Right away the
question was raised: who is going to make the offer? As chairman of the
American Legion boxing committee, I was the logical one to do it, but what
would my American Legion friends say? How could I answer such an embarrassing
question as, "Where in the devil are we going to get $200,000?"
mind if I signed your name to a telegram, would you, Sam?" I asked
get me into trouble," said Sam, "but if you're sure it's O.K., it's
O.K. by me, but you back me up."
"How do we
get in touch with this fellow Tommy Gibbons, Sam? Where does he hang
said Sam, "his manager is Mike Collins, and you can reach him at St.
Paul." Of course, we later discovered that Mike Collins had nothing to do
with Gibbons and that his real manager was Eddie Kane. But this misinformation
is what brought Mike Collins into the picture where he was to stay to the
It must be
remembered that at this stage my concern was just how far we could go without
incurring too much wrath on the part of my American Legion associates, and
under no circumstances could I reveal to them anything that might indicate the
whole thing was nothing but a publicity stunt. The news surely would get out if
anyone else knew.
I sat down to a
typewriter and pecked out two telegrams, one to Jack Kearns as follows: I AM
PREPARED TO OFFER YOU A PURSE OF $200,000 TO BE PAID $50,000 UPON SIGNING OF
CONTRACT AND BALANCE WHEN YOU ENTER THE RING FOR A 15-ROUND CHAMPIONSHIP FIGHT
AGAINST TOMMY GIBBONS TO BE HELD ON JULY 4, 1923, IN SHELBY, MONT. PLEASE WIRE
YOUR ACCEPTANCE. (signed) L. A. SAMPSON. I sent the other telegram to Mike
Collins, manager of Tommy Gibbons (we thought), offering him $50,000 for the
same bout. It was some considerable time before Gibbons found out about the
offer, however, and it was not until the publicity had started to get around
that we finally contacted Eddie Kane.
A few days
passed, and I had to go to Helena on business. I was at the state capitol
building when my partner, Mel, got me on the phone to say that Sampson had
received a telegram from Jack Kearns, reading as follows: READY TO DO BUSINESS
IMMEDIATELY PROVIDED YOU HAVE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE MEET ME HERE PREPARED TO PAY
ME $50,000 AND POST ANOTHER $50,000 AS FORFEIT UPON SIGNING ARTICLES. THIS
$100,000 TO BE PAID ME AS LIQUIDATED DAMAGES IN EVENT YOU FAIL THROUGH ANY
CAUSE BARRING DEMPSEY FROM HOLDING CONTEST ON DATE SELECTED. ABOVE $100,000 TO
BE PART OF PURSE IN EVENT CONTEST IS HELD AND BALANCE OF $100,000 TO BE PAID ME
PRIOR TO CONTEST AS WE MUTUALLY AGREE UPON TOGETHER WITH SOME OTHER DETAILS
SUCH AS PERCENTAGE PRIVILEGE. ANSWER 1465 BROADWAY. JACK KEARNS. Mel also said
that a short notice by the Associated, or United, Press had appeared that
morning in the
Great Falls Tribune. We had made the headlines, and now what
were we going to do?
Really, you could
have bowled me over with a feather. I had not really expected a reply, but now
that we had one and some news notice, I decided to make the most of it and drag
it out as long as possible. I called the local Helena reporters and Associated
Press representatives who were covering the legislature meeting and gave them
the story and contents of the telegrams of offer and acceptance, and this
really did make the headlines.
I returned to
Shelby, and we sent another telegram to Kearns asking him at what intermediate
point we could meet him for a discussion of terms. We waited several days for a
reply to this wire—which, of course, served our purpose of obtaining more