When did Jack Dempsey come here to fight ? What years did the Docusens fight? What was the name of the place where the pros fought? Was it the Coliseum?
During the 1920s, it can safely be said that Jack Dempsey was "Lord of the Rings." Born William Henry Dempsey in 1895 in Manassa, Colo., Dempsey -- whose moniker was the "Manassa Mauler" -- first came to New Orleans in December 1918. He fought Carl Morris and knocked him out in the first round.
Dempsey had won the title of World's Heavyweight Champion in 1919 when he defeated Jesse Willard, and kept it until 1926 when he lost to Gene Tunney. However, from September 1923 to September 1926, Dempsey did not defend his title or engage in any match more serious than an exhibition.
It was during this period that Dempsey returned to New Orleans. In February 1924, Dempsey and his entourage arrived here to thrill us at the Coliseum where he boxed three two-round exhibitions with Martin Burke, Tommy Marvin and Dan Dowd.
Of course, the rounds were shortened and Dempsey pulled punches, but the crowd of thousands was pleased with what they saw. For many, it was the chance of a lifetime -- to see the great champion in action.
Dempsey returned to New Orleans in September 1930, but this time not as a fighter. He had retired from fighting after losing the famous "long count" fight with Gene Tunney in September 1927, but he was still a popular sports figure. So the largest crowd ever to attend an indoor match in New Orleans came out to see Dempsey referee a fight.
The Municipal Auditorium had opened only months before, and this was the first boxing match to be held in the grand new facility. Over 8,000 jammed the auditorium while more than 2,500 waited for a chance to get the cheaper seats.
Dempsey refereed the last of four events, a 10-rounder between Ervin Berlier, a local lad, and Jackie Dugan. When fans started to leave because the fight was getting boring, Dempsey bawled out the fighters for not throwing more punches.
You asked about two other fighters, the Docusens. Bernard and Maxie Docusen grew up in New Orleans and began fighting very young. By 1948, "Big Duke" and "Little Duke" were 20 and 19, and popular, successful fighters in New York and California.
Early in 1948, there was talk of Bernard meeting Sugar Ray Robinson for the welterweight title. "Big Duke" spoke confidently about his chances. "I saw Robinson box Jackie Wilson on the coast, and he didn't impress me much. Whenever they give me the okay, I'll be ready to step in with the champion."
Bernard got his chance in June 1948. He managed to go the distance -- 15 rounds -- with Robinson, but came up the loser.
As for boxing arenas, the Coliseum was a landmark for 38 years. Built in 1922 on the corner of Roman and Conti streets, the Coliseum saw the likes of Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney, Joe Lewis, Max Baer, Max Schmeling, Primo Carnera, and many other champions and near champions.
Wrestling was also popular, and Ernestine Murtagh, the first woman wrestling promoter in the United States, was granted a license in 1930 to stage weekly shows in the Coliseum. In later years, one of the most popular attractions was Gorgeous George, dubbed the "Liberace of the wrestling world."
New Orleans, more than 100 years ago, was the ring capital of the world -- and the city has produced scores of boxers, two of whom reached the Hall of Fame. Perhaps our day will come again.