RECENTLY dethroned heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey was desperate to regain his crown when matched with ‘The Boston Gob’ Jack Sharkey in an eliminator to face Dempsey’s conqueror Gene Tunney for the title.
‘The Manassa Mauler’ and 7-5 betting favourite Sharkey squared off on July 21, 1927 at the Yankee Stadium with gate receipts totalling an incredible $1,083,530 – approximately $15m in today’s money.
‘The Boston Gob’ Starkey entered the ring second to a deafening ovation, strode straight to Dempsey’s corner and gave the former heavyweight king ‘the eye’, touched hands and snarled something in Dempsey’s ear.
Sharkey dominated the early rounds. “I thought he was going to knock me out,” Dempsey admitted afterwards.
The former champion appeared lethargic and was outfought in the early rounds as the slashing, gruelling fight began to slip away.
But Dempsey landed a series of borderline low blows in the seventh. Sharkey turned to the referee to protest, and Dempsey knocked him out with a chilling left hook to the chin. Sharkey went down like a tree – clutching his groin! “I hit him with one of the last good punches of my life,” Dempsey said later. “It was everything I could throw. His chin was sticking out there, unprotected. I couldn’t miss.”
As Roger Kahn so eloquently puts it in his brilliant book on Dempsey, A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring ’20s: “No prudent man facing Jack Dempsey in a prize ring dropped his guard. Ever.”
82,000 delirious fans were there to witness the great old champion score the final knockout victory of his raucous career.