History | Sep 22 2019

On This Day: Gene Tunney survives the ‘long count’ and beats Jack Dempsey again

Matt Christie explains why Jack Dempsey flooring Gene Tunney was one of the most controversial moments in boxing history
Jack Dempsey

1. JACK DEMPSEY was the people’s champion when he fought Gene Tunney for the second time on September 22, 1927. Although always popular, the former hobo stole the public’s affection in defeat, when he lost to Tunney in their opening bout 366 days before. Promoter Tex Rickard was aware of Dempsey’s newfound status, and spent an entire year hyping the sequel.

2. BEFORE their opening bout, Rickard had been trying to match Tunney with leading black contender Harry Wills in an eliminator but Wills – for so long avoided – priced himself out of the market. Rickard wasted little time in making Dempsey-Tunney, and around 120,000 turned up at Philadelphia’s Sesquicentennial Stadium to watch the fight.

3. TUNNEY was the opposite of Dempsey in so many ways. Gene was considered, articulate and educated. Jack, meanwhile, was a rugged and wild creature who trusted his instincts, and acted upon them. In their first fight, Tunney had dominated with his superior boxing ability, winning a unanimous 10-round decision. His jab was a dream and Dempsey – inactive for three years and past his best at 31 – could do nothing to stop the world heavyweight title slipping from his hands.


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