Georges Carpentier

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Class of 1991
Old Timer Category
Hall of Fame bio:click
World Boxing Hall of Fame Inductee

Name: Georges Carpentier
Alias: The Orchid Man
Born: 1894-01-12
Birthplace: Lens, Pas-de-Calais, France
Died: 1975-10-28 (Age:81)
Hometown: Paris, Paris, France
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 5′ 11½″   /   182cm
Boxing Record: click

Divisions: Flyweight thru Heavyweight (generally Light-Heavyweight)
Managers: Francois DesChamps, Jack Curley (in USA)
Georges Carpentier Gallery


Career Overview

Almost by universal consensus, Georges Carpentier is regarded by historians and fight experts as the greatest European fighter to ever lace up a pair of gloves. Campaigning in every class from flyweight to heavyweight, Carpentier held either the French, European, or world championships in four different weight divisions. A quick-fisted, intelligent fighter, Carpentier also packed a sizable punch for a man of his dimensions and fought at least ten bouts against men who were either world champions or future hall of famers. Handsome, gentlemanly, and a decorated war hero, he attracted many to the sport who would not normally be fans of boxing on both sides of the Atlantic. His popularity helped, alongside that of Jack Dempsey, to generate boxing's first million dollar gate.

European Champion

Carpentier's original fight experience came through savate, a French sport in which fighters are allowed to use their feet in competition. While still a child, however, he was discovered by Francois Descamps, who enthusiastically brought him into the more orthodox form of boxing. Georges made his debut in this sport, as a fourteen year old flyweight in 1908, fighting as often as three times in a week. Though he lost a couple of early bouts, Georges gradually put on weight in the next couple of years and faired better. Between July, 1910 and May, 1911, he fought twenty two bouts, losing just once. This led to a match against Robert Eustache, France's reigning welterweight champion, in Paris on June 15, 1911. Winning by technical knockout in the sixteenth round, Georges was a national champion at just sixteen years of age. When a tough American welterweight and future hall of famer named Aaron Brown (better known as the Dixie Kid) traveled to Paris, Carpentier took him on. Brown, vastly more experienced than the teenaged Frenchman, won by fifth round knockout, but Carpentier was allowed to keep his national laurels. On October 23, 1911, Georges became welterweight champion of all of Europe when he knocked out reigning titleholder Young Joseph in the tenth round of a fight in London.

Four months later, moving up in weight, he took Europe's middleweight crown with a second round knockout of Jimmy Sullivan in Monaco. He defended the honor twice until Frank Klaus, a round-and-tough middleweight from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania came to Europe to face him. A veteran of nearly seventy bouts, Klaus severely punished Carpentier for nineteen rounds until Descamps, still Carpentier's manager, anxiously leapt into the ring, earning his fighter a disqualification. Four months later, in the ring with another veteran American fighter, Billy Papke, Carpentier took another vicious going-over. Descamp prevailed upon Georges to quit before the opening of the eighteenth round. Ignoring critics who said that he should never fight above welterweight, Carpentier dared enter the light heavyweight category, winning the European title on February 12, 1913 with a second round knockout of England?s Dick Rice. If this accomplishment stunned the experts, Carpentier?s fourth round knockout of European heavyweight champion Bombadier Billy Wells on June 1 proved astonishing. Against the much larger Wells, Carpentier endured two early knockdowns only to rise and defeat his man with a terrific body attack. In a rematch held in Wells? native London seven months later Georges did the job in one round. In a March, 1914 bout against hall of fame American heavyweight Joe Jeanette, Carpentier lost a fifteen round decision but gave a good enough account of himself to prove he belonged on the world stage.

At this time, the reigning heavyweight champion of the world was Jack Johnson, a black man who was incredibly unpopular not only because of his skin color but because of his controversial private and public lives. Many in America and abroad called for the emergence of a ?Great White Hope? to defeat Johnson and return the crown to the Caucasian race. Thus a ?White Hope Championship? was invented by boxing promoters to determine who was the best white heavyweight in the world. On July 16, 1914 Georges took on hard-hitting American Ed (Gunboat) Smith, the current holder of the ?White Hope? title. Carpentier stunned many by putting Smith down in the first round, but then switched to a defensive strategy to frustrate the bigger man. In the sixth round Gunboat caught the Frenchman and put him on the canvas. While Georges was still rising from the knockdown, with the referee counting over him, the over anxious American punched again. The referee immediately stopped the fight and declared Carpentier the winner by disqualification. Carpentier was now recognized as the best white heavyweight in the world.

Carpentier

World Champion

Whatever success the young fighter accomplished in the ring had to wait come 1914. Georges signed up for the French Air Force during World War I and put himself frequently in harm?s way as a low-flying observation pilot. During his service he was awarded the War Cross and Military Medal, two of his country's highest honors for bravery in the armed services. Though his ring career did not resume until 1919, Carpentier's military record made him as popular as ever and he jumped right back into big fights. On July 19, 1919, he knocked out Dick Smith in eight rounds to regain his status as the heavyweight champion of Europe. He defended that title with a first round knockout of Joe Beckett before traveling to New Jersey and taking on future hall of famer Battling Levinsky, the reigning light heavyweight champion of the world. After knocking out Levinsky in just four rounds, Carpentier became a full-fledged champion of the world.

There remained, of course, only one honor higher than light heavyweight champion of the world: heavyweight champion of the world. In the early 1920s that man was none other than the ?Manassa Mauler,? Jack Dempsey. Dempsey had not served during World War I, exempt because of his status as the sole moneymaker in his family. Regardless of his excuse, many in America regarded Dempsey as a ?slacker,? a draft dodger. In 1921, he was not well liked even by his own countrymen, despite his aggressive, exciting style. Innovative promoter Tex Rickard found in Carpentier the perfect foil for Dempsey?s ?bad guy? image. Playing up the Frenchman?s war service, good looks, and gentlemanly manner, Rickard hyped the fight as the ?Battle of the Century,? a fight about more than just two men, but about morality and ideals. The result was the first million dollar gate in boxing history. On July 2, 1921, in a specially constructed arena at Jersey City, New Jersey, more than 80,000 people watched Carpentier take on the much larger Dempsey. During the fight, Carpentier tried to use speed and technique to offset Dempsey?s raw power, but eventually fell into trading punches with the champion. In the opening round, he managed to land a stiff right on Dempsey?s head, which surprised and stunned the champ. But Dempsey rebounded with a brutal onslaught to the body, followed by a left hook to the face that shattered Carpentier?s nose. While boxing his way through the second, Carpentier landed a right against the face of the on-rushing Dempsey. Again the champion staggered. Meanwhile, Georges was unable to follow-up as his thumb had shattered in two places behind the force of the blow. After this, the American took complete control. He dug into the smaller man with hook after hook and, in the fourth, dropped Georges with a left-right combination. Up at nine, Carpentier was nonetheless obviously finished. One more right hook rendered the challenger unconscious.

Disappointed in the loss but still the recognized light heavyweight champion of the world, Carpentier took on hall of famer Ted (Kid) Lewis with the title on the line. Lewis was a former welterweight champ of the world and the reigning light heavyweight champion of England. The fight ook place in Lewis? home of London, on May 11, 1922. During the first round, Lewis turned to the referee to complain about Carpentier?s holding. The referee did not stop the action however and Carpentier, seeing an opening while Lewis was distracted, landed a right hand. Carpentier won the fight by first round knockout, although under dubious circumstances. In his next bout, Carpentier lost the championship to the virtually unknown Battling Siki, a Sengalese brawler whom the champ took too lightly. Though Georges seemed to have control of the fight and dropped Siki in the second and third rounds. In the fourth, though, the constantly aggressive Siki, broke Carpentier?s nose and opened a cut above one of his eyes. In the sixth Siki closed in and scored a clean knockout. The referee, in a blatant show of partiality, initially disqualified Siki for supposedly tripping Carpentier. However, when the crowd erupted with jeers at the result, the referee was frightened into awarding Siki the victory by knockout.

Later Years

Carpentier, despite two high profile losses in two years, continued to face major competition. On October 1, 1923 he showed signs of his old self by knockout Joe Beckett out in one round, for the second time. A few months later he was in the ring with America?s Tommy Gibbons, a future hall of famer. The fight went the scheduled ten round distance, but, because official decisions were outlawed in Indiana at the time, the fight is recorded as a no-decision. The popular verdict held that Gibbons had done enough to win. On July 24, 1924, Carpentier took on future heavyweight champion Gene Tunney in a light heavyweight bout. Tunney dominated the fight, put Georges down three times in the tenth and once in the fourteenth before Carpentier?s second stopped the bout during the fifteenth round. Taking 1925 off, Georges mounted a comeback in 1926. Any hope of renewed success was cut short however, when he faced clever boxing Tommy Loughran, himself a future champion, in Philadelphia. Losing a fifteen round decision to Loughran, Carpentier never again fought on a world class level. He won two more fights against forgettable opponents before calling it quits in 1926.

In his post-boxing life, Carpentier remained a wildly popular and respected figure throughout Europe. He found work as everything from a boxing referee, to movie actor, to concert performer, to bar owner. He died in Paris on Ocotber 28, 1975 at the age of 81. He was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990.

Sources

Roberts, James B. and Alexander G. Skutt. The Boxing Register. 4th ed.
Heller, Peter. In This Corner.
Myler, Patrick. A Century of Boxing Greats.
Kahn, Roger. A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring '20s.
profile at Cyber Boxing Zone

Miscellaneous Facts & Info

  • Carpentier has the distinction of being the only boxer in history to have refereed a World Title bout before ever fighting in one himself--he officiated the 14 June 1914 Jack Johnson-Frank Moran World Heavyweight bout.
  • Autobiography: Carpentier: By Himself

Contemporary Newspaper Excerpts

The following is from a series of newspaper articles published in May 1921.

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:

Georges Carpentier

"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 in a bad way. The second, Billy Papke, had trimmed Marcel 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: "Descamp 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 also went out over the sleep route. Ed (Gunboat) Smith, top-notch 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 wiz a lacing in 15 rounds.

Carpentier in 1932

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, $1000 a 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 world's title bout with Jack Dempsey at Jersey City July 2nd.


External Links

  • Video of Carpentier training: [1]
  • Find-a-Grave: [2]


Preceded by:
Battling Levinsky
World Light Heavyweight Champion
1920 Oct 12 – 1922 Sep 24
Succeeded by:
Battling Siki