Dramatic Fights of the Decades – 100 Years of Boxing!

By Joe Torcello.  (Part 1 of 4)

Decade of: 1900 – 1909

Tommy Burns vs. Jack Johnson

December 26, 1908

It has been said that Tommy Burns was chased by Jack Johnson across the world in an effort to secure a title fight.  Years later, however, it was revealed that Burns intentionally did this to generate attention which would result in the biggest purse of his career.  It worked.  An Australian promoter offered Burns a guarantee of $30,000 to defend his title against Johnson at Rushcutter’s Bay – located on the outskirts of Sydney.

The bout was scheduled for December 26, 1908.  Burns was seven inches shorter than Johnson and twenty-four pounds lighter.  Johnson toyed with Burns before pouring it on in the 14th round.  The police wound up stopped the match.  Boxing had its first black Heavyweight Champion.  Race riots and lynching’s erupted in America.  The winds of change had come.

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Decade of: 1910 – 1919

Jess Willard vs Jack Dempsey

July 4, 1919

Jess Willard had defended his title only once after defeating Jack Johnson in 1915.  Three years later, the 37-year old Willard faced the 24-year old, Jack Dempsey.  Dempsey had racked up five consecutive first round knockouts coming into the Willard fight.  The anticipation leading up to this fight was incredible.

Willard outweighed Dempsey by 58 pounds.  Dempsey was dwarfed by Willard.  For the first minute of the first round, Jack moved cautiously.  And then suddenly, he went on the attack!  Jess was floored seven times before the bell ended the opening round.  Willard quit on his stool at the conclusion of the 3rd round.  The Heavyweight Division had a ferocious champion – the likes of which had never been seen before.  Dempsey had become an instant superstar.

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Decade of: 1920 – 1929

Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey

September 22, 1927

Jack Dempsey’s rematch with Gene Tunney drew an amazing 104,493 fans to Soldier Field in Chicago.  It also generated Boxing’s first 2-million dollar gate.  Jack Dempsey was a money-making machine from the word “go!”  Gene dominated the first half of the bout with his world-class jab.  In the 7th round, a big right hand staggered Tunney and the follow-up punches dropped him.

Instead of heading to the neutral corner, Dempsey stood over Tunney.  Referee Dave Barry pushed Dempsey to the neutral corner before beginning his count.  Tunney was on his feet at the count of 9.  He backpedaled away from Dempsey for the remainder of the round.  Tunney had been down a total of 14 seconds, although it’s fairly clear he could have risen before the count of 9 if he wanted to.

He boxed carefully the last three rounds and retained his title via unanimous decision.  The fight would forever be known as the, “Battle of The Long Count.”

The Boxing Magazine – November 2009

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