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Symbol of a spirit of challenge

Posted April. 16, 2020 07:46,   

Updated April. 16, 2020 07:46


The world of competitions is cold. This is especially true for sports games where the winner takes both money and reputation. Although the popularity has waned, boxing was extremely popular across the world up until the 1980s, making boxing terms such as jab, hook and knockdown become part of everyday language. George Bellows, an American athlete-turned-painter, captured the boxing competition of the century in his painting.

On Sept. 14, 1923, a historic international heavyweight boxing championship took place. It was Jack Dempsey’s fifth attempt to defend his championship, and the challenger was Luis Angel Firpo from Argentina who was also one of the best boxers in the world. This competition received much attention as it was the first time a Latin American boxer contended for the world championship and drew as many as 86,000 people. Just within 90 seconds, Dempsey knocked down Firpo seven times, which was possible because there was no three knockdown rule. However, the tables were turned after 30 seconds. Dempsey was thrown out of the ring being hit in his chin by a hook. His head was severely hurt after falling on a typewriter, but the audience put him back into the ring. In the second round following the dramatic first round, Dempsey took over the control of the game knocking down Firpo twice in a row and won only into 57 seconds of the game.

The winner of the game was Dempsey, but the painting depicts a dramatic moment when Firpo threw the champion out of the ring. The painter even drew himself in the left corner among the audience, probably as a way of showing his support for Firpo who got back on his feet even after seven knockdowns. Firpo might have lost the game, but he became synonymous with a spirit of challenge. Football clubs, schools and streets named after him soon appeared across Latin America. History only remembers the winner, but the painter engraves the brightest moments of the loser’s life in our minds. Art may be painters’ tribute to losers.