Saturday, December 28, 2013
In the Unites States each morning for 5,546 days, Jabbar Collins knew exactly what he'd wear when he awoke: a dark-green shirt with matching dark-green pants.
The prison greenies of a convicted murderer, he says, were "overly starched in the beginning, but as time wore on, and after repeated washes, they were worn and dull, like so many other things on the inside.
For most of those 15 years, Mr. Collins, who maintained his innocence, knew the only way his wardrobe would change was if he did something that's indescribably rare. He'd have to lawyer himself out of jail.
There was no crusading journalist, no nonprofit group taking up his cause, just Inmate 95A2646, a high-school dropout from Brooklyn, alone in a computerless prison law library.
"'Needle in a haystack' doesn't communicate it exactly. Is it more like lightning striking your house?" says Adele Bernard, who runs the Post-Conviction Project at Pace Law School in New York, which investigates claims of wrongful conviction. "It's so unbelievably hard…that it's almost impossible to come up with something that captures that."
Mr. Collins pried documents from wary prosecutors, tracked down reluctant witnesses and persuaded them, at least once through trickery, to reveal what allegedly went on before and at the trial where he was convicted of the high-profile 1994 murder of Rabbi Abraham Pollack.
The improbable result of that decade-and-a-half struggle was evident on a recent morning in a Midtown Manhattan skyscraper. Mr. Collins sat in a small office he now shares, wearing one of the eight dark suits he owns, a white shirt with French cuffs, a blue-and-gray striped tie and a pair of expensive wingtips. "Every day is beautiful" now, he said, smiling. "I don't have a bad day anymore. I think that my worst bad day out of prison will be better than my greatest good day in prison."
On March 13, 1995, as Mr. Collins was led by officers through a side door of a Brooklyn courtroom to a holding cell, his mother let loose a wailing sound that he'd "never heard before or since." Her son had just been convicted of murder.
He was 22, a father of three and facing at least 34 2/3 years behind bars. Three witnesses had implicated him in the midday shooting of Mr. Pollack as the rabbi collected rent in a building at 126 Graham Avenue in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Mr. Collins said he was home getting a haircut at the time.
To that point in his life, Mr. Collins had been drifting. His father died when he was 12 and his mother worked two jobs while also studying nursing. Under-supervised, he skipped school often, smoked a lot of pot and fathered the first of his children when he was 15.
When he was 16, he was arrested for a robbery. He says he was just waiting outside the store where a robbery took place. Mr. Collins accepted a youthful-offender adjudication under which he got probation and the arrest could eventually be purged.
Mr. Collins later obtained a general-equivalency diploma and took some classes at Long Island University. He was trying to transfer to John Jay College of Criminal Justice when he was arrested for Mr. Pollack's murder.
During his trial, Mr. Collins recalls being mystified. "I felt like a child," he says, "everyone talking over my head." But hearing his mother wailing as he was taken away suddenly cleared his head. "You have a life of misery ahead of you," he remembers telling himself. "The only way you're going to get out is to become your own lawyer."
On returning to Rikers Island, the city jail complex, Mr. Collins headed to the law library. There and later at Green Haven prison north of the city, he spent most of his free time in law libraries, pouring himself into legal books: "Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure," "McKinney's Consolidated Laws of New York," "The Legal Research Manual."
A thick text for paralegals called "Case Analysis and Fundamentals of Legal Writing" became his bible. He devoted two months to mastering the intricacies of federal and state law on access to public records.
Who Did What
Jabbar Collins achieved the rare feat of lawyering himself out of prison, 15 years after he was convicted of murdering a rabbi in Brooklyn, N.Y. Here are some of those involved.
PROSECUTOR: Michael Vecchione denied any witnesses were rewarded or pressured.
JUDGES: Robert Holdman rejected appeal at state level.
Dora Irizarry heard federal appeal where conviction was overturned.
WITNESSES: Adrian Diaz testified at trial he saw Collins with a gun. When Collins much later called him, posing as a D.A. investigator, Diaz talked about his route to becoming a witness.
Edwin Oliva testified at trial that Collins had said he planned to rob the rabbi. When Collins wrote to Oliva years later, Oliva wrote back describing what lay behind his testimony.
Angel Santos testified at trial he had called 911 and said he saw Collins run past. His voice didn't seem to Collins to match any voices on the 911 tape.
LAWYER: Joel Rudin helped Collins after his own 10-year legal effort.
His first request for trial records under New York's Freedom of Information Law, in July 1995, was denied. He would go on to file six more requests, five more appeals and a lawsuit before a judge gave him some of the records over two years later.
Finally succeeding in a request, gaining 239 pages of documents and 94 audio tapes, emboldened him. "It kind of refilled the tanks," he says, "gave me the confidence to fight on."
Over time, Mr. Collins would file a dizzying number of records requests. If they were denied, he appealed. If he lost, he'd add his requests to those he prepared for other inmates.
"The mosaic of intelligence gathering," Mr. Collins calls this. "You collect one item at a time and you add to the picture piece by piece until you create what is a stunning mosaic of what really happened."
He picked away at his case for eight years, but by the fall of 2003 he had hit a wall. That's when he carried out a ruse to trick Adrian Diaz, who had testified to seeing Mr. Collins tuck a gun in his waistband after the murder, into talking to him.
"I became Kevin Beekman, district attorney's investigator, for about 25 minutes," Mr. Collins says. The fictitious Mr. Beekman said he needed to recreate documents lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack. When Mr. Diaz agreed to talk about his testimony, Mr. Collins routed the call through a phone in his mother's home so it could be recorded.
Mr. Diaz said that before the trial, he had gone to Puerto Rico, in violation of his probation for marijuana possession. He agreed to return and testify against Mr. Collins, he said, only after prosecutors promised they would make sure his probation wasn't revoked.
That account, which Mr. Diaz later attested to in a signed affidavit, wasn't provided by prosecutors to Mr. Collins's defense counsel, who could have used it to undermine the witness by showing he was given an incentive to testify.
In 2005 Mr. Collins wrote to another witness, Edwin Oliva, who had testified that before the murder, Mr. Collins said he was going to rob the rabbi. "I really need to know what happened between you and the District Attorney's Office," Mr. Collins wrote.
"I always knew I was going to hear from you sooner or later," Mr. Oliva wrote back. "And to tell you the truth, I am glad you wrote, now once and for all I can settle the record."
Mr. Oliva wrote that he had been arrested a few weeks after the Pollack murder for a robbery he pulled in the building. He said the police asked about the rabbi's killing and he told them all he knew was that Mr. Collins had been arrested.
Detectives threatened to charge Mr. Oliva as an accessory, he wrote, and then made up a statement implicating Mr. Collins. Mr. Oliva wrote that he was so strung out and sleepy from a month-long run of "smoking & sniffin' dope" that he signed the statement, adding he "didn't even know what...I was signing."
But now, Mr. Oliva added, he wanted to help Mr. Collins, "because I know you got a rotten deal."
Mr. Oliva granted access to his records. They included a Legal Aid document that referenced, without elaborating, a "deal" being discussed between the judge, a prosecutor and Mr. Oliva's attorney. Mr. Oliva was allowed to plead to a lesser felony than he had been indicted for. He received a sentence of up to three years. The other charge could have kept him in prison longer.
At the trial, lead prosecutor Michael Vecchione stated that no key witnesses had received anything for testifying. "Oliva's motive is simple," the prosecutor said. "Just like all the rest of the witnesses, he saw something, he heard something, someone asked him about it, and he is telling what he saw and he is telling what he heard. Nothing else." Mr. Vecchione declined requests for comment.
Mr. Collins, though a skilled jailhouse lawyer who helped many other inmates, could take his own appeal only so far without help. In late 2005, after 10 years working alone, he contacted Joel Rudin, a civil-rights attorney known for winning what was then the largest wrongful-conviction settlement in New York, $5 million.
"I was amazed" at Mr. Collins's file, Mr. Rudin says. "I've never seen anything like this. There was so much documentation."
As the lawyer began reworking the appeal, Mr. Collins gathered another piece of his mosaic. He obtained a tape of calls to 911 after the killing.
A witness had testified he called 911 and told of seeing Mr. Collins run past. But when Mr. Collins listened to the tape of 911 calls, none of the voices sounded like what he recalled this witness sounding like at the trial.
Mr. Collins obtained a tape of a prosecution interview with this witness, Angel Santos. He hired a voice expert to compare the interview tape with the tape of people calling 911. No matches.
Mr. Santos and the other two main witnesses, Messrs. Diaz and Oliva, couldn't be reached for comment. Michael Harrison, Mr. Collins's court-appointed trial lawyer, said he couldn't remember whether he ever received the 911 tape because it was so long ago.
In March 2006, Mr. Rudin asked a state judge to overturn Mr. Collins's murder conviction on the grounds of newly discovered information the defense should have been given.
Mr. Vecchione, the prosecutor, swore that claims authorities had either coerced witnesses or failed to turn over potentially exculpatory information "are, without exception, untrue."
Then the roof crashed down. Learning of Mr. Collins's impersonation of an investigator, state Justice Robert Holdman dismissed the appeal, declaring it to be "wholly without merit, conclusory, incredible, unsubstantiated, and, in significant part, to be predicated on a foundation of fraud." For good measure, he barred Mr. Collins from filing future requests for information.
"Just devastating," Mr. Collins says. "This had been my life's work for the last 10 years."
He didn't have the luxury of wallowing. State law allows only 30 days to appeal such a ruling. As he wrote his appeal, he couldn't keep out his bitterness, and Mr. Rudin had to redo it. The state appeal failed.
In what amounted to their last shot, they filed a motion in federal court in Brooklyn seeking to overturn the conviction based on prosecutors' "knowing presentation, at trial, of false or misleading testimony" and withholding of evidence that might have been used to discredit the main witnesses.
This March, after two years of legal wrangling, federal Judge Dora Irizarry approved Mr. Rudin's request for additional material from prosecutors. Information Mr. Collins had spent more than a decade trying to get his hands on suddenly began pouring in.
One document concerned Mr. Oliva, the witness who wrote that under police pressure he signed a statement implicating Mr. Collins in the murder, even though he knew nothing about it. The document suggested that as the murder trial neared, Mr. Oliva had balked at cooperating. It said his work release for a robbery conviction was revoked "after he failed to cooperate with D.A.'s office regarding a homicide."
Other newly discovered information suggested Mr. Oliva had briefly recanted his statement implicating Mr. Collins. A prosecutor preparing to fight Mr. Collins's appeal learned this from a retired detective, who said that Mr. Oliva recanted, then changed his mind again and stuck to his statement after the detective and several prosecutors spoke with him at the Brooklyn D.A.'s office.
This prosecutor turned that information over to Judge Irizarry, acknowledging it should have been provided to Mr. Collins's murder-trial defense. (Mr. Vecchione had denied at Mr. Collins's state appeal that any witness ever recanted or "had to be threatened or forced to testify.")
Four days before a scheduled hearing in Judge Irizarry's federal court, the D.A.'s office offered to reduce the charge against Mr. Collins to manslaughter, allowing his immediate release.
Mr. Collins rejected the offer.
Later the same day, prosecutors informed the court that they wouldn't fight Mr. Collins's effort to overturn his conviction, but said they planned to retry him.
A retrial would move the case back to state court, a venue where prosecutors had known nothing but success against Mr. Collins.
Mr. Rudin, desperate to keep the case in federal court, persuaded Judge Irizarry to hold a rare hearing on whether the D.A. should be barred from retrying Mr. Collins because its misconduct had been so pervasive.
The hearing's first witness was Mr. Santos, the man who had testified about making a 911 call after the murder, but whose voice didn't seem to match any of the voices on the 911 tape.
Mr. Santos told the hearing that in the period when the murder occurred, he was using drugs "every day. Twenty-four hours."
He said that as the murder trial neared a year later, he told Mr. Vecchione he didn't want to testify, but Mr. Vecchione began "yelling at me and telling me he was going to hit me over the head with some coffee table."
He said he was threatened with prosecution, then locked up for a week as a material witness. When he agreed to testify, he said, he was taken from jail to a Holiday Inn, which he described as "paradise."
The federal hearing was due to resume a week later with testimony from Mr. Vecchione and other prosecutors. Instead, the D.A.'s office gave up. It said its decision was "based upon the weaknesses that now exist with the witnesses," but added that its "position, then and now, was that we believe in this defendant's guilt."
Judge Irizarry was not pleased. "It's really sad that the D.A.'s office persists in standing firm and saying they did nothing wrong here," she said. "It is, indeed, sad." Judge Irizarry declined to be interviewed; the judge who turned down Mr. Collins's state appeal didn't return a call seeking comment,
Brooklyn D.A. Charles Hynes stood firm. "Michael Vecchione is not guilty of any misconduct," Mr. Hynes said at the time. He, Mr. Vecchione—who is now chief of the rackets division—and a spokesman for the D.A.'s office all declined to comment, citing likely litigation by Mr. Collins.
Mr. Collins walked out of prison on June 9, to an emotional welcome from his family. He has had many Rip Van Winkle moments. Swipe cards have replaced tokens on the subway; coffee shops called Starbucks are everywhere; there are these devices called iPhones.
But some things haven't changed. Mr. Collins is back in a law library. His attorney, Mr. Rudin, has hired him as a paralegal.
Mr. Collins is first concentrating on his own case. He has filed "notices of claim" announcing an intention to sue the city and state for $60 million.
As a paralegal, he can't give legal advice to the many inmates who have written seeking it. He hopes one day to change that, by becoming an attorney.
Friday, December 27, 2013
Robert Peraza mourns over his son at the memorial stone for the victims of 9/11 at the World Trade Centre. It is moving in many ways for me personally just looking at it, for I lost my brother-in-law and best friend, Martin Coughlan, on that same fateful and infamous day.
Thursday, December 26, 2013
All the photos were taken 1888 by Joseph Lewis Della-port and speak for themselves
Anderton Jeweller And Watchmaker
And so Fred Forsey is set to lodge an appeal against his conviction for accepting a political bribe when he was a local councilor. The conviction was in itself a first here according to Transparency International, but Ireland may well go back to having an unblemished record should that Forsey’s appeal succeed because the man who was charged with bribing him was found not guilty. This banana republic slides along as ever innocent as the driven snow.
The best that this country can also do too with David Drumm, former ‘property developer’ that turned out to know very little about property, and once commanded the respect that one affords an Einstein or a Michelangelo, is to ask him to come back to Ireland and face questioning on some ‘dubious’ dealings. Of course they were not corrupt either, just giving himself rather large loans that ran into the millions; sure was he not giving loans to all of his friends and enemies so what was the big deal? The only hope Ireland has with Drumm is try to get him on facebook if he still has a computer.
This countries political system is still a laughing stock in the eyes of the world. In almost every deal they do economically is death to Ireland by a hundred thousand cuts. It signed away Ireland fishing rights in order to prop up other interests in what was blatant disproportionate representation, then gave away oil deposits and other minerals and everything in between. There is little left to bargain with now for this country as a whole.
A country that was once run by the British, then by priests, is now run by Gombeen politicians while still pretending it is a democratic country. It showed what democracy really was here when it protected private banks and saddled its citizens with debt that can never be repaid. Hear Hear to the republic, the banana republic.
Wednesday, December 25, 2013
“I am enclosing two tickets for the first night of my new play: bring a friend….if you can find one.
George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill
“Cannot possibly attend the first night; will attend the second night…if there is one.”
Winston Churchill’s response to George Bernard Shaw
Nerdist Industries tried to bribe the actor Tom Hanks to do an interview for their podcast with an old type writer for they knew he was an avid collector of such. The following letter is his stinging rebuke and final decision:
13 July 2012
Dear Chris, Ashley, and all the diabolical genuies at Nerdist Industries.
Just who do you think you are to try to briibe me into an apperance on your 'thing' with this gift of the most fantastic Cornona Silent typewriter made in 1934?
You are out of your minds if you think... that I... wow, this thing has great action... and this deep crimson color... Wait! I'm not so shallow as to... and it types nearly silently...
I will have my people contact yours and work out some kind of interview process...
Damn you all to hell,
(Signed, 'Tom Hanks')
"Bulls at least are not the greatest stylists in English. No bull has ever been a political exile. Bulls don't run reviews. Bulls of 25 don't marry old women of 55 and expect to be invited to dinner. Bulls do not get you cited as co-respondent in divorce trials. Bulls do not borrow money. Bulls do not expect you to marry them and make an honest woman of them. Bulls are edible after they have been killed. Fewer bulls are homosexual. To me bulls ain't exotic. They are normal. And such a goddam relief from all this horseshit about Art etc... To hell with delicate studies of the American scene. Fuck the American scene. Fuck manners, customs, all that horseshit. Let us have more and better fucking, fighting, and bulls."
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” Charles Dickens
May everyone I love, respect, admire, and are happily combative with, have a great xmas and a contented new year.
David Mc Mutrie Gregg sitting with his senior staff during the American Civil War in 1862
Restored and digitally remastered by Jordan Lloyd and Mads Madsen
Monday, December 23, 2013
Don’t argue with your husband; do whatever he tells you, and obey all orders.
Don’t worry him for money, and don’t expect a new dress oftener than he offers to buy you one.
Don’t sit up till he comes home from the club; better be in bed, and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad he came home so early. He’ll probably think you an idiot; but that’s evitable anyway.
Don’t grumble at him because he takes no notice of baby; men weren’t built to take notice of baby.
Don’t mope and cry because you are ill, and don’t get any fun; the man goes out to get all the fun, and your laugh comes when he gets home again and tells you all about it- some of it. As for being ill, women should never be ill.
Don’t be mad because he smokes in bed, and goes into the best room with his dirty boots; your’s is the only house in which he can do these things, and you musn’t be disagreeable.
Don’t talk to him of his mother-in-law; he’ll like it better if you talk to him of yours.
Don’t give him hash for dinner; eat the hash yourself, and get him green turtle and chicken.
Don’t answer back, don’t spend money on yourself, don’t expect him to push the perambulator, don’t expect him to do anything he doesn’t want to, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do. Then if you’re not a happy woman, your husband at least will be comfortable, and his friends will be mad with envy.
And don’t think this is a joke. It isn’t; it’s advice, and the only way to have a happy home.
Sunday, December 22, 2013
From Hagler v Hearns to Ward v Gatti via the Manassa Mauler and the Wild Bull of the Pampas, we pick six of the best rounds ever seen in the squared circle.
1) Marvin Hagler v Thomas Hearns, first round, Las Vegas, 15 April 1985 (Hagler won by third-round knockout)
It was billed, simply, as The Fight. Marvellous Marvin Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and unbeaten since 1976, against the world's best light-middleweight, Tommy 'The Hitman' Hearns.
It was billed, simply, as The Fight. Marvellous Marvin Hagler, the undisputed middleweight champion of the world and unbeaten since 1976, against the world's best light-middleweight, Tommy 'The Hitman' Hearns.
Hagler could box, brawl, switch-hit, punch – and his shaven skull seemed impervious to pain. Few disputed his claim never to have been hurt in the ring. Even so, many smart analysts believed Hearns possessed the tools to trouble him: he was four inches taller, a smart boxer and his outstanding record – 40-1 with 35 knockouts – advertised his punching power. Hearns was briefly a betting favourite in the week leading up to the fight. The big question was, could he use his physical advantages to outbox Hagler?
The Caesars Palace crowd never got a chance to find out. In the ring beforehand, Tommy's brother Billy taunted Hagler as he shadowboxed. "I saw him," Hagler said later. "I was thinking right then: 'All you're gonna do is get your brother's ass kicked.'"
Hagler was as good as his word. He leapt off his stool and threw a hard right, which missed, followed by a left to the body that sent Hearns towards the ropes. As Hugh McIllvaney wrote in the Observer: "The fighter who had come off the stool at him when the first bell sounded was not a Marvin Hagler anyone had ever seen before. He was a man possessed, the very incarnation of furious hostility, an enemy who shrank the ring with the heat of his malevolent intent."
Hearns, who believed that a pre-fight massage had weakened his legs, decided he had no choice but to pour hot oil on Hagler's raging fire.
He threw four hard right hands in a row, including a brutal uppercut that forced Hagler to clinch. In a matter of seconds the pattern had been set, the rules of combat laid down: Hagler the hunter, Hearns firing back at every opportunity. The gasps from the crowd whenever a punch landed told their own story.
With just over a minute left of the round, Hagler was cut on the top of his forehead. Unbeknown to anyone, Hearns had also broken his right hand on Hagler's skull. But they continued to unload bombs, with Hagler wobbling Hearns just before the bell, before glaring at him as he walked back to his corner.
As McIllvaney wrote: "Hooks, swings and anything else that might rock or demoralise Hearns were hurled across with what might have been mistaken for wild abandon. In fact, only Hagler's spirit was really wild, for there was always a pronounced element of calculation in what he did with those powerful arms … the surge of mayhem seemed to go on forever".
It was all too much for Harry Mullan, the editor of Boxing News, who confessed: "I was praying for it to end, I thought I was going to have a heart-attack."
Unsurprisingly Hagler, never a sentimentalist, took a different view. "I was sorry to see that round end," he said. "I hated to give Tommy a chance to go back to his corner and recover."
Two rounds later, Hagler got his man, chopping him down to the canvas.
But Hearns played his part too. As his trainer Emanuel Steward later revealed: "After the first round his hand was broke and his legs were gone. But that night Tommy told me not to mention anything about the hand. He said he didn't want to take anything away from Hagler's victory. That's the kind of guy Tommy was."
2) Jack Dempsey v Luis Angel Firpo, first round, New York, 14 September 1923 (Dempsey won by second-round knockout)
"Has there ever been a fighter quite like the young Dempsey? — the very embodiment of hunger, rage, the will to do hurt; the spirit of the Western frontier come East to win his fortune" asked Joyce Carol Oates in her book On Boxing. Not on this day. Not perhaps ever.
In 1916 Jack Dempsey arrived in New York as a nobody with less than $30 in his pocket. Three years, and several adventures later, he was heavyweight champion of the world. By 1923 he was the biggest star of boxing's first golden age. His nickname, the Manassa Mauler, gave advance warning of his intentions; in the ring, his fists rarely did.
His opponent, Luis Angel Firpo — who was three inches taller and 30lb heavier — had earned his shot at the title having won 13 fights in 17 months, mostly by knockout. Firpo was billed by Dempsey's promoter, Tex Rickard, as the Wild Bull of the Pampas. Not everyone in the fight game was convinced – the Argentinian enjoyed eating more than anything else and reporters noted how he would "stuff himself to bursting point, point, pause, ask for more, and then drop off to sleep" — but the public certainly were. 86,000 people crammed into New York's Polo Grounds for the fight, and it needed hundreds of mounted police to maintain order.
Just before the men entered the ring, Rickard came to see Dempsey in his dressing room and told him: "We got another million dollar gate! If you put him away with the first punch, all those people out there won't get their money's worth."
"Listen Tex … Firpo is a slugger," replied Dempsey. "He could kill me with one punch."
"But, Jack, how is he going to hit you? He's slow and hits like an old tub. I hate to think of all them nice millionaires going out here sore at both of us."
"Go to hell!"
In the ring the two boxers shook hands, paused for photographs, and then set about tearing strips off each other. As the bell sounded, Dempsey charged at his bigger opponent, who cuffed him to the ground with his giant fists. It was a flash knockdown, and Dempsey bounced back up and into range: bobbing, weaving, sometimes holding, but mostly swinging. Firpo fired back, usually with an overhand right.
Both men fought as if throwing a jab had been outlawed, and taking a voluntary step backwards would leave a permanent stain on their masculinity.
A thudding right to the body put Firpo down for a three count. Clubbing left hooks and right uppercuts, from close range, dropped him for a second and third time. Yet the Argentinian got up and kept throwing bombs. Dempsey — the faster man — responded with more violence. A hurtful hook to the body left Firpo on the canvas for the fourth time, arms outstretched overhead and body occasionally twitching as if a low current were running through it. Somehow he got up at nine. In those days, there was no neutral corner — a rule that was only brought in after this fight — so as Firpo staggered up, Dempsey put him down for the fifth time.
Firpo remained determined to live up to his nickname. A wild overhand right sent Dempsey tipsy, and although the American's gloves touched the floor, no count was administered. The brawl continued. A right cross knocked Firpo down for a sixth time; a short left uppercut put him down for the seventh time a few seconds later.
"He wouldn't stay down — the lust to kill was burning in his eyes, and nothing was going to stop him," remembered Dempsey in his autobiography. Suddenly he was hit with an overhand right. Then another. And another, which sent him flying through the ropes and on top of the sportswriters and their typewriters below.
As Dempsey later remembered. "Everyone was yelling. It was pitch dark for a few seconds, then I managed to focus on Firpo's fuzzy form in the ring. I don't remember climbing back in the ring but I remember seeing about 20 Firpos standing in front of me."
Dempsey survived to the bell. "I mumbled to [his trainer] Doc [Kearns]: 'What round was I knocked out in? What's all the fuss?'"
"'You son of a bitch, you weren't knocked out! Get in there fast and box this guy. Finish it!' I crashed a left to his jaw and Firpo went down as if he had been struck by lightning."
The fight was over 57 seconds into the second round. "Every blow Firpo landed staggered me," admitted Dempsey. But he survived. Dempsey was always a survivor.
3) Riddick Bowe v Evander Holyfield I, 10th round, Las Vegas, 13 November 1992 (Bowe won by unanimous decision)
By late 1992, Evander Holyfield was the head of a church with few believers. After knocking out a blubbery Buster Douglas to become a heavyweight champion, Holyfield had gone the distance twice against Larry Holmes and George Foreman (combined age: 84) and had been rocked to his soles by Smoking Bert Cooper, before rallying to win in seven.
Most regarded Holyfield as a puffed-up cruiserweight with Venice Beach muscles — and Mike Tyson, by now festering in prison after being convicted of rape, as the true champion.
No one doubted that Riddick Bowe, all 6ft 5in of him, was a genuine heavyweight. Or that he had decent skills and a weighty clip. But the same knocks were heard repeatedly. The laziness. The ill-discipline. The fact that every time he saw a cake he wanted to eat it. But after what Bowe's manager Rock Newman called the best training camp ever, he was ready.
The fight was always close and enthralling, but by the time the ninth was put to bed Bowe appeared to have an answer for everything that was put to him. When Holyfield stayed on the outside he was out-jabbed; up close he was out-powered by a man 30lb heavier.
The bell sounded for the 10th. The fighters entered mid-ring. Bowe stuck with a right to the body followed by a uppercut of such viciousness it sent Holyfield's legs tumbling towards the ropes and his senses into la-la-land. Somehow Holyfield stood upright, taking the licks, before daring to walk forward towards Bowe, a manoeuvre that appeared as futile as a first world war private marching towards machine gun fire.
"He hit me so hard, and my eyes were swollen up so I couldn't see," remembers Holyfield. "Riddick Bowe used to be my sparring partner. He was a smart fighter with good hand speed, but he was known for running out of gas. Why didn't he run out of gas? [But] if you can still feel the pain, then you're still in the game. It's when you don't feel the pain you're out."
Finally, after nearly two minutes of constant pressure, "the storm got quiet", to use Holyfield's evocative phrase. "Uh-no, now, oh boy, I'm gonna hurt you," he said to himself. And for the last 30 seconds of the round he did just that, slinging potshots from every angle.
Just for good measure, the pair were still going several seconds after the bell. As they were finally separated, Bowe gave Holyfield an affectionate tap. "I was impressed with him, you know, so I patted him on the stomach to say well done," he said afterwards.
It looked as if Holyfield was on top. But he had little left to give. He was down in the 11th and lost a wide points decision 115-112, 117-110, 117-110. Holyfield had been doubted before, when he moved up to heavyweight, and he would be doubted again, particularly before his first fight with Mike Tyson in 1996. But after such a defiant and belligerent stand, few would ever claim he was a puffed up cruiserweight ever again. He was the Real Deal.
4) Micky Ward v Arturo Gatti I, ninth round, Uncasville, Connecticut, May 18 2002 (Ward won by majority decision)
Can a contest between two evenly matched boxers ever be too brutal? So savage that, even as a fan, you grimace while admiring the seemingly limitless capacity to absorb punishment? If so, the ninth round of the first fight in the Micky Ward v Arturo Gatti trilogy is a category-one case study.
All 10 rounds were a blue-collar brawl par excellence. Subtlety was tossed into the wash bucket at the opening bell. Defence became an unfathomable foreign language. And the ninth? Well, that was something else. The Compubox stats showed that Gatti landed with 42 of 61 power punches, with Ward connecting with 60 of 82. As the two men staggered back to their corners, Emanuel Steward, breathless and high on adrenaline, announced: "This should be the round of the century."
When Gatti was dropped by a Ward left to the body after 15 seconds, Steward didn't think he could survive, warning: "It's not like a head shot." But survive Gatti did. Despite blinking out of his right eye, he fought back. Every hook to the body had Ward nodding in grim appreciation. For a time he was pinned to the ropes, taking punishment, before landing two enormous rights.
This was a Rocky film played for real. When the HBO commentator Jim Lampley announced: "Can you believe there's still a minute and a half to go in the round?" he was merely echoing the stunned thoughts of those watching.
Ward was dominating to such an extent that, according to Eric Raskin, the former managing editor of the Ring, Gatti's trainer Buddy McGirt "climbed the steps, white towel in hand, prepared to stop the fight with about 30 seconds to go" but the referee Frank Cappuccino didn't see him.
And so it went on. Gatti survived. Ward won the fight by a split decision. And the two men went on to do it twice more, with Gatti getting his revenge and then winning the rubber match.
5) Marco Antonio Barrera v Erik Morales I, fifth round, Las Vegas 19 February 2000 (Morales won by split decision)
After sharing an emergency room in a Connecticut hospital following their first fight, Ward and Gatti became close friends and golfing buddies. Dempsey, meanwhile, recalls his delight at meeting Firpo again in Argentina 1960. At the end of his visit Firpo "draped his massive arm across my shoulders ... and handed me an envelope, telling me not to open it until I reached New York ... Ripping it open I found, in large denominations, $20,000, with a note simply stating: 'Just a small token of friendship and appreciation from one old friend to another ...'"
This is hardly unique. Smashing 50 shades of black and blue into each other, and them becoming good mates, is what boxers often do. But not Barrera and Morales, whose shared antipathy has remained undiminished by 36 rounds of combat or the passing of time. The animosity surfaced when Barrera called Morales "an Indian" on a Mexican TV. Morales retaliated by suggesting Barrera was a homosexual after which Barrera did this. Both were Mexican legends; both wanted to be top dog.
In the ring, though, the pair were a perfect couple. Technically gifted, highly-energetic, and with a thirst for combat that would have impressed Pancho Villa. When Arturo Gatti was asked about his favourite fight of all time, he plumped for Barrera v Morales I, which was named Fight of the Year by Ring magazine. And the fifth round — a fast-handed, back-and-forth technical slugfest of the highest order -was the pick of the bunch.
6) George Foreman v Ron Lyle, fourth round, Las Vegas, 24 January 1976 (Foreman won by KO in the fifth)
George Foreman the brutaliser. George Foreman the bully. George Foreman slain at Muhammad Ali's feet. These are the enduring images of Foreman in the 1970s. As usual, Hugh McIllvaney's description of him –"a man who shrinks the ring the moment he rises from the stool, and punches as if he has promised to deliver his victim piece by piece to someone in the tenth row" – was on the money.
Most of Foreman's opponents – famously Joe Frazier, twice, and Kenny Norton – were swatted away with the impatient disdain of a brute annoyed by a pesky fly. Even Ali, who beat him brilliantly, absorbed huge amounts of punishment before finishing what was left of him in the eighth. Arguably only Ron Lyle went at it toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow, with Foreman in his near-prime, in a half-forgotten classic.
Lyle, one of 19 brothers and sisters, only turned pro at 30 after spending seven years in prison for second degree murder following the shooting of a rival gang member. "We were all in it together. I was involved," Lyle told the Denver Post, before admitting he could have received a reduced sentence if he had revealed the killer. "But where do you live after that?" While inside Lyle was also stabbed in the stomach, and was twice pronounced dead on the operating table. After what he had gone through, fighting Big Bad George was a breeze.
Lyle had already had one shot at the world title, losing to Ali after being stopped while ahead, while Foreman was having his first proper fight – there had been a farcical exhibition where he boxed five times in one night – since the Rumble in the Jungle.
The fight started steadily; Lyle hurt Foreman, who was sluggish and easy to hit, in the first, Foreman, returned the compliment in the second, the third was split. And then came the incredible fourth stanza.
First Lyle felled Foreman with a seven-punch combination: right to the body, left hook, right hand, right uppercut, left hook, right hook, left hook, every shot laced with venom. But Foreman, who had a remarkable chin, recovered, and was soon trading blows in the middle of the ring. Three left hooks had Lyle's head wobbling; a hard right put him away.
Somehow Lyle rolled himself over and clawed himself up. But he looked spent. Foreman spent the next minute firstly prodding away at him on the ropes, looking for the finisher, before – incredibly – connecting with seven consecutive left hooks. In desperation, Lyle throw a Hail Mary left hook in retaliation before, after another wild exchange, dropping Foreman again with just three seconds to go in the round.
"I'll never forget that night, Ronnie Lyle is the hardest puncher I've ever been in with," said Foreman, who afterwards admitted he was "rusty", adding: "There's no substitute for action in the ring. Whether you are a piano player or a boxer you've got to have action."
The fifth round was just as brutal, with both men staggered again before Foreman sent Lyle face-first into the canvas to finish the fight. Unsurprisingly, the Ring Magazine made the fourth and fifth rounds joint-winners of their 'best round of 1976' poll.
For me this is an island staked with smoking mirrors, revolving doors of duplicity, to barefaced lies stripped of any pretence it is anything else but that. It is an island surrounded by predators in the form of banks and middlemen calling themselves bankers and politicians and anything in between. The most amazing thing about it all we as a people still do nothing about it, and by the looks of things we never will. That will be our ultimate failure for crime is encouraged by it.
Crime by nature is like a hyena prodding a wilder beast to see if there is any fight left in it or to see will it at least try to make a run. When there appears to be no movement or signs of life, the hyena soon realizes this is a feast of plenty, yet the wilder beasts outnumber the hyenas thousands to one. Even a wolf would be confused by this turn of events. The same mantra will always apply: when are the people of Ireland going to stand up.
Anyone, no matter how ignorant of the facts of why we are in this financial abyss, could not fail to get very angry and outraged, unless of course they do not have a pulse, listening to the tapes of bankers not just laughing all the way to the bank, but are the banks itself. More importantly they were laughing at us. They had figured rightly that we as a people would do nothing about it. One can only marvel at their unerringly accurate prediction that not only would we as a people roll over and do nothing, but that the Irish Government would became appeasers and accomplishes in their crimes. The only mitigating factor for the Irish people was that we were kept in the dark until it was too late.
Our crime now is that we are still appeasers hoping to be eaten last; while we are still in that deadened state, rest assured we will.