History | Jul 04 2019

On This Day: Jack Dempsey bankrupted a town

Jack Dempsey was huge business in the Roaring '20s, too big in fact for the small town of Shelby, Montana
Jack Dempsey vs Tommy Gibbons

JACK DEMPSEY’S fights throughout the 1920s were extravaganzas, occasions. He and Luis Firpo drew 82,000 fans to New York Polo Grounds for their amazing, 11-knockdown war that lasted only two rounds. Dempsey earned more than $500,000, Firpo a little over $150,000. Rickard’s official gross was $1,188,603.

Dempsey and Gene Tunney set a record attendance of 120,757 for their first fight at the Sesqucentennial Stadium in Philadelphia in 1926, and the return at Soldier’s Field, Chicago, the following year drew 104,943 fans who shelled out an incredible $2,658,660, a figure that was unmatched for almost half a century.

The record was finally broken by the rematch between Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks in the New Orleans Superdome in 1978, which grossed $4,806,675.