1927: Tunney vs. Dempsey
By Shirley Povich
CHICAGO Gene Tunney is still the heavyweight champion of the world and Jack Dempsey, to fighting born, did not "come back."
Judged by Referee Dave Barry and two judges of the Illinois Boxing Commission, at the end of ten rounds of fighting, Jack Dempsey tonight was declared beaten by the man who won the title from him in a Philadelphia rainstorm a year ago, and who again was his master tonight in the ring pitched in the center of Soldiers [sic] Field, with 150,000 witnessing the bout that was pugilism's $2,800,000 masterpiece under the promotion of Tex Rickard.
One fleeting incident marked the bout. One return of Jack Dempsey to the form that stamped him the "killer." One appalling moment for Gene Tunney in defense of his championship. One knockdown, which saved the fight from a disgraceful exhibition for champion and challenger. The one event which appeased the craving of the 150,000 who paid more than $2,500,000 to be in at the "kill."
The glory that was Jack Dempsey's returned to him in that transient moment in the seventh round of Chicago's extravaganza. The 150,000 saw it. Saw Jack Dempsey with that dreaded left hook punch Gene Tunney on the jaw. Saw Tunney go down to the canvas, felled. Saw Jack Dempsey watch the toll of the referee like he had watched the toll of many another referee standing, waiting, for his opponent to get up if he could.
Gene Tunney did get up. With the count of nine he rose to his feet a calm, deliberate fighting machine, stunned, but aware, and there Gene Tunney saved the championship. It was Dempsey's only serious threat to regain the title he held for seven years, and Tunney, getting up, preserved his title as becomes a champion.
That was Jack Dempsey's one serious bid for the title he held so long. He was beaten thoroughly in a bout that was tame for a championship bout in a bout that saw a mechanically great fighter reach down in his heart and find the courage to go on and beat a man who had not the stamina nor physical ability to match the Spartan courage that has never been disputed.
It was sudden. The same suddenness that has marked Dempsey's meteoric style. But a few moments of the seventh round had passed. Dempsey hit Tunney in the jaw with a short right hook. Tunney countered with a right jab that to Dempsey's head and danced back into Dempsey's corner. And Dempsey pursued him. Dempsey sent a hard left hook to Tunney's jaw. Tunney winced and the grimace was still on his face, when with that quickness of attack that he has always been able to summon, Dempsey raised his right hand a few short inches, delivered the fist to the side of Tunney's jaw, and Tunney dropped.
Tunney was hit hard. He failed to hear the first counting of Referee Barry, but he quickly regained his composure. At the count of three he already had raised an arm and was waiting. He waited until the count reached eight. At nine he arose, again to meet the man who had knocked him down. And, coupling his courage with the ring lore that he was known to possess, he danced away from his foe, saving his title. Then and there by his faultless conduct when matters appeared dark and when the Dempsey of old should have leaped into the "kill" the moment found the Dempsey of 1927 impotent.
Tonight the shadows of Jeffries and Corbett and Sulivan flit across the pages of pugilism, which marks [sic] Jack Dempsey's career.
They all tried to "come back," and tonight Jack Dempsey took his place at their side unable to shatter the tradition of the ring. The precedent that has been inviolable when a former heavyweight champion attempted to regain his title.
Jack Dempsey, "the killer," was not in the ring at Soldier Field tonight. It was not the Dempsey who was able to annihilate with either hand. Not the Dempsey who battered Willard into submission in three round at Toledo, who knocked out Carpentier in four rounds at Boyles Thirty Acres, who flattened Luis Firpo in two rounds at the Polo Grounds.
It was very much the same Jack Dempsey who bowed to Gene Tunney a year ago in that Philadelphia rainstorm, and very much the same Jack Dempsey who felled Sharkey in the seventh round at Yankee Stadium two months ago, in the ring with Gene Tunney tonight.
And that Jack Dempsey was far, is removed from Jack Dempsey, the champion of the days when he knocked out Willard and Firpo and Carpertier. Retrogression in all its phases, marked Jack Dempsey as an easy, if not willing victim of the skill of a younger man, a superior boxer, also with a heart of iron, who retained his world's heavyweight title tonight.
The Jack Dempsey who was in the ring with Tunney tonight was old. He was soft. He was deep down on the down grade of his pugilistic career, still with the willingness to force the battle but without the ability. Gene Tunney met almost the same man whom he defeated in Philadelphia.
But there are many, many things to be said to the credit of Jack Dempsey. He was ever willing, ever ready to meet with Tunney. He knew that his one chance for victory lay in the punishment he could inflict at close quarters and he tried, everlastingly, to bring his foe to close quarters for that purpose and not only for the delectation of the fans who gathered at Soldier Field in the expectancy of seeing the kind of fight that they knew Jack Dempsey would present.
Tunney tonight fought the fight that won the title and is destined to retain for him the title until a far more worthy challenger than Jack Dempsey arises to a position on the pugilistic horizon. Strictly a counterfighter, who knows when to hit and how. Never in distress except for that brief moment in the seventh round, he won easily.
The technical story of the battle can be briefly told. Dempsey, pawing, sniffing, advanced on Tunney from the outset, beckoning him to close quarters, and Tunney danced away, hitting as he danced, and sapping the strength of his foe from the start.
Dempsey would come in close, lean with a pawing left, and when Tunney elected to return a blow, a slight flurry would follow, with Dempsey's face and head invariably the target of Tunney's