1. JACK DEMPSEY savaged Jess Willard to win the world heavyweight title in July 1919 but had to wait until September 6, 1920 to make the first defence of his crown. The delay was largely caused by his manager Doc Kearns and his promoter Tex Rickard failing to agree on a suitable opponent for the young champion. In the end, Dempsey himself picked his challenger, and settled on veteran Billy Miske.
2. MISKE [below] was a long-time friend of Dempsey, and told his buddy he was broke and desperately needed the $25,000 purse on offer for the fight in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Rickard wanted no part of the promotion and was not involved. Floyd Fitzsimmons stepped in and promoted the contest – which was the first to be broadcast on the radio. It was the last time Dempsey fought without Rickard promoting.
3. THE Champion received $50,000 in cash and a share of the $134,904 gate receipts. It was reported that 11, 346 attended the contest.
4. DEMPSEY sensed there was something else besides his financial woes troubling Miske. The pair had fought twice before, with Dempsey winning both via decision, but early in the bout, Jack Dempsey knew that Miske was no longer the same competitor. “During the fight, I began to feel that Billy wasn’t giving me as tough a battle as I had expected,” Jack would later say. “He did not seem like his old self.”
5. IT later emerged that Miske was suffering from Bright’s Disease, which affected his kidneys. He had been diagnosed with the disease in 1918, but $100,000 in debt, he fought on. By the time he entered the ring to fight Dempsey, he was slowly dying.
6. MISKE took a count in the second round which was the first time he’d been down in his career. The fight was over in the next when Dempsey dropped him for the count. It was the only time in over 100 bouts that Miske was knocked out.
7. INCREDIBLY he fought on afterwards; a beating of the formidable Bill Brennan in November 1923 would be his final fight. He would die just weeks later, on New Years Day, 1924.
8. ‘THE MANASSA MAULER‘ clearly regretted his part in the 1920 bout with Miske. “Billy Miske and Benton Harbor…” he would later say. “Well, I wish it never happened.”
9. ON the same bill, the legendary Sam Langford, by then past his best, fought Bill Tate over six rounds in a heavyweight contest. The bout was officially a No Decision, but was won “by a shade” according to The Chicago Tribune.
10. ANOTHER No Decision occurred on the bill when Harry Greb [above] and Chuck Wiggins collided over six. But, as was standard in the era, newspaper reporters would declare the winner. Both the Chicago Tribune and the Pittsburgh Post felt that Greb’s rally down the final three rounds trumped his rival’s solid start, and he was declared the winner.