The sound of loud voices below awakened me to the sun streaming in the windows and, from the wetness of my pillow, I knew that this day was another scorcher. The clan had gathered early, making the usual confusion of sound. Dressing quickly, I went downstairs and found that the drinking was already in progress.
My first thought was of Dempsey. I brushed through the early roisterers and went outside. Jack was pacing restlessly about the yard. One look satisfied me. He was as brown as his Indian forebears, quick and impatient of movement, and his usual stoic self. He had been trained to just the right edge.
"How's it, Champ?" I asked.
Dempsey rubbed one of those high cheekbones and, in his high-pitched voice, replied: "All right. Just fine."
"Good," I told him. "Just take it easy and conserve your energy."
The remaining hours limped past, and it was time to go to the arena. When we left camp the thermometer, nailed to the clapboard wall in the shade of the back porch, stood at 114�.
The entire arena area was jammed. Costume of the day was a straw skimmer and shirtsleeves, except for a few unyielding dudes in derbies. Jostling our way through the crowds, keeping away the worshipers who wanted to reach out and shake hands with Dempsey, we finally got to our dressing room. It seemed even hotter in there. Dempsey dressed, moving like the panther he was beneath that human skin and, though he had trained off every ounce of excess suet, the sweat glistened on his forehead and stood out on his chest and shoulders.
A witness from each camp was to observe the bandaging of hands as insurance against jiggery-pokery. I was to supervise Willard's preparations, and his chief second, Walter Moynahan, was to oversee the putting on of Dempsey's wrap.
This is standard practice at all big fights, and wisely so, because the stakes are so large. Even today, when prizefighting is at a low ebb, one fixed fight can orbit a mediocre boxer into the 90% income-tax-bracket status. We didn't know it at the time of the Dempsey-Willard fight, but this was the most important prefight moment in boxing's history. It was a moment that would usher in the era of the million-dollar gate.
Willard was waiting, completely relaxed, as I walked into his quarters. When I waved a greeting he gave me a look I believe he reserved for panhandlers. He was very careful with his money.