Artworks
Dempsey and Firpo

Contributor

Looking at people get the crap beat out of them evokes this weird primal desire for aggression in me.

Luckily, I can live vicariously through artists like George Bellows, and subdue that hostility that secretly brews beneath my calm exterior.

This painting is of the historic fight between Jack Dempsey aka “Kid Blackie” and Luis Angel Fripo or “the Wild Bull of Pampas.” Jack Dempsey came to be known as one of the biggest sports heroes in American history. Early on in his career though, he wasn’t exactly revered as an icon of athleticism. Turns out, most people actually hated the guy. He somehow weaseled his way out of fighting in World War I and instead passed his time working in mines and fighting in bars for a little cash. Apparently folks hated him so much that people would buy tickets for his fights just to watch him lose. Eventually after winning enough brawls, people started to accept him as a great fighter. It’s the American way!

Fripo on the other hand, did not have as much of a reputation. Reigning from Argentina, he was the heavyweight champion of South America. The scene depicted in this painting unfolded just minutes into the fight. Underdog Fripo pushed Dempsey through the ring and onto a handful of sports reporters sitting on the sideline. Despite this devastating fall, Dempsey got back up, kicked some serious butt, and won the fight.

Many people consider this to be the greatest American sports painting. No wonder lithograph prints of this piece bring in upwards of $100,000. Bellows was a total sports fanatic and had many boxing paintings tucked away in that old portfolio of his. Clearly in love with the energy and carnage of the sport, Bellows actually included himself in this painting, to be forever immortalized on this historic day. He’s the bald man on the far left looking a bit passé. Bellows started his painting just a few days after the fight and finished it only a few months before his appendix ruptured and he died.

Don’t trust me? Well, see the footage for yourself