A French professional boxer who began fighting professionally at the age of 14, and fought at all eight weights throughout his career. He held the world light heavyweight title, and stimulated an extensive popular following, including among women fans. He is best remembered for his fight with heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey in 1921, the first one-million-dollar gate in the sport. A war hero as an airman in World War I, as well as a sporting champion, he personified the emergingly suave image of the sportsman in a transformative phase of the internationalization of sport by the new media of radio and film. On retirement, he worked in vaudeville in England and the USA and appeared in several movies, before becoming the proprietor of a successful bar in Paris.
Carpentier was a catalyst for the intensifying influence of US culture upon Europe, calling French boxing a blend of ‘English science’ with ‘American ruggedness’ (see Kasia Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History, 2007), winning his light heavyweight title in New Jersey and befriending his conqueror Dempsey for life. In his autobiography, Dempsey referred to the Frenchman as ‘dapper Georges Carpentier’: ‘He was thinner than I expected and chalk white. He looked like a graceful statue. I looked like a street fighter.’ The ruggedness from the USA, profiled in the big-money events increasingly transmitted worldwide, proved too much for the grace of Carpentier, but his own contribution to the internationalization of sport, in mediating the US influence in Europe, was considerable.
Subjects: Sport and Leisure.