked out, but he had in a superlative degree the will-to-go-on. And Wells, as had happened before, as happened afterwards too, failed to follow up his advantage with hot but reasoned haste. Having put in a good blow he was always rather prone to stand aside, so to speak, and admire its effects; thus allowing those effects to pass off.  So it was now. It is true that he had decidedly the better of the second round, leading off with a splendid strong and long straight left: but he failed to bustle and worry Carpentier, and the Frenchman, as the very seconds went by, recovered. And in the third round Carpentier was himself again. Wells was utterly astonished. He had quite forgotten that the stunning force of a punch on the jaw passes very quickly: and he allowed himself to be flustered and confused, and he snowed plainly that he was puzzled. He forgot to box and hit wildly and wide of his mark. And now Carpentier had got back nearly all the strength that had been beaten out of him in the first round. He sent in a vicious right to the jaw which shook Wells. When a blow on the “point” has done damage short of knocking a man down, he generally gives the fact away by an involuntary tapping of his right foot upon the floor. It is like a strong electric shock which, communicated first to the brain, runs instantly through the whole nervous system. So the spectators could see that Wells had been more than “touched.” And then the fourth round began and Wells was careless and in his turn lowered his guard: and Carpentier’s right hand whipped across over the shoulder to the English champion’s jaw, whilst an instant later his left came, bent, with his weight behind it, to the stomach. And that was all. Wells was counted out, and, as well they might, the colliers from Lens wildly yelled their triumph.

This encounter, pricking as it did the bubble of an age-old tradition, yet had very little effect on the admirers of the Bombardier. Or rather it was, perhaps, that they refused to believe that the Champion of England (however little that title may mean) could be really beaten by any one across the Channel. They regarded the final knock-out as an accident. After all, Wells had all but won at the very outset, and for some inscrutable reason he had given the fight away, first by lack of energy and then from sheer carelessness. This would surely have taught him a lesson ?

There followed after the affair at Ghent three contests in which Wells proved eminently successful. He knocked out Packey Mahoney in thirteen rounds at the National Sporting Club, after receiving early in the fight two very hard right handers in the body which made him visibly squirm. That was one of Wells’s chief defects he showed when he was hurt. But it was interesting to be shown that, because it was not supposed that he could stand two such blows on the body. Yet he recovered from them gradually and did not, this time, forget his boxing.

The next fight was a very unequal affair with Pat O’Keefe, Middle-weight Champion of England, and subsequently winner outright of the Lonsdale Belt. O’Keefe was a fine, fair boxer, but he was giving a couple of stone, and Wells’s head was right over him. He boxed with the utmost pluck and gave the heavyweight a lot of trouble before finally he was quite worn out and sent down beaten in the fifteenth round.

Then Wells knocked out Gunner Moir quite easily in five rounds, thus turning the tables, for Moir had knocked out the Bombardier more by good luck than by sound judgment two years before.

And then at last on December 5th, 1913, six months after his defeat at Ghent, the return match with Carpentier was arranged and took place at the National Sporting Club.

Of course, if you regard sport only from a competitive standpoint, this affair will seem to you a sheer disaster. It was England against France, and France decisively won. It is only human nature, I suppose, which sticks the national labels so prominently on to an event of this kind, but it seems unnecessary and rather a pity. There was really no England and no France in the matter, but two boxers called respectively Carpentier and Wells, who met in a roped ring to hit each other with padded fists for the ludicrously excessive stakes of  £300 a side and a purse of  £3000. And now that we are more used to the idea of Frenchmen boxing than we were in those days, the international habit of thought has largely, and fortunately, dropped into the background of our minds.

It is worth mentioning that members at the National Sporting Club that night paid for their guests’ seats five, ten, and as many as fifteen guineas. One onlooker, just before the men entered the ring for the big contest of the evening, left the hall. “I’ll be back presently,” he said to a friend, ” when they’ve settled down. I don’t want to see all the preliminaries and handshaking.” So he left his fifteen-guinea seat and went into another part of the club. On his return he found that it was all over. Rather an expensive drink, in fact.

The contest had lasted precisely seventy-three seconds. It was a dismal affair, and brief as the test was there was no possible doubt but that Carpentier was Wells’s master. Both the men were extremely well-trained. Wells was in excellent health and could make no excuse on that score. At the very outset the Frenchman went straight for his man and planted a good left at his body before he knew the round had begun. Then he came in close and vigorously attacked him with a succession of short half-arm blows. He danced away for a moment and was at Wells again. The Englishman was entirely flabbergasted. His presence of mind was all gone. He sank his left in a futile attempt to guard his body, but Carpentier’s right was past it in a flash, whilst his left followed instantly to Wells’s nose. Wells tucked away his stomach and took a step back. Carpentier reached the body again, nevertheless; and as they went apart for a moment it was seen that Wells was stupefied more by the very speed of the onslaught, spectators said, than by punishment. Which is as may be. Carpentier hit to hurt, and it is exceedingly unlikely that he failed. But it was again the science of boxing which deserted Wells. He seemed to be paralysed. He did nothing: no long left came out to keep the Frenchman away. He wouldn’t be kept away. A great lot of nonsense has been talked about his actual hypnotic power or that of his ebullient manager, M. Descamps. But the reason why Carpentier won
victories in those days and has won others and greater ones since, is simply that he is an extremely good boxer with any amount of fighting spirit the love of fighting, the sheer intention to win. That form of will-power does communicate itself to an opponent in the ring and with disastrous results, if he be a man of less vitality. Then Carpentier moved forward again and swung left followed by right hard upon Wells’s jaw. Then left and right at the body.

Both blows landed on the mark and it was all over. Wells reeled for an instant and then sank forward. At the call of Four he rolled over on to his back. He tried to draw up his knees, but he was completely knocked out, paralysed, and done. And for those who like the national labels the Champion of England lay beaten at the feet of the Champion of France, without having struck a single blow.

CHAPTER X
GEORGES CARPENTIER AND JEFF SMITH

IF an unnecessary fuss has been made about those affairs of other boxers which have nothing whatever to do with boxing, there is some excuse in Carpentier’s case, if only because he is the first Frenchman to achieve real distinction in the sport. Georges Carpentier was born at Lens, in the Pas de Calais, in January of 1 894. His father was a collier, and the boy, directly he was old enough (which probably meant long before he was old enough), followed his father underground and worked as a pit-boy, earning his five francs a week. At about this time ajovial little man whose face is now as familiar as Carpentier’s, Francois Descamps by name, was managing a gymnasium in the town. It was at this time that a wave of athleticism was passing over Northern France, and the boys of Lens, Carpentier amongst them, used to regard this gymnasium as their chief amusement after work hours. Amongst other exercises, Descamps encouraged a certain amount of boxing “English “boxing. La Savate had practically died out, and the days when “Charlemagne” the Frenchman, “kicked out” Jerry Driscoll, the ex-sailor (amongst whose pupils have been some of the best of the English amateurs) were unlikely to return. Still, though boxing was at this time a popular enough show in Paris, few Frenchmen themselves actuallyboxed, and Descamps was, in providing gloves at his gymnasium, rather in advance of his time.

Descamps forbade the use of these gloves by boys whom he had not yet taught, and when one evening he caught young  Carpentier thrashing a much bigger boy with them and by the light of nature, he rated him soundly: but he kept an eye on him. He was a natural fighter. It soon became apparent that he must fight; the inward urging was there, insistent and never for long to be denied. And the boy, all untaught, could defend himself.

Before very long Descamps, who interviewed the child’s parents, overcame their natural scepticism by paying them the weekly five francs the lad had been earning at the mine, and undertook his training as an athlete, sending him out into the fresh air instead of into the pit, teaching him all he himself knew about the science of fisticuffs. Mr. F. H. Lucas, the author of  From Pit-Boy to Champion Boxer, makes it plain that if ever there was an authentic instance of a fairy godfather .stepping into a boy’s life and changing it in a day from gloom to unalloyed delight, it is the instance of Descamps and Carpentier. The young Frenchman had an unique opportunity of succeeding well, for he was by Descamps’s interference enabled to follow the pursuit he liked best from his boyhood onwards; and underwent, owing to that fact, a unique training, adapted as it was to that end and to that end alone.

It is unnecessary to trace Carpentier’s career from the time he won his first success against an American boxer in a traveling booth and became “Champion” of France at 7 stone 2 lb., and at the age of fourteen, until he beat the Heavy-weight Championof England, when he was but nineteen and no more than a
middle-weight.

Carpentier’s success was by no means uniform. He got some severe thrashings both from English boxers and Frenchmen generally owing to the fact that he gave away weight and especially years at an age when youth is on the windward side of achievement. It is a wonder that the boy was not discouraged, but his pluck was unconquerable, and Descamps a sympathetic and astute manager. Again and again when it became apparent in a contest that nothing could save Carpentier from a knock-out, Descamps would give in for him, directing one of the seconds to throw a towel into the ring. His avoidance of the actual fact of a knockout no doubt saved the boy much discouragement, and it looked better, and still looks better, in a formal printed record of what he has done. Of course, Descamps was not always able to gauge the right moment for surrender, and it happened at least once in those early days that Carpentier was knocked out just like any other boxer with no fairy godfather to supervise his defeats.

In 1912 he had a very hard fight with Frank Klaus the American, who at that time claimed the World’s Middle-weight Championship. This encounter took place at Dieppe, and the American was nearly beaten early in the fight, falling from a terrific blow on the jaw. But he recovered, and his much longer experience came to his aid. In the end he gave Carpentier a severe drubbing for several rounds until, to save him, Descamps entered the ring: whereupon the referee gave Klaus the verdict. But throughout this contest the Frenchman was working hard, fighting all the time, never discouraged by punishment, showing what he had always shown, a perfectly unalterable, irreducible courage.

The same sort of thing happened in his fight with another American, Papke. This time Carpentier had to reduce his weight, which is the worst possible thing a boy, still growing and with no superfluous flesh, can do. He began the fight weak, was severely hammered and finally had an eye closed. Again Descamps intervened, this time in the eighteenth round, to save him the technical knock-out. Regarded dispassionately, this sort of thing is excellent “business,” and does not, as far as one can see, do much harm to sport. If Tommy Burns was the first man who made boxing a matter of sound commerce, one may call Carpentier, or more strictly his manager and mentor, Descamps, the first Boxing Business Magnate. Between them they had made a literally large fortune before Carpentier was twenty.

One of his hardest, longest, and best fights was with Jeff Smith, a hardy American who was a shade lighter, shorter, and with less reach than Carpentier. This combat took place at the end of 1913, not a month after the Frenchman had beaten Wells, for the second time, at the National Sporting Club.On this occasion Carpentier boxed indifferently in the early rounds, and seemed not to take the occasion seriously. His was the first blow, and it was a good one, which drew blood from the American’s nose. Smith grunted and shook his head, and put in a left in reply. It was clear that he wanted the Frenchman at close quarters, and he kept coming in close and hammering away at the body. Carpentier made a perfunctory effort to keep him at arm’s length, but seemed after a while to be willing to fight Smith on his own terms. He caught the American a very hard smack on the eye, which swelled up so that he was thenceforward half-blinded. Smith even in the third round was a good deal marked, and not one of the spectators imagined for a moment that he could possibly last out the full twenty rounds. In the next round Carpentier boxed very much as he pleased. They exchanged body-blow and upper-cut on the head, but the latter was the more severe, and it was the Frenchman’s. Smith kept on trying to “bring the right across “at close quarters, but Carpentier always protected himself. He seemed to be waiting  for a safe opportunity for knocking his opponent out, and did little in the fourth round. Smith kept on leading, though without much effect, but scored more points nevertheless.

After a while Smith began to get into serious trouble, and he held to avoid punishment. This is against the strict rules, and should be regarded as such; but, humanly speaking, when you are getting a very bad time, the instinct to hold your man’s arms to prevent him from hitting you is very strong. If you have the strength it is, of course, much more efficacious to hit him and stop the punishment in that way: but when your strength is going, as Smith’s was, you are prone to follow blind instinct, rules or no rules. Just after this he managed to put in a good upper-cut, but got a hard “one-two” in return a left instantly followed by right, straight, taking him in the middle of the face. And then Smith woke up, having got what is called his second wind. Throughout the seventh round he gave Carpentier a really bad time. Two fierce blows, left and right, made the Frenchman rock where he stood, and his counters were well guarded or avoided altogether. Carpentier boxed better in the eighth round, but there was no power in his blows, and the French onlookers began to look very glum. For his part, Carpentier wished that he had trained better. He was not himself: the fire seemed to be dead in him. He was feeling desperate: there was no pleasure in this fight. Smith kept on getting under his long arms and hitting him hard at close quarters, hammering away at his stomach. And Carpentier grew weaker and more wild, and wasted his remaining strength on futile swings which clove the empty air. Another hard blow on the jaw and Carpentier staggered. It was all he could do to hold up. He replied with one of his vain and foolish swings, sent with all his remaining power whizzing through the air and missing Jeff Smith by feet. This effort sent Carpentier hard to the floor by the momentum of its own wasted force. It is true that Smith failed to follow up his advantage when the Frenchman rose, but even so the round was decisively in his favour. The tenth round found Smith strong and hearty, boxing with turdy vigour if not remarkable skill. Carpentier had recovered a little by now, and, exasperated by Smith’s coolness, rallied vigorously and rained left-handers on his opponent, so that the American was forced to “cover up” with his gloves on either side of his face and his elbows tucked in. Carpentier’s round, but no serious damage done. And the next was much the same, and Smith clinched a good deal, though Carpentier’s hitting was far from strong. Smith’s defence was admirable when he was not holding, but his vigour of attack had been in abeyance for a little while. In the twelfth round he woke up, and drove his right to the Frenchman’s mouth, drawing much blood, and went on attacking. In the fourteenth round Carpentier seemed quite done. He tried once or twice to swing in the hope of knocking his man out, but his blows were weak and Smith was cautious. The American was still the more marked and obviously damaged of the two; but Carpentier looked woebegone and ill. He, too, had a split lip which bled profusely. Just at the end of the round Carpentier did at last manage to put in a right cross-counter which had some strength in it, but before he could follow it up time was called, and Smith had his minute in which to recover.

It was about this time that Descamps declared that Carpentier had smashed his hand at the very beginning of the fight. It may be taken as a fairly safe rule that when a man’s backers make this type of observation during the progress of a contest, they think he is going to lose it. When he has actually lost, they invariably say something of the kind. A smashed hand a family trouble an acute attack of indigestion these excuses and all their manifold variations serve their dear old turn, and are promptly disbelieved at large as soon as they are uttered. It is possible that Carpentier may have sprained a thumb slightly, but it could not have been more than that. The vigour that his hitting lacked was, on that occasion, constitutional. He was
not in first-rate condition.

Both men were sorry for themselves. Smith’s eye was quite closed, his opponent was bleeding severely from his cut lip. For a time their efforts were about equal. Carpentier kept trying to knock his man out, Smith defended himself. The spectators could not understand the Frenchman. All the time or almost all the time, he had fought like a man both weak and desperate. And then, quite suddenly, in the sixteenth round there was a change. I have said that Carpentier is a real fighter: he has the spirit and instinct for bashing, for going on against odds. He was weak, and for a long time he had plainly shown it. And yet somewhere in him there was a reserve of power and an unconquerable will. To the utter astonishment of the onlookers and of Jeff Smith himself, Carpentier sprang out of his corner for the sixteenth round as though he were beginning a fresh contest. He positively hurled himself across the ring at his antagonist. He landed at once, with a half-arm blow on the head, and blow after blow, mainly with the left, pounded the unfortunate American. Smith was completely taken aback and could only clinch to save himself. It was all that he could do to withstand this slaughtering attack and remain upright.

There was a great uproar amongst the crowd. Yells of delight greeted this great awakening of the Frenchman: and when the next round began every one thought that Smith must soon fall. Carpentier went for him again with animal ferocity. He leapt about the ring after him, sending in blow after murderous blow. Smith reeled and gasped and staggered and backed away after each shattering, smashing right had landed, but he still stood up and fought him like a man. It was a fine show of pluck. The man was badly hurt. Plenty of boxers would have dropped for a rest and even would have allowed themselves to be counted out, but not Jeff Smith. He was, as they say, “for it,” and he knew that he was ” for it.” But he would go through with it. The uproar increased. The spectators wanted to have the fight stopped, but without avail. The fight went on. Smith staggered in, and more by good luck than any sort of management, contrived to land two pitiful blows. His legs were hopelessly weak he could hardly see, and yet he managed to cover his jaw, and, try as he would, with all his renewal of vigour, Carpentier could do everything he liked with his man save knock him out. It is necessary to make this quite plain. Smith looked as though he must at any moment drop down and stay down from sheer exhaustion. A minute’s rest. The last round.

Men are oddly and wonderfully made. Smith leapt from his chair just as his opponent had done a quarter of an hour before, strong, eager, ferocious. He tore across the ring at Carpentier, flung amazing blows at him, made desperate and frantic efforts to knock him out at the last minute. Carpentier was completely flabbergasted. He had never known anything like this to be possible. Smith’s recovery was marvellous, not less wonderful than that. And indeed Jeff Smith was within sight of victory throughout that desperate last round. He landed a right-hander with all his diminished strength, and the Frenchman crumpled up and fell forward to the boards. A little more might behind the blow, a shade more elasticity in the arm that sent the blow, and Carpentier must have been counted out. But that was the end. Carpentier rose just as the bell rang for time. And the referee gave the fight to him. The decision was not popular even among Frenchmen which is surprising, but strengthening to one’s faith in human nature.

CHAPTER XI
JACK DEMPSEY AND GEORGES CARPENTIER

CARPENTIER served in the French Flying Corps during the war, but though four years or more were taken from the best of his boxing life, he did not forget how to box. During the “gap” he engaged in no recorded contests, but no doubt did a certain amount of sparring. He had gained weight and lost no ground when the war ended. During 1919 and 1920, he fought five times, knocking out five men, including Dick Smith, Joe Beckett, and Battling Levinsky. Meanwhile, in July, 1919, Jack Dempsey had knocked out Jess Willard in three rounds for the World’s Championship, and Carpentier challenged him. . “Jack Dempsey ” is a nom de guerre’, presumably taken (since there is as yet no copyright in names) from that older Jack Dempsey who began boxing in the early eighties, and lost the World’s Middle-weight title to Bob Fitzsimmons, who knocked him out in fifteen rounds in 1891.

The new Jack Dempsey was born in 1895, and his record shows that until the end of 1920 he had fought upwards of sixty contests, fifty-eight of which he won, mainly by knocking his opponents out in the first or second rounds. He weighs 13 stone, and stands just a shade under 6 feet. That is to say, he was a stone and a half heavier than Carpentier; much longer in reach. Dempsey is a very miracle of strength and hardness. It seemed an absurd match. If an animal analogy may be allowed, it was like a young leopard against a gorilla. There are, of course, innumerable accidents in boxing, chance blows and slight injuries which turn the tide of battle, an ” off” day, a fault in training; but it may be laid down as a general rule that when character and strength are equal the man with the more skill wins, when skill and strength are equal, character wins, when character and skill are equal, strength wins. So it was now. Both Carpentier and Dempsey were natural fighters, both were scientific boxers, though Carpentier was more skilled than his opponent, both wanted to win, but Dempsey was immensely stronger than the Frenchman.

The contest took place at New Jersey, U.S.A., on July 2, 1921. A very small ring was used, no more than eighteen feet square. The number of rounds was limited to twelve, but it was recognised beyond the possibility of doubt that so many as twelve would not be required to settle the matter.

The moving pictures of the event show Carpentier sitting in his corner, nodding and smiling while his gloves are being put on. His grin is wide. Then with the suddenness of the camera’s own shutter, it ceases. For an instant the whole face is still, the mouth closes in thin-lipped anxiety, the eyes are set, and when you see the smile break out again you know that it is deliberate, not spontaneous. In fact Georges Carpentier was acutely nervous. Who, of his size and in his shoes, would not have been ? You have but to glance at the man in the opposite corner, and you shake at the very thought of being in Carpentier’s shoes at that moment. Thirteen and a half stone may mean very little; it may mean a hulking fellow who can’t hit, let alone take punishment: it may mean a hulking fellow who can hit hard, but who can do nothing else. But the thirteen and a half stone of Dempsey meant a man in perfect condition, who could hit as few men can, who was extraordinarily hard and strong and almost impossible to hurt. Thirteen and a half stone of bone and muscle, not bone and muscle and fat. No fat at all. All hard stuff; not easy rippling muscle like Carpentier’s, but very solid and tough and extremely serviceable.

Dempsey had left himself unshaven for several days, so that the skin of his face should not be tender, thereby gaining, besides, a horribly malign appearance. And he scowled,  and when the two of them stood up he made Carpentier look a little man. Dempsey was not popular in America owing to his avoidance of military service during the war. Seeing him in the ring, unless the photographic films have lied, he looked the very incarnation of sullen rage and brute force. In private life he is an amiable man, fresh-faced and modest. He had much more than brute force: he was a skilled and terrific basher. Strength for strength, Dempsey could, as you might say, “eat” Carpentier. And they gave rather the appearance of the child and the ogre in the ring. Carpentier seemed unable to defend himself against the shattering onslaught of the American, and there was much clinching in the first round. The smaller man greatly surprised the spectators by going in and fighting at once, instead of trying to keep away and let Dempsey tire himself, which seemed to be the obvious course to pursue. He had not the strength to stop the majority of Dempsey’s blows, especially the upper-cuts which came crashing through his guard. He tried the trick of boxing with his chin on the big man’s chest, but even so his body suffered the more. It was, as a matter of irrelevant fact, Carpentier who scored the first hits, a left on the face and an upper-cut with the right, neither of which had any effect at all.

During a clinch the champion gave his opponent a dig in the stomach which reduced his strength immediately. This he followed by a hard, very short blow on the back of the head, given whilst Carpentier was holding close. From the position in which two men stand in a clinch, such a blow cannot be given with the whole weight of the body. The glove can travel only five or six inches, and the body’s weight cannot in that attitude be swung behind the arm. I have seen in clumsy boxing a man knocked clean out by a blow on the back of the head or neck by an ordinary full swing, aimed for the jaw, which the victim has protected by bringing his head forward, but not far enough forward. But a man of Dempsey’s strength can make the short blow a very serious one when frequently repeated : and he repeated it many times on Carpentier. Next he landed on the Frenchman’s body with both hands. Emerging from a clinch Carpentier was seen to be bleeding from the nose. Then he swung hard at Dempsey’s jaw and missed it. He had done no damage at all yet.

The second round was the most interesting in a very short fight. Carpentier crouched and jumped in with a left and right which landed on the head, but did not hurt the American. Carpentier hit again and missed. They clinched, and Dempsey sent in some more body-blows, pulling his man about the ring as he pleased, so long as he held. Then Carpentier backed away, and for an instant Dempsey’s guard was down. The Frenchman halted in his retreat and shot a left hook in at the jaw. It was beautifully timed, a fine seizing of a small opportunity, a test of courage. And for Carpentier it was a great moment, a triumph of presence of mind: thought and action were well nigh simultaneous. The blow seemed to shake Dempsey, and the huge crowd yelled with delight for the Frenchman, who immediately followed up his advantage. He had been hurt: he was weak, but he had taken his opportunity. That left was a hard blow, almost as hard as any he had ever struck. It was a wonderful chance: he had never thought he would be able to get in a blow like that, not after that first round. And now he would hit again, and he swung his right hand to Dempsey’s jaw with all his might. But there was just a shade of flurry about that blow, and Carpentier did a thing he had not done for years : he swung his hand in its natural position, instead of twisting it over a little in its passage so that the finger knuckles struck the jaw: and the natural position made the impact fall upon the thumb. It was a beginner’s mistake, but a frequent one when hot haste makes a man a little wild. Carpentier felt a sharp and agonising pain, but he struck again with his right, and this time he missed. Dempsey came forward and this time it was he who clinched, before attacking the French man’s body again with his half-arm blows. And so the round ended.

What had happened was this : the full weight of Carpentier’s blow falling on his thumb broke it and sprained his wrist. Dempsey shook his head and retired a step or two, and declared afterwards that he could not remember the blow. This is unlikely.

He added that he might possibly have been caught when he was off his balance and so appeared to stagger. We may say for certain that the two blows, left and right combined, would have knocked any other man out. Certainly their effect upon the champion was trivial; though it is said that some one in his corner stretched out his hand for the smelling-salts, so as to be ready in case Dempsey came to his corner dazed.

The third round began, and Carpentier retreated as his opponent advanced on him. He knew too much now to attempt to ” mix it,” he would keep away. His only chance lay in Dempsey’s tiring himself. He said afterwards that those two blows in the second were the best he could strike, and when he saw that they had failed he lost heart. “Dempsey gave me a blow, just afterwards, on the neck which seemed to daze me,” he said. Well, there are various degrees of losing heart. Carpentier may have realised that his task was hopeless, but he meant to go on. He landed a right at very long range with no power behind it to speak of, and Dempsey clinched, before sending home several of his rib-shattering half-arm blows. Carpentier’s strength was going. These body-blows had hurt him severely, and their effect was sickening and lasting. Then Dempsey hit him a little higher, just under the heart, and the Frenchman’s knees gave. He was nearly down, but managed to keep on his legs until the end of the round. But he was looking ill as he went to his corner.

Directly the fourth round began the sullen giant crouched and attacked Carpentier with all his strength, driving him fast before him round the ring until he had him in a corner. Dempsey swung his right and Carpentier ducked inside it. They were close together, and he had to submit to a bout of in-fighting, trying to force his way out of the corner. But Dempsey got him close up against the ropes and sent in a very hot right to the jaw. Carpentier collapsed upon hands and knees. The ring, his antagonist, the faces peering at him from the level of the stage, were misty and vague. There was only one idea in his mind, only one thing that he could hear. He must get up somehow before the referee counted ten. . . . Four five (he was not done yet) six seven (he must stay down as long as possible) eight nine. And at that Carpentier jumped up quickly and flung up his arms to guard against the inevitable rush. It was no good. He did not know his own weakness. Dempsey just pushed his arms aside, feinted with his left, and sent his right crashing to the heart. Again Carpentier fell, and this time he was counted out

CHAPTER XII
GEORGES CARPENTIER AND GEORGE COOK

AFTER his defeat by Dempsey, Carpentier did not fight again until he met George Cook, the Australian, at the Albert Hall, on January I2th, 1922. In the World’s Championship contest he had been badly hurt: and a beating such as he had then might well have produced a lasting effect. It was, then, interesting to watch him to see if his previous downfall would manifestly alter his demeanour in the ring. But though it is not to be doubted that some of his behaviour arose from motives of policy, there was, genuinely, no sign of worry upon his boyish and almost preposterously unpugilistic face. Coming into the ring there was an elaborate nonchalance in the Frenchman’s mien which was intended to impress his opponent. With genial gravity Carpentier himself wound his bandages about his hands beforedrawing on his black gloves: and instead of remaining in his corner he moved his stool to a position in the ring more generally commanded by the spectators.

Cook is a man without any particular record in this country, though he was Heavy-weight Champion of Australia. By beating Carpentier he would have become Champion of Europe, and would, of course, have bounded into considerable fame. Wise after the event, large numbers of a critical public have observed that the result was for ever certain. But that is unfair to Cook, who showed himself to be a boxer by no means despicable, and who most emphatically had the better of one round out of the four. He was a stone heavier than his man, though this considerable difference was not plainly observable when they stripped. Cook was just a shade “beefy,” but he was strong and well. He looked across the ring with astonishment at the form of his antagonist: for Carpentier is a Greek bronze, dark-skinned, beautifully proportioned, covered with easy, flowing muscle, a sight to stir the hearts of older athletes with vain regret.

The huge hall was full. Large numbers of women were present, both English and French, and these called to mind the amusing discussions in and out of newspapers, before the war, as to the propriety of admitting female spectators to “Gladiatorial displays.” Indeed in one Correspondence Column under thetitle, “Should Ladies Watch Boxing Contests ? “an irascible old sportsman declared that the question did not arise, as no lady would do such a thing. Without entering at length into a question which is not widely interesting, I would ask what hope there was for a gentility which depends upon obedience to a perfectly trivial convention, involving no question of right or wrong, manners, or even what we usually mean by ” decorum ” In those days of 1914, before war broke out, and when the ” boxing boom ” was at its height, a woman whom it is unnecessary to call a “lady,” old enough also to have recognized for what they were and to despise many transient correctitudes of fashion, observed: ” If my daughter likes to go and see two nasty men with hairy chests knocking each other about, why shouldn’t she ? “And, really, that is all there is to be said on the subject. To return to what the ladies watched, rather than exploring The ” quite niceness “of their watching it a very desperate encounter was not expected: but, provided that he doesn’t knock his man out in the first fifty or sixty seconds, Carpentier is always worth seeing.

The first round was level. Cook boxed well, particularly at close quarters, and the Frenchman appeared hesitating and tentative in all his movements. Early in the next round Cook sent out a quick and tremendous swing which, with greater quickness, Carpentier avoided, dancing right away from it. Then, a little later, the same thing happened on Carpentier’s side. Throughout this round Cook succeeded for the most part in keeping close to his man and in dealing him out short but powerful punches on the back of the neck and head, in imitation of Dempsey, but without his power. From Cook these blows seemed to trouble his antagonist not at all. That was certainly Cook’s round.

Whether the considerable margin of points in his favour was entirely due to Carpentier’s ringcraft is not certain. He was anxious to sum up the situation and thoroughly to take the measure of Cook before committing himself. It is quite possible that he deliberately gave something away in that round, being confident that his gift could do him no serious harm : but if he did so, I am inclined to suppose that he got more than he reckoned upon.

The third round was Carpentier’s in about the same degree as the second had been Cook’s. His hesitation had completely gone, and he did nothing without meaning to, and no intention of his was frustrated by his opponent. He knew all about Cook now. He was a powerful hitter at short range, a good in-fighter, and he was strong. But he was much the slower of the two. When he has really settled to his work Carpentier crouches lightly and elegantly, with no rigid and inflexible guard, but both hands ready, both arms loose and lithe, to supply whatever need the next moment may demand. At the beginning of the fourth round Cook went for him with plenty of pluck and determination, and did his utmost to keep close. But Carpentier hit and got away, side-stepped, danced lightly on his toes, refusing to fight at close quarters. Every now and again a clinch seemed imminent, and the Frenchman darted away out of reach, leaving, as it were, a lightning blow behind him. Suddenly, as the  Australian tried to force him into his own corner, he sent in a right to Cook’s jaw, through his guard, at very long range and with extraordinary dexterity. It was the kind of blow that could only be landed effectively by a boxer of the utmost possible skill. For one thing it was exquisitely timed, coming in not straight, but without the elbow being markedly bent, striking the right place, the glove turning over as it struck, and avoiding Cook’s guardian left with the most delicate precision. For another, few boxers could land any blow save a wide swing from the position Carpentier was in with sufficient weight behind it to do much damage. It was, on his part, a triumph of speed, of real boxing, not according to confining rules, but according to science applied to occasion with the utmost ingenuity and agility. It is worth going a long way to see a blow like that struck. No one should need the fantastic explanation of Carpentier’s or Descamps’s hypnotic powers if he will but watch the boxer with
a quick and vigilant eye.

There have been, perhaps, better men of a less weight from the strictly scientific point of view, but as a skilled heavy-weight Carpentier is peerless. Unfortunately, as we know, science is not all that is needed in the ring, and Carpentier was utterly routed by Dempsey a good boxer, but not nearly so good a boxer because he was a positive phenomenon of size and strength.

That beautiful right was probably enough to beat Cook, who immediately fell forward. But Carpentier hit him again, bending to do so, just before he reached the floor. By the rules it was a fair blow, because the man was not technically ” down ” neither glove nor knee quite touched the floor. It was, however, a very near thing. There was a good deal of excitement and uproar at the moment, and at least one highly competent judge fully believed the blow to have been a foul, and that the Frenchman should have been disqualified. But he was sitting immediately behind Carpentier and could not get a perfectly clear view.

Instantaneous photographs, displayed afterwards, show that Carpentier, by the narrowest possible margin, was on the right side. But it was an unfortunate ending to a most instructive encounter. For the question remains did he strike deliberately, or was he overcome by the excitement of the moment, as so many other boxers, even of his experience, have been overcome before Neither alternative leaves us with complete ease in retrospect: for to lose your head is bad boxing, while to take the uttermost advantage of the exact letter of the rule is, in such a case, questionable sportsmanship.
My Fighting Life
BY
GEORGES CARPENTIER
1920

CHAPTER I

I BECOME DESCAMPS’ PUPIL

OUTSIDE my home in Paris many thousands of my countrymen shouted and roared and screamed; women tossed nosegays and blew kisses up to my windows. “Vive Carpentier! ‘ came from a mighty chorus of voices. Paris was still in an ecstasy of enthusiasm; my contest against Joe Beckett, so swift, sensational, dramatic, incredible, remained the wonder of the moment, and as I looked from my window on to the street below I shook and shivered.

My father, a man of Northern France hard, stern, unemotional clutched the hand of my mother, whose eyes were streaming wet. Albert, also my two other brothers arid sister made a strange group. They were transfixed. Francois Descamps was pale; his ferret-like eyes blinked meaninglessly. Only my dog, Flip, now I come to think of it all understood for he gave himself over to howls of happiness. This day of unbounded joy so burnt itself into my mind that I shall remember it for all time.

“Georges, mon ami,” exclaimed my father, ” no such moment did I ever think would come into our lives.”
And I understood.

My life, as I look back upon it, has been a round of wonders. Twenty-six years ago I was born at Lens. My father was employed at one of the local collieries.  His lot was a common one, our home little and modest. When scarcely more than a baby, I was earning a franc a day as a bicycle messenger. My school days were over when the nursery should have claimed me. Birth, circumstances, environment, the dull, narrow, parochial circle into which I came, made me a man when I was but a child. They tell me, though, that I was happy, that in a precocious and mystical way I would dream and prattle of adventure, of travel ; that I had an insatiable love of reading ; that I was given to wondering ; that restlessness seized me from the days when I could but toddle, and there were moments when my mother despaired of my future.

I conjured up the day when I would go far away  I Become Descamps’ Pupil from Lens, and the yearning to go afield was quickened by visits to the neighborhood of circuses, which have ever been a source of joy to the young folk of the French provinces. It was a peep which I took into one of these traveling circuses that had nearly all to do with shaping my career. For as I beheld a man, whom I decided was the most remarkable of all performers on the trapeze, I sought on many days afterwards to get the consent of my parents to join a troupe of acrobats, for already I had acquired the art of tumbling, and I was counted by my friends to be a contortionist of uncommon ability.

In her simple, homely way my mother would take hold of me and enlarge upon the wickedness of my desires. But good, persuasive soul though she was, she could not wean me of my fondness for the circus, and it chanced one day that a traveling boxing booth was pitched in Lens. The proprietor of it was a hard-bitten fellow; in his troupe were several much-battered English boxers. I can see them now. In singlets once white, and in them holes that told of days of leanness, they stood on a raised platform like mutes, the while their proprietor invited young men to come inside and box with them. I yielded to the invitation, though I had not only never seen an English boxer, but I had not even handled a boxing glove.

What precisely happened I shall never know, but after I had had my “fight “I was asked to become one of the troupe. The idea fascinated me ; I would have gone with the booth there and then had I not promised my mother that I would never go away without telling her. The prospect of my becoming a boxer horrified her. That she had not the faintest notion of what boxing was did not deter her from painting a lurid picture of my future. I pleaded with her; I coaxed and cajoled, but she was unbending. And I was sad. But the passion to learn to box after the fashion of the English burned furiously within me.

The desire to go into the world as an acrobat vanished, and for long did I think and dream and wonder about the strange fellows of the boxing booth. That they rough, uncouth men could and did dare to drop into this and that town and lay low, all and sundry by their art, their skill, their science, bordered on the miraculous. And there came a day when I learned that in Lens there was one ” Professor Descamps, teacher of la boxe Anglais.” Folk of my neighbourhood, so curious and extraordinary was ” the Professor,” spoke of him as a “mystery man.” It was voted that he dabbled in magic. A lone, misunderstood man was Francois Descamps. That he was not of  the coal-fields, that he was of a world different from his fellows, put him in a position of almost awful  isolation. Francois Descamps was feared because many remarkable tales were woven around him, and  because he was feared I was drawn to him as if by some magnet.

So to his house did I go. I found him alone in his gymnasium, which was a small room. Had I dared, I would have laughed outright, for there he was rushing here and there, his fists clenched, his lips pressed tight, his eyes had red in them; he was waging the most terrible of battles against Nobody. It was not until after many days that I discovered that he was doing nothing more serious than shadowboxing. ” And ;what do you want? ” he asked. ” Why come you here? ‘ ! There was something in the good Francois that I had not discovered in any other man of Lens. His voice, his intense eagerness, his little, keen, stabbing eyes, drew me to him. I confess, however, that the story I told came haltingly. It was that I desired to become one of his pupils. He laughed in his queer, hearty fashion, and stroked my pale, thin face.

” You would box, eh? But you are too young, too tiny. Come to me when you have grown.” ” But I can box already. I have boxed at the booth. I want to fight like the English, and you are the Professor, eh? ” I replied. And with mock ceremony Francois took and put on my baby hands a pair of monstrously big gloves. We sparred a couple of rounds, and then I was sent home. The sequel to my visit to the Professor was soon to come, for two or three days later Descamps, to my great joy, told me that he had interviewed my parents, and it had been decided that he might take me as his pupil. This I learned one winter’s evening in his gymnasium. In the centre of it a log fire blazed merrily, an oil lamp burned in a tired way, and three or four tallow candles flickered. Taking me on his knee, he explained in language extravagant and fantastical his ambition:

” You, my Georges, are now my pupil. I am your master, your father, your mother, your all. Through you I will give to France a great fighter, the champion of your country ; you shall go to Paris, to England. Before you are a man you shall have a fortune. This day a new and greater athletic France has been born. For it is Professor Descamps who says so.” And until the night grew old he reveled in stories all romance and dazzling colours. And I was intoxicated with it all. From that night until the present day there has existed between Descamps and myself a bond of sympathy a complete and perfect understanding that it were impossible to destroy.

Perhaps you would know this Francois Descamps. A little, square man, these opulent days for he is an important and rich manufacturer of aldermanic proportions I believe, because of his quaintness, he has no counterpart. His head, that tells of uncommon intelligence, is set off by hair, thick and brittle ; before the war it was coal black, now it is splashed with grey. His face is moon-shape ; it has much red in it. His eyes are two little slits, and they speak of merriment ; his voice is inclined to shrillness; his gift of language is marvellous. He will talk at express speed for a day and a night, and suffer no exhaustion. That which he possesses has come to him by hard, unceasing work, and by the great optimism that is within him. He is at once a comedian, a philosopher and an exceedingly prosperous man of business. Generous he is, and yet there is no harder bargain maker.

He was a poor, struggling young man when he took me as his pupil, but there was no iron in his soul. Yet he was the rarest contradiction I have ever known. Principally his mission and purpose in life was to teach physical culture and boxing. A more eloquent preacher of the gospel of bodily fitness never was, and yet in the early days of our association he was a Socialist of a completely aggressive, pugnacious type. There was a time when folk whispered that he was anarchist, but this mainly because he was so strangely different from his neighbours. The fact that he set himself up as a teacher of boxing, that he talked and lived for fighting, bred much understanding between us.

When I went to him his pupils were distressingly few, and francs came to him fitfully. But when times were hardest and luxuries rare, his optimism, his belief in himself, his belief in me, was greatest. He would say, ” Georges, my son, there is no money, but to-morrow there will be plenty ! ‘ And we would struggle together. From the first day I went with him I found that I was made for boxing ; it appealed to me as a perfectly natural game, and very soon I was able to stand up and beat boys much bigger and older than myself.

But Descamps would only speak of me cryptically, mysteriously, for a full year.As in my training at Stanmore for my contest with Beckett, I was prepared for the ring more or less secretly. But, not only was I taught to box, Descamps encouraged and developed my passion for gymnastics; he made me an expert tumbler and no mean contortionist. He himself at night would engage in conjuring and sleight-of-hand, and when there came a period of especial leanness he let me into a secret. ” On Sunday next,” he said, ” we will tour the country cafes; I, as Professor Descamps, of Lens, hypnotist, conjurer, boxer; you, as tumbler, contortionist, and my medium. As such you will be put into a trance and do thought-reading. It will be easy, and the francs we want twill come to us; we will conjure them out of the pockets of the country-folk into our hats.”

And there and then I was initiated into the mysteries of hypnotism, or clairvoyance. What glorious make-believe did we play ! Little did I think as the result of our little rehearsals by which we hoped to raise the wind that years later all London would talk and say that I beat Joe Beckett because I possessed the power to hypnotize. But of the ” hypnotic punch ” I will .write later. Having prepared a code by which I might tell little inconsequential but intimate things and happenings about men before whom we were about to perform, we set out at the week-end on a ten-mile tramp to amuse and interest the frequenters of the countryside cafes. I must confess, though I could never deny anything asked of me by Descamps, that
I doubted the wisdom and success of our venture.

But Francois feared neither trouble nor failure. We had come within sight of a cafe when Descamps cried a halt. An old stringy carpet on which I was to do my tumbling feats was spread on the roadside so as to serve as a table at which we might eat our luncheon. Descamps produced long rolls of butter, bread, sausages and a bottle of cheap red wine, and we partook of what my young and splendid appetite made me believe was an entirely sumptuous repast. Our stock of food having disappeared, Descamps made me stay so that he might “prospect.” Away he went, singing and laughing, and when he returned this is what he told me : Georges, I have been to and supped at two cafes that were very crowded, and I have had much talk with the celebrities. At cafe No. 1 there will be a farmer, dressed in homespun cloth of fearsome pattern. I have learned that in recent days he has had much trouble with his cattle. When I put you in a trance this, which I now tell you, you must say, softly, slowly, with your eyes closed, and the while you are stiff and rigid.” And so did Descamps acquaint me with all the local news as it closely concerned men who would be at the cafes to which we were to go. Then, his eyes romping with fiendish delight, he took from his pocket a large sheet of paper, and on it he did write this, his ” play-bill”

” And we do all this? ” I asked, as Descamps held his ” play-bill ” before my eyes and jumped and capered. ” That and much more,” I was assured. And away we went to batten upon the country yokels. With a confidence and effrontery that staggered me, Descamps took the proprietor by the arm, and with a profound bow presented him with the “playbill.” Then in his piping voice he rolled out his prologue, while I stood riveted to the ground with my tumbling-carpet tucked away under my arm. What extraordinary, extravagant, impossible, unintelligible language did Descamps employ ! He stormed, raved, gesticulated and screamed, so that more than a score of simple folk stood openmouthed. They had neither the inclination nor the brain to think about and analyse that which they heard. Their mind was reduced to a jumble. All they could do was to gaze stonily at ” The Professor v and his pale-faced, sickly-looking pupil.

They were not given an opportunity to recover their equilibrium. They remained abnormal, utterly perplexed and bewildered men. So I set about tumbling and doing all manner of acrobatics. Then “sleight-of-hand ” very crude I fear it was, but it sufficed by the Professor; la boxe Anglais was voted to be marvellous, for we sought to make the exposition the nearest approach to murder; but the piece de resistance was the hypnotic turn.

Before embarking upon it I learned for the first time that which, of course, was untrue, that Descamps had lived for many years among the fakirs of the East; that, in fact, he had been a fakir. And as became a fakir, he tore and pulled his long black hair by way of helping him, so I thought, to turn on a torrent of the wildest, weirdest, the most ludicrous words ever uttered by man. Snatching a chair, he bade me be seated. A prodigious wink was the signal for me to be wholly serious. Stalking up to me as if I were some elusive thing, with outstretched arms, he peered into my eyes, drew down the lids, passed his hands before me, and gibbered and jabbered all the time.

A snap of his long fingers, a shrill hissing cry about “the ‘fluence,” and, as per rehearsal, I half swooned, and made my whole body as stiff as to suggest that I had become petrified. I would put it on record that before my bout of swooning, Descamps, on whose hands was much white powder, stroked my face, and by the time I had been put under the magic spell I was deathly pale. I suffered many violent convulsions during my thought-reading demonstration. What were counted secrets among strangers, such as we were, I revealed, to the utter consternation of our audience. We held these country folk in the hollow of our hands, and when I had answered Descamps’ last question the answer to which question, you must know, was indicated by the particular way in which it was framed, it was supposed that we were gifted with supernatural powers. Needless to say, Descamps, as soon as he had snapped his fingers and taken from me the ‘fluence, held out the hat, and on this Sunday we walked back to Lens richer by some twenty-five francs.

During many week-ends we toured the countryside and prospered. And we did win much fame; our entertainment was keenly awaited by many people. Meantime I was learning and growing ; I ate my boxing lessons greedily. I engaged in several bouts for the mere love of fighting. Round and about my home I won quite a reputation. With a tenderness I shall never forget, Descamps nursed me as he would his own son, but there came a time when I grew petulant and would ask him when it would be that I would have a match for money. Always was it, “Soon,” but I chafed because of the indefiniteness of which this reply told, and one night I did not present myself at the gymnasium for my lesson. I stayed out very late with several
companions. Without saying anything to me, Descamps  sought my mother and learned that I had not come home until close on midnight. It was a very sheepish boy that next day presented himself at the  Professor’s academy.

“Shall we start to box at once?” asked Descamps.  I was entirely agreeable. We were putting on the gloves when Descamps said, ” You were out late last night. Why ? ‘ ‘ And he leered in a strange way as he struck a fighting attitude. Never before had he hit so hard; he actually fought, and, having worked me against the ropes, he hissed, “Now I am going to teach you not to stay out late any more. You have got to take your gruel.” I could tell by the fire in his eyes that he intended to give me a sound thrashing, and the chance of escape seemed terribly remote. Descamps came for me like someone possessed. Instinct told me to side-step, and, feinting with my left, I brought my right full to the jaw, and Descamps was out to the world, as completely as was Joe Beckett in our fight at the Holborn Stadium. And do you know that as I went to the assistance of the English champion and with the help of Lenaers, the Belgian middle-weight, got him to his corner, my mind went back to the night in the Professor’s gymnasium in Lens when my right hand reduced Descamps to temporary but complete oblivion.

How I would have liked to have told the story to that wonderful audience, out of which the Prince of Wales, as I saw him, stood as a great human man. But of the knock-out of Francois Descamps. When I caused him to drop like a log, I rushed to his side and great tears ran down my cheeks. I feared that I had hurt him seriously. I slapped his face, I pulled and pinched his ears. I called ” Francois ! Francois, my Francois ! ‘ Opening his eyes, he looked round and about him, and then fell to laughing. “Phew!” he blowed. “It is wonderful, Georges. This is the greatest day of my life. Your left so ; then your right so wallop, finis. Your Francois is no more. Georges, now I know I am right. You will be a champion, for only a champion could have knocked me out so.” I promised that I would never stay out late again, and Francois, supremely happy, took the cork off a bottle of red wine, and this was the toast he offered in his grandiloquent style : ” To Georges Carpentier, Professor Descamps’ famous pupil, the future champion of all France !

A succession of little contests followed, arranged so that they would impart to me a deeper knowledge of ring-craft. My name, as a boxer, spread beyond Lens, and then one day, when I was fourteen years of age, Descamps told me that the time had arrived when I would fight seriously. My opponent was to be a full-grown man named Salmon, of whose fistic ability Mr. “Snowy ” Lawrence, a well-known trainer of racehorses and a fine sportsman, thought highly. With the ready consent of all parties he acted as referee. It was in the latter part of 1908 that I fought Salmon at Maison Laffitte, known the world over as a horse training centre.

Salmon, as I have said, was a fully-developed man. He was little in height and light of weight ; a bantam, as I was then. But he was all wire and whipcord. As I look back, I doubt whether I have ever met an opponent who was so strong, so unyielding, so fierce, so courageous. Every trainer, every jockey, every stable-boy had a place at the ring-side, and, as was natural, they shouted for Salmon, who was of their world. They ridiculed that I, “the baby from Lens” as they called me, could beat their champion. I was so thin, so pale ; scraggy, in fact. The contest was scheduled for twenty rounds, and so far as I was concerned I determined to fight until I dropped ; such, I am sure, was the frame of mind in which Salmon entered into it. It was all very terrible. The speed at which it was started ,was tremendous. Each of us scorned the idea of a clinch; we insisted that it should be toe to toe, and so long as we were on our feet no quarter should be given. Hard knocks were given and taken with gusto. It was declared that Salmon had never fought better; they told me that I was wonderful, and the pity was that the contest ended in a way which everybody deplored.

In the thirteenth round Salmon, without the least intention of doing so, hit me low, and he was disqualified by Mr. Lawrence. Salmon was much distressed; so, too, was I. I knew that the foul was an accident, and when it was suggested that there should be a return match both Descamps and myself agreed to one immediately. I especially wanted to learn what I really could do against such a splendid fellow, and three weeks later we took the ring a second time. And what a different Salmon he was then. His disqualification had hurt him, and when I stood up to him I felt that he was a man who would have to be killed before he surrendered. He had trained so that there never was such a perfect little midget.

Oh, yes, I hit him hard, but although my heart and soul were in every blow I could not hurt him ; he .was like a brick wall. And when he hit me I felt as if he were driving nails into my body. The several hundred men and boys who looked on shouted themselves hoarse. First this way and then that way the fight would go. One minute I was winning, then Salmon was in front. Salmon boxed as if he were part of a perfectly adjusted machine ; to me, he had the fighting capacity of three men rolled into one. Very pitiable spectacles both of us soon were; each of us .was painted ” red.” My eyes were swelled and blackened; my body pained; there were moments when my head swam. But the biggest punch Salmon landed never hurt me so much as it did Descamps. The little man was in a shocking state of mental torment, and he has told me since that when he saw my legs begin to bend in the tenth round he was for throwing a towel into the ring.

This, his intention, he whispered to me at the beginning of the eleventh, and I so pleaded with him to allow me to continue- I even threatened that if he threw up the sponge I would never fight again that he permitted me to fight on. The end came in the eighteenth round, when Salmon knocked me out. In the scrap-book which I keep, it is recorded : ‘ The child Carpentier was wonderful. He was a human flash; he told Frenchmen of such boxing as they had not dreamed of. Such a baby he is, and yet such a man ! No one could have taught him to box as he did against Salmon. He is a born boxer, cool, calculating, precocious.” And yet Salmon beat me ! But it would have been miraculous had I defeated this lion-hearted little man. Not only did he possess almost unbelievable strength, but he knew how to box stylishly and well. Had he embraced the ring as a profession, I am sure he would have become one of the best boxers in the world.

But he never did his fighting for money only. He loved the race-horse too much to exploit pugilism for a living. I am proud to know that he won high distinction in the saddle. He became one of the most talented steeplechase jockeys in France, and he counts among his triumphs his winning of the Grand Steeplechase of Paris.

IF there was little or no money in my two fights with the jockey, Salmon, there was abundant glory, and it was the stepping-stone to Paris Paris, of which I had always dreamed. My defeat smarted, but I had the knowledge that Mr. “Snowy ” Lawrence and his good friends would redeem the promise which they made : that they would bring me before the notice of the promoters of the capital. And very soon little paragraphs found their way into the columns of the Paris newspapers about the “fighting prodigy of Lens.” In Paris an invasion
of American fighters had made boxing the fashion ; La Savatte, of which Charlemont was such a redoubtable exponent I, too, have practised the science of La Savatte was fast losing favour. Willie Lewis, in my opinion one of the cleverest men who ever put on a glove, had come to my country. Well-groomed, nicely-spoken, a man with ideas and notions far removed from fighting Willie Lewis, then at his best, captured sporting France, and there followed him from America two remarkable negroes Sam McVea and Joe Jeannette, at that time as near as possible world’s champions.

They were negroes of a strikingly different type. Joe Jeannette would pass for a bronze statue. He was not coal black as was McVea; neither was he so forbidding to look at. McVea was frankly a nigger ; Jeannette, dark chocolate. A more attractive, even handsome, negro I have never seen. And in his ways he had none of the obtuseness of many coloured gentlemen. He was quiet ; he did not swagger around the cafes, nor did he go strutting along the boulevards
.
Well, with Paris for the time being the Mecca of the enterprising American pugilist, and the news which from time to time filtered through to Lens that France was afflicted with boxing madness, Descamps decided to present me to the people of the big city at the earliest possible moment. I suffered no ill effects from my gruelling fight with Salmon; indeed, I was much benefited by it, for although I returned from Maison Laffitte a rather unprepossessing boy, I was filled with admiration for the unexampled pluck and courage of the man jockey. Until I met him I had only half experienced the glories of gameness. Salmon taught me what a delightful thing it was to fear nobody, and from that day to this I have never quaked at the
possibility of a thrashing.

I have frequently smiled when 1 have read about “the good-looking Carpentier,” and been told “how. remarkable it is that after a hundred battles his face does not tell of fighting.” There have been many times when I .would have been sorry had I been presented to my mother. My career, from its start, has been made up of hard, often terrible, knocks. Few men of my age have been called upon to suffer greater punishment. Fortunate I may have been, but the road upon which I have trod to fortune has been hard and stony. There have been days and nights when I have despaired of realizing my ambition to beat each of the reigning champions of Great Britain and so qualify for the world’s title. Yet sadness has never seized me.
Perhaps my happy days were before the war; as a boy, though poor and of my own choice of a world with but little kindness in it, the joy I squeezed out of fighting my way to the hearts of the great public was tremendous. And so when it was said that I need have no doubts about my future because I had fallen before Salmon, I readily believed Descamps  when, in his majestic way, he said that I should go to Paris and take a front place among the pugilists of the day. That I was but a stripling, ever so lean, never occurred to me for a moment.

Constant association with Descamps made me much older than my years. Besides, though my body appeared to be so frail, I was as hard as steel, and by instinct, so it seemed, I had, even when a boy, acquired the art of hitting with the force of a full grown man. After the Salmon fight, I worked harder than ever in the gymnasium ; when I was not actually at work, Descamps, in the half-light of his man making factory, would tell me stories of the giants of the ring, and in telling of them he gave his imagination such play as to crowd into his tales a colour and romance which gave me so intimately to know the heroes of the ring, from its earliest days, that I believed they were my every-day companions. I had come to ” The Professor’s ” Academy one day to take my lessons as usual, and found the little man in a wild state of excitement. “At last! ” he cried. ” See ! ” and he held in front of me a letter. ” This,” he said, ” is your passport to fortune.” What he meant I did not know, but I had the feeling that something momentous was about to happen. ” We go to Paris, Georges! ” he shouted. When normality had returned to him, I was permitted to know that MM. Theodore Vienne and Victor Breyer (these times, the distinguished editor of the Echo des Sports) had offered me a match, the terms to be twenty-five francs if I lost ; double that sum if I .won. My opponent was to be Young Warner, an Englishman, and the contest was to be one of fifteen rounds. In addition to my prize, two third-class return tickets from Lens to Paris were to be provided. Which offer we both decided was magnificent !

Descamps, most fastidious about appearances, managed to buy what I was sure was the sweetest, daintiest fighting dress ever made. Our Sunday clothes were brushed and pressed, and on the eventful day he took me by the hand to the railway station for the longest ride I had been privileged to take. Not once during the journey did he talk about the fight ; he gave himself over to spinning yarns that made me laugh. With great good humour he enlarged and coloured our weekly tours of the cafes, and made of his mesmeric qualities a rollicking farce. It was a relief to me when he declared that we had had our last Sunday excursion. To those who may imagine that my life had been a bed of roses, I would tell of what happened upon our arrival in Paris for my first fight. Both strangers, it was only with difficulty that we found M. Vienne and his worthy partner; only after a long and weary tramp. Descamps expected a reception all cordiality as befitted “Professor Descamps and his famous pupil,” but truth to tell, there was no warmth in our welcome. Merely were we told to be ready to get into the ring at 8.30 in the evening.

Full five hours had to pass before that hour, and not being rich enough to hire rooms we perforce spent the interval before the fight at a cafe close by with glorious ceremony, I thought, Descamps brought me to the ring, and he chuckled as I, with the grand manner and the confidence of an old-timer, he afterwards told me, bowed to the large audience. I may have had the grand manner ; it is possible that I appeared to be confident, but the fact was I was half scared as I looked round and became conscious that two or three thousand people were staring at me. I imagined that they were mocking at my littleness ; I was positive that they were amused at the ways of Francois, for the little man not only insisted that he should be known as ” the Professor,” but the proprietor of a boy who was destined to become champion of champions.

He must have appealed to everybody as the king of a new race of seconds. Now, the more important the occasion, the greater unconcern does Descamps affect ; and his affectation makes for a pantomime, for he could no more disguise his feelings than he could jump over the moon. He is just so much mercury. His manifestation of joy when he makes the acquaintance of the man who is to fight me, his studied politeness, his broad humour, the little catchy tunes he will hum as he arranges sponges, drinking water and towels in my corner is so much make believe. For Descamps on days before and on the night of each and every one of my fights so suffers that his very soul is tortured. So I knew when he brought me into the presence of the first Paris crowd I had ever known, grinning like an overgrown boy, that within him all was tumult.

I won the fight against Warner in seven rounds, the referee giving me the decision on a foul. So between us, Descamps and myself netted fifty francs. I made my debut in Paris on a Friday ; on the following night Joe Jeannette and Sam McVea were to fight in the same building in which I had fought Warner, so Descamps decided that we should put up at a neighbouring cafe and see the battle between the negroes. ” We can well afford lodgings and food out of the fifty francs, and the promoter will be happy to welcome ‘ the Professor ‘ and his famous pupil to the ring-side. There will be no tickets to buy,” insisted Descamps. And we went to bed indescribably happy.

The time for the fight, which had gripped all Paris, had almost arrived. Without the building there was a great crowd. Through it Descamps and myself .wriggled. With a courtly bow Descamps explained to the man at the box office that he was “the professor of Lens,” and he had with him ” his famous pupil, Georges Carpentier. My compliments to Monsieur Vienne, and we would now take our seats.” Something happened; a small explosion it was. No sooner had Descamps asked for permission to “go inside” than both he and myself were seized by some stout gendarme and bundled into the street. Oh ! the ignominy of it all ! Oh, the towering rage of Descamps, and oh, the tears I shed ! But we consoled ourselves with the knowledge that others could not afford to watch the fight, and we remained in the street content to hear the shouts and the cheers of those at the ring-side. Those of you who know the history of the ring will remember that it was a terrible, fierce fight ; a fight to a finish ; that Jeannette was knocked down on numerous occasions, only to rise and, eventually, win.The contest over, Descamps, having carefully counted how many francs remained, decided that it was not possible to take lodgings on a second night.

So we spent the night in the open, waiting for the first train to take us back to Lens. In a year that was yet to come I fought Joe Jeannette for the very promoter who paid me fifty francs for my first fight and denied us two free tickets.  The price he paid me for my contest with Joe Jeannette, which was at Lunar Park in March, 1914, was 4,000 !  But it was a hard and stony road we were obliged to travel before that memorable day on which I met the black Adonis from Hoboken. And yet, though money was not plentiful, though mostly did high hopes and enthusiasm keep us going, Descamps and myself were never unhappy. You could not be unhappy with Francois. And so after my conquest in Paris, he rested me a while, deciding not to venture into the capital again until I had fought round about my home.

CHAPTER III
MY PROFESSIONAL CAREER BEGINS

IT was in 1910, after various little skirmishes that are not in official records, that I became regularly employed. One Galliard, ,who was especially strong and quite a man, threw out a challenge to me. He had done much fighting and had more than a local reputation. Descamps matched me against him, and we met at Lens. This was the first serious appearance before my own people, and the occasion beat up much excitement. It was a stiff, wearing fight for a lad such as I was to engage in. Everything was against me age, height, weight and experience. They tell me that I fought like one possessed, but I freely admit that there were moments when I feared that I would have to yield to the strength of Galliard. He hit me
harder than I could hit him, but though he punished me much, I did my boxing better than he did, and at the end of ten rounds I was declared to have won.

There was much joy in my home, and even my father and mother who, truth to tell, had never looked kindly upon fighting, agreed that some day I might win renown in the ring. Without telling me what they thought, they ceased to try to discourage me from ” going about the country inviting to be killed,” and my heart grew bigger, for I wanted my father and mother to be in sympathy with me. Descamps derived greater pleasure from my defeat of Galliard than he did out of my victory in Paris against Warner, and in his quaint, strange way he would whisper on nights, “Georges, you must be prepared to fight every day in the week if I ask you to do so, for see ” And then he would flourish some newspaper in which he, in language flamboyant, had caused stories to appear about the “wonders” of “the child boxer of Lens.”

And it came about that an offer came to me to meet Wally Pickard, known as the English jockey boxer, in Brussels. Let me tell you something of this Pickard, for of all men who ever took the ring he is the most humorous. If he had not taken to fighting he would surely have made a fortune as a comedian. I do not think it is generally known that for years he was employed in the racing stables at Chantilly, and that when the Belsize Boxing Club of London invited various French boxers to appear at the National Sporting Club, Pickard, as Louis d’Or, passed as one of my countrymen. And, so I have read, it .was he who caused Englishmen to say that there was hope that some day France would have great boxers.

It was never suspected that Pickard was English to the backbone. However, speaking French fluently and masquerading as Louis d’Or, he was accepted as a Frenchman. Since my fight with him at Brussels I have frequently seen him in expositions, and a funnier man I have never gazed upon. He is short, snub-nosed ; nowadays his hair is cruelly thin, and you would say that he belonged to an age long gone. But even now he is a contortionist, tumbler and fighter rolled into one, and ‘I have often wondered why he does not, with Joe Bowker as partner, for instance, do his extravagant, side-splitting burlesque on boxing more frequently.

Of course, when I stood up against him in Brussel he was out for a very serious fight, and yet there was broad humour writ all over his old-fashioned face when he saw in me a slip of a boy. He seemed to be saying, “Wally, my boy, fighting is my game and here they have put up a child.” However though he pulled out of himself tricks that often be wildered me and set the onlookers laughing by his dodging and ducking and side-stepping, I think he will admit that I gave him a tremendous thrashing At all events, though I was not so subtle as he was I knocked him out in the eighth round, and, like the good man he is, the moment he came back to life he was most generous in his praises. Do you know, if Wally Pickard had not seen so much fun in fighting he would not be spending his days doing his  * screaming travesties.”

My defeat of Pickard won for me the heart of the Brussels people. They did not then know very much of boxing ; much of it was foreign to them, but they professed that it was a game after their own hearts, and no sooner had I triumphed over Pickard than various sportsmen of Liege would have me come and appear before them. They felt that in a young man named Lampin they had a boxer who would be more than a match for me. And so very soon I was in the ring against Lampin. What happened to him was precisely .what happened to Pickard. I knocked him out in the eighth round, and the good folk of Liege said, ” So soon as you are free to return to us, so soon shall you have another match.” Which was agreed upon. But first, Brussels people had gone to England and brought back with them Buck Shine. He does not fight now, but at that period he was a regular performer for England, and though not in championship class, had had many contests, and was regarded as an uncompromising fighter. He was, in fact, a seasoned pugilist, and when I come to think, it could have only been the ‘blind belief that Descamps had in me that caused him to allow me to measure my strength against this Englishman.

Buck Shine, in appearance, fitted the popular conception of a pugilist. His build, his face, his general make-up, advertised his calling, and when I got into the ring I thought he was a particularly tough-looking fellow and he was. He was so hard that I could not hurt him. For six rounds I boxed with such skill that I drew far ahead on points, but then I grew tired. My legs would not move quickly; my arms grew limp, and there was only fire in my soul. His greater poundage, his man’s frame were too much for me and I lost. But the satisfaction I had that I kept my feet until the last of ten rounds gave me great comfort of mind. For it was declared, such were the disadvantages I had to contend with, that my defeat was a glorious one. I knew I would go forward. I have not seen or heard of Buck Shine since, but I would like to tell him that though he beat me he helped me immensely.

The Belgian people were so kind to me that I decided to have another fight before them at the earliest possible moment ; and very shortly afterwards I received a second call from Liege, there to encounter    H. Marchand, who was thought to be one of  the most promising of my countrymen. I knocked out Marchand in seven rounds. Offers of engagements now came fast ; now I was beginning to earn what I thought to be fabulous wealth. As much as 150 and even 200 francs did I receive in a single night, and I was able to begin to build up a fortune. Little did I suspect that in four short years I would be worth a million francs, and that a war would then come and swallow it up!

However, following my victory against Marchand, MM. Vienne and Victor Breyer sent a request that I should come to Paris and box Young Snowball, these days known as Ted Broadribb. Like Descamps, I had determined to have all the fights offered me, but neither of us knew much, if anything, about English boxers. We certainly did not suspect that at that time Young Snowball, as he was called, was close to championship class, and it chanced that I suffered. We met at Wonderland on April 9, 1910, and I was then sixteen years of age. The contest was to have been one of ten rounds. Snowball, as I saw him on that night, was a little man with much curly hair and a cherubic face. That he was all viciousness I never thought. Well, he brought disenchantment and at the time much sorrow to me. He not only beat me as completely as any man could do, but he drove it into my mind that ” the fighting prodigy,” as I was then termed, was a creature of fancy an idol with feet of clay.

In less than a round Snowball had taken full stock of me, and in his hands I was so much molten metal ; it was possible for him to do what he pleased. In the second round he cut me to ribbons. He was a monster ; he gave me neither time to think nor wonder; he battered my face, he crashed into my ribs, and I saw many stars. Descamps had already been reduced to tears. At the end of the first round he was all for my giving in ; he feared that I would be killed. Deep down in me I knew that I was asking to be slaughtered, but I refused to listen to the entreaties of Francois. Now, quitting is the one thing a fighter, to be worthy of the name, will not do. Physical pain should never cause him to give up ; he must fight on until he drops.

In the third round Snowball used me very much as if I were a punching-bag. He outboxed me, he outfought me ; in every possible way he was my superior. Strong, a man with a quick, alert brain and with the heart of a lion, the wonder was that he did not knock me clean out of the ring. How I managed to hold up under the hurricane of blows he showered on me I shall never be able to understand. I can feel this crimpled-haired man with pink and white cheeks now always, always, always smashing me to pieces. Into the fourth round did I enter slowly tottering, but with a determination to do or die. I hoped to regain full use of my legs. I forced myself to believe that the limpness in the arms which had seized them would disappear, but, no Snowball remained a demon. I could do nothing against him, and when I was hobbling hopelessly Descamps set up one sharp, harsh shout of despair and threw a towel into the ring
as an admission of defeat.

I was too sick, too weary to protest, and I permitted him to caress and nurse me. As soon as I could crawl I sought out Snowball and offered to him my congratulations. He had beaten me like a sportsman, and everybody who was present at the ringside took their hats off to him. Few English boxers have come to France to win so many friends as Snowball did. How he failed to become champion, and why he disappeared from the game when he was in his prime I do not know. After his victory over me he went to America, but he told me that he failed to get acclimatized and could do himself no justice at all. Still, his retirement came to me as a great surprise. I would like to tell this little story about Snowball.

When I had my second fight with Bombardier Wells, he came to me and said he would regard it as a high honour if he were allowed to be one of my seconds. ” I have surely earned the privilege,” he said, “for, you know, I am one of the very few men who have beaten you, and what is more, given you the hiding of your life. Do you remember?  Yes, I did remember. My fight with Snowball I can never forget. It is astonishing when you are fit and well and you have ambitions how quickly you can recover from some unexpected, even awful happening. I did not sit down and brood over my defeat by Snowball. If you would know, I profited by it ; it helped me to think less of the extravagant stories of my skill that from time to time appeared in the papers. I steeled myself against petting and flattery. I decided that I was merely an everyday fighter, who must accept smoothness and roughness with equal cheerfulness.

But my pride had been cut and slashed by my defeat by Snowball. I was deaf and unmindful of the fact that I was only a boy and had gone down before one of the best fighters at that time in England ; it was the knowledge that I had failed in Paris the Paris I was for ever dreaming about the Paris that I yearned to capture, and I pleaded with Descamps
to seek a match for me in the capital on the earliest day.

There was at the time, doing much splendid boxing, Paul Til ; all Frenchmen were talking about him. So Descamps let it be known that his pupil was ready to fight him. And very soon to Paris did I go to engage with Til, and the contest helped to wipe out the memory of my experience against Snowball, for against this accomplished Frenchman I drew. Which draw, I knew, was the greatest performance I had yet achieved. Thereafter, I went from victory to victory, until I lost to Henry Piet, brave soul, who was killed in the war. But before I met Piet all Englishmen will remember him for his good style and rare fighting qualities I won ten contests against strikingly different men. Immediately after Paul Til came one Cuny. If I were asked, I would say that the turning point in my career came when I met Cuny. We fought on August 14, 1910, at Cabourg, a fashionable seaside resort, under the auspices of the management of the Casino my terms, two third class return tickets from Lens and fifty francs.

All English boxing enthusiasts do not know Cuny ; very few of them have seen him. No champion was he, but in his way a great man, and one who had much to do with giving France a place among the boxing nations of the world. If you were to see him now, you would scarcely imagine that he was once a pugilist. He has a queer, old-fashioned face ; his eyes are large, saucer-like ; he is sparsely built. In dress, in appearance, he is not like a typical Frenchman at all. In recent years he has been ring-master at all the notable contests in France Directeur du Combat, is his official description and very properly he is regarded as the first teacher of the ” noble art ” in my country. Shrewd, careful, a born disciplinarian is Cuny. And I include him amongst my best friends, though in 1910 I thrashed him harder than he had ever been thrashed before or since. Our fight at Cabourg was not held to be the star turn by any means. If my memory serves me aright, the fight of the evening was an affair between that very strong Englishman Arthur Evernden and Henry Piet
.
It was not expected that I would give any more than an interesting exposition; the idea that I would beat Cuny was ridiculous. This is what happened : For eight rounds I was his master, and everybody screamed with delight. Seldom, if ever, have I boxed so well or so skillfully as I did on that day. I know that I never met a more gallant opponent. Cuny has since told me that I befooled him, and that at the time he felt that no boxer could have been more humiliated than he was. For he would have it : ” You were but a baby, scarce heard of. You were incredible, for you nearly murdered me.”

The contest was in its infancy when Cuny’s face was splashed all over with blood. It seemed that every time I hit him blood started to trickle from some fresh place, and the crowd, at first, open-eyed and open-mouthed at the spectacle, began to shout for the referee, who was M. Victor Breyer, to stop the fight. But the harder I hit Cuny, the more insistent was he on continuing. I imagined I could hear him say : ” I stop only when I have been killed.” I tried in every way to knock him out It would have been a merciful thing for me to have done, but I did not possess the strength to do so.

In the third round M. Breyer, who feared a scene, went to Cuny and asked him to retire. The suggestion that he should surrender he treated with contempt; but in the eighth round M. Breyer, unheeding the protests of Cuny, ordered the fight to stop, and I was returned the winner. Quite a scene followed. Cuny, weak and battered and bleeding, stormed and raved and begged to be allowed to go on fighting. As I sat in my corner and looked at him I could have cried. He tugged so as to break away from his seconds as they tried to carry him to his dressing-room.

With the Englishman Young Warner I had my second match shortly afterwards. We took the ring at Cambrai, and, as on the first occasion, I knocked him out in the seventh round. I subsequently drew, after ten rounds, with the Frenchman Andony, at Brussels; won against Young Wilson, of England, in Paris on points ; a week or two later I knocked out Jim Campbell, also of England, in Paris, in five rounds, and then I was matched against the Belgian lightweight champion, Demlin (who has appeared at the National Sporting Club), at Brussels. I beat Demlin in ten rounds on points, and towards the end of 1910 there came from England to Paris Jack Daniels, a rough-and-ready fighter. I stood up against him for ten rounds, but beat him. Then followed Brochet, a Frenchman, of much promise. We fought at Lens, and I knocked him out in seven rounds. Twice within a few weeks I beat George Randall, each time in Paris, where by this time I had become a vogue.

My dream had by now come true. I had become one of the fighting attractions of Paris. My defeat by Piet was followed by a second victory over Jack  Daniels, and very soon afterwards I was the winner against Jack Meekins and Young Nipper, both of London. Sid Stagg, George Colborne, Frank Loughrey, and Eustace, in turn, fell before me, and in July, 1911, I met and knocked out in four rounds Jack Goldswain.

This Goldswain was the first Englishman I encountered who held a championship. When we fought, he was past his prime, but I myself and others, because of his vast experience, his undeniable cleverness and known capacity to take and give punishment, were more than half afraid that he would prove too much for me. In appearance Goldswain, when put beside me, looked a very old man, and his face told of many gruelling battles. The contrast which we struck was much remarked upon, and I must confess that I felt guilty of considerable impudence in daring to face such a pugilist, who was once the best light-weight in Great Britain, and that at a period when there were many men of his weight of much merit.

At this time, when I allowed myself to be free to engage in any fight that might be offered to me, I believe I was at my very best. I beat Goldswain, and decisively. The veteran, for such did I regard him, was naturally very crestfallen, but he did not go away from Paris without paying high and encouraging compliments to me. I have never met an Englishman who was not a chivalrous opponent.

Following Goldswain, Arthur Evernden crossed from England to France a week or two later. Evernden, an uncommonly strong fellow, was looked upon as a future champion ; it was agreed that there were few at his weight better than he was, and the purpose of my being matched against him was to get a clearer and more definite idea of how I would fare against an actual champion. My preparation for the contest was tremendously severe. I felt that if I had to strike my flag to Evernden I should have to put on one side the desire I then had of going to England. We fought at Cabourg, where my battle with Cuny had won for me much popularity.

Evernden proved to be all that he had been reported to be as hard as nails, and as strong as a bull. I understand that once upon a time he had been a blacksmith, and, believe me, there were moments when he made me imagine that he had a hammer stowed away in his glove. We fought fifteen rounds, every one of which was crowded with incident, and there was a period when I doubted whether I should win. My blows made little impression upon the iron frame of Evernden, so I devoted myself to making points; it was impossible to knock him out. I ,was declared to be the winner at the finish. This fight took much out of me ; it left me very tired, and I was a very jaded young man when in the following month I took the ring against Dixie Kid, whose real name is Aaron Brown.

He is a negro; something of the monkey about him. For one who is scarcely of medium height, he has a phenomenal reach. His arms are gorilla like, and I frankly admit that I did not relish his appearance at all. There were many puckers in his face, which was very old, and he had a cauliflower ear. I often wonder how old Dixie Kid was when I met him in 1911 in Trouville. He professed to be a young man, but I am sure he was old enough to be my father. One of a small army of black boxers who had found their way to Paris from America, he was one of the most extraordinary men I have ever been called upon to fight. He scarcely seemed human ; he was certainly abnormal ; not a nice man at all. The moment I saw him I confided to Descamps that I did not like his looks and his strange colour. He was not jet black ; he was more nutbrown than positively black.

In the first round I realized that I was engaged in a hopeless tussle, for the little black man was a freak. It hurt me to surrender to him, but for once I listened to Descamps and gave up.The subsequent history of Dixie Kid all those acquainted with the ring know. Deported from England, the last time I heard of him was that he was earning a precarious living in Spain.

CHAPTER IV
I BOX IN ENGLAND

I WAS still at Trouville when I received an invitation from Mr. James White, the .well-known English financier, to come to London. It gave me much delight, and I accepted it at once. As in my very early days, I longed for and dreamed of the time when I would appear in Paris, so now I craved for an opportunity to go to England. At the time Jack Johnson had recently arrived from America, after having beaten a shell of the real Jeffries, and Mr. White, then unknown to the boxing public, conceived the idea of matching Bombardier Wells against him. As a matter of fact, articles were signed ; Olympia had been secured ; and Johnson, now a heavily bejewelled, posturing person, with a craze for fast-running motor-cars, and accompanied by a beautiful white woman, whose diamond necklace formed the object of much comment in the newspapers, had received a very substantial sum of money on account. It is familiar history that Wells and Johnson did not fight. The contest was roundly condemned. Wells, Johnson and Mr. White were called before the magistrate at Bow Street, on a charge of doing something likely to commit a breach of the peace, and they were bound over. I do not know the full and intimate story of why Johnson and Wells were not allowed to fight   (Johnson, taking a leaf out of the book of Tommy Burns, made it a condition that he would be paid 6,000, ” win, lose, or draw “) but the fact is that it was effectively stopped. But before it was vetoed

I had come to London, and on many days did I spar before the public with Wells. I was but a light-weight then, and a boy ; but from the first moment I put the gloves on with the Bombardier, I felt instinctively that it would be directly through him that I would realize my ambition. I was growing fast, and already both Descamps and myself knew that the time was quickly approaching when I would be obliged to go into a heavier division. Wells was then the British Heavy-weight Champion, and I will tell him now that the many bouts of sparring I had with him not only improved my boxing, but convinced me that should  I become reasonably big enough, I would find a way to beat him.

A beautiful, delightful boxer is Wells, but it was forced upon me during his training for the match with Johnson that he did not have that confidence which is necessary before a man can hope to touch greatness. But about the talents, the failings and tragedy of Bombardier Wells I will tell later. Much distressed and a heavy loser though Mr. White was by reason of the abandonment of the Wells Johnson fight, he nevertheless, in a way characteristic, decided to have boxing at Olympia, and as my opponent he found Sid Burns, a London Hebrew. Let me say that this Burns was the cleverest English boxer I had met, and I count my fight with him among my greatest. He was fast, clever, resourceful and determined, and had I not excelled myself I could never have won. Oh, how happy I was when the referee said that the fight was mine!

My victory was most generously applauded, and from that day to this I have known only great and unfailing kindness in England. It was on October 2 that I defeated Burns; twenty days later I fought Young Joseph, then the British Light-weight Champion, at King’s Hall, London. At the end of ten rounds, so severely had I punished Joseph that his seconds gave up for him. Having disposed of England’s light-weight champion, Descamps decided that I should have a “fighting holiday.” “You have been groaning under  hard, unceasing work,” he declared. ” Now for easy money by plucking what the English call ‘ lemons.’ ” So we went from Lens to Lille, and’ I was put up against a Frenchman named Lacroix. I knocked him out in nine rounds, as I also did Theo. Gray, whom I shortly afterwards met at Boulogne.

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