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Portlands Jack Dempsey was champ, too

A recent Sports Illustrated lists the 'final destination' of several sporting greats, including former boxing legend Jack Dempsey, who is buried in Portland.

But this is not Jack Dempsey the renowned former heavyweight champion of the world in the 1920s known as 'The Manassa Mauler.' This is 5-foot-8 Jack Dempsey, the former middleweight world champ and member of the Ring Magazine Boxing Hall of Fame who lived in an even earlier era and, indeed, spent the latter part of his life in Portland.

Dempsey, born John Kelly in Ireland in 1862, was a transition boxer, fighting in the times when the sport was moving from bare-knuckle to a gloved Queensbury version.

He won the world middleweight title in 1884 en route to 61 straight victories. In 1891, he finally lost his crown to Bob Fitzsimmons. Four years later, 10 months after his final fight, Dempsey was dead at age 32.

The legend goes that Dempsey fell in love with a Portland woman and moved to the city to be with her. The cause of his premature death may have been the bottle.

'He was a very bad alcoholic,' says New York historian Herbert Goldman, editor of the forthcoming World Boxing Reference Book. 'His last fight was against Tommy Ryan (for the world welterweight title), and at the end Ryan didn't want to hit him anymore.'

Portland's Dempsey is the muse for one of boxing's famous poems, 'The Non-Pareil's Grave,' penned by Portland attorney M.J. McMahon. 'Far out in the wilds of Oregon, on a lonely mountainside, where the giant fur and cedar are imaged in the waves, I found Jack Dempsey's grave,' McMahon wrote, lamenting its poor condition.

Some time later, the situation must have been rectified. Dempsey is now buried in what SI refers to as a 'well-marked plot' in the city of Portland.

'From the poem, you would think this man was completely forgotten when he died, but that wasn't the case,' Goldman says. 'His death was front-page news in Portland. The idea he died in obscurity is nonsense.'

• You may know about Thirsty Thursdays at PGE Park, which are much more about cheap beer than Portland Beavers baseball. Now there's 'Bladder Buster Fridays' at Multnomah Greyhound Park, a men-vs.-women promotion designed to attract the younger set and contemporize a sport's fan base that has grown old.

For the last six weeks, customers 21 and over have been able to buy $1 beers, compete for prizes, ride a mechanical bull and even place the occasional dog-racing bet in a secure area at the park. The trick is, don't pee. If a man is the first to stop at the restroom, women continue to pay $1 a beer, but the men's price goes up. And vice versa. Last Friday night, the men set a record by holding out for an hour and 37 minutes.

'That was unusual because it's usually the guys who blow it first,' says Patrick Kerrison, the park's director of wagering services. 'We had more than 100 people at our Bladder Buster last week. The response has been positive, and it's attracting a lot of young people, which we need.'

• The best sports bargain of the summer comes this weekend, when youths entering grades five through 12 can participate in the largest free football camp in the country. The 10th annual

Anthony Newman/J.J. Birden Camp is set for Friday through Sunday at Tualatin High School. Nearly 2,000 boys and girls are expected to be on hand to receive instruction from current and former NFL players.

• Nice to see Pat Galbraith, one of the Northwest's most successful tennis pros ever, in an exhibition at the Racquet Club last week. Galbraith, 36, retired in 2000 after a superb doubles career that saw him win $2.6 million and 36 doubles titles, along with U.S. Open mixed titles in 1994 and '96. Galbraith represented the United States in the Davis Cup in '96 and was ranked No. 1 in the world in '93.

The lithe lefty, a Tacoma native now living in Seattle, paired with Portland veteran Mike Tammen to beat Beaverton father-son team Brian and Bret Joelson in a third-set tiebreaker.

• Tom Jordan, meet director for the fabled Prefontaine Classic, has requested a June 19 event in 2004, a couple of weeks later than usual. The reason: a date closer to the U.S. Olympic Trials, July 9-18, in Sacramento, Calif., so Jordan can lure more domestic stars. The drawback: June 19 coincides with the European Cup, which would eliminate most of the internationals who have bolstered the Pre field in recent years.

'I am still optimistic we could get Hicham El Guerrouj, Ana Guevera and other international athletes,' Jordan says. Procuring the June 19 date 'will depend on whether we are able to get television.'

The Adidas Oregon Track Classic at Mt. Hood Community College, the state's other World Grand Prix event, will push back to June 5 in '04.

• Golf news: Ben Crane, having a breakthrough year on the PGA Tour, went to great lengths to qualify for his first British Open. The Portland Golf Club product had to pull out of last week's Scottish Open because of a recurring back injury, but he returned in time to shoot 70-66 in a qualifier at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal, Kent, England. ÉEastmoreland's Brian Hughes continued his hot year with a playoff victory over Adam Hagen on Sunday in the OGA Public Links at Rose City.

• Old friend Mark Leach, Pendleton's No. 1 sports fan who was profiled in the Tribune on June 27, died July 5. He was 56.