Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
The 1920s were considered the "golden age" of sports -- with greats such as Babe Ruth, Red Grange, Ty Cobb and Bill Tilden dominating the scene. But for events, there was none in that decade to match the famous "Long Count" heavyweight championship fight in which Gene Tunney retained his title over Jack Dempsey before 150,000 in Chicago. An excerpt from The Post of Sept. 23, 1927:
Gene Tunney, the man of destiny, is still heavyweight champion of the world, but his crown was perilously close to being toppled from his head tonight by the gallant thrust of the old warrior, Jack Dempsey, in the greatest boxing spectacle of all time.
Tunney's hand was raised in victory at the end of a slashing, smashing battle, but only because he had the courage and fighting power for a sensational finish after being knocked down for a count of nine in the seventh round by Dempsey's vicious two-handed attack. Only one second, in this seventh round, separated Dempsey from the greatest victory of his career, and an achievement no other former champion had ever recorded, but Tunney, back on his feet, slipped from range, cleared his head and weathered the greatest storm he has ever experienced. Safely past that crisis Tunney finished the last three rounds like a champion, regaining confidence, taking the aggressive and beating Dempsey into defeat with a two-handed, well-timed attack to the head.
With his title in danger, Tunney had the stuff to put on a victorious rally. At the close of the final round, Dempsey, both eyes cut and badly bleeding, was groggy and reeling, "out on his feet." So battered was the old champion, his last charge expended, that he did not seem to know the battle was over and had to be led to his corner. Tunney's victory was not without its dispute however, for there were scores in the ringside section who thought the champion was saved from losing his crown in the seventh round by a count that was actually several seconds longer than the toll of nine.
It was unquestionably a "long count" -- from 12 to 14 seconds in all, to take the varying count of ringside observers -- but its explanation lay in the fact that Illinois boxing rules compelled the fighter scoring the knockdown to go to his corner before the count starts. The time elapsing during Dempsey's backing off to a corner accounted for the late start of the count, boxing commissioners explained. ...
The mightiest throng in fight or sporting history, estimated at 150,000, paid the record smashing sum of $2,800,000 to see the handsome ex-marine weather the spectacular challenge of the old mauler and to defeat, as convincingly, if not as decisively, the man from whom Gene took the crown a year ago in the rain at Philadelphia.
Victory unquestionably went to the better man, the craftier boxer, the faster and stronger fighter, but was his only after the closest call he ever had.
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