1921-07-02 Jack Dempsey nd-w co 4 (12) Georges Carpentier, Rickard’s Oval, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA - WORLD

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1921-07-02 Jack Dempsey nd-w co 4 (12) Georges Carpentier, Rickard’s Oval, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA - WORLD. Referee: Harry Ertle. Although a decision could not be rendered in New Jersey at that time, it was billed as a title fight and has achieved lasting fame as being the first million-dollar gate. However, by defending his title under no-decision conditions, Dempsey (188) forced the Frenchman to look for a kayo victory, and thus negated his shrewd boxing skills. Carpentier (172) was hugely popular for both his looks and the fact that he was a war hero, while many saw Dempsey, who avoided the war, as a slacker.

The contest started with Carpentier diving in to swap blows before feeling the weight of Dempsey’s punches and dropping to his knees. In the second round the fight almost certainly slipped away from Carpentier when he broke his right thumb on Dempsey’s head and although he walked into the champion during the third he was being noticeably outpunched. Dempsey went all out in the fourth, smashing in lefts and rights to Carpentier’s body, and when a right to the jaw dropped the Frenchman it appeared to be over. Although Carpentier sprung to his feet at ‘nine’, he was immediately targeted by Dempsey and it was no surprise when a right-hand smash saw the challenger counted out with just 1.16 of the session on the clock.

Further to this, Dempsey appeared in a number of exhibition bouts. Interestingly, what has been uncovered recently is the fact that Dempsey won a four-round points decision in a contest against Jimmy Darcy, a light heavyweight stablemate, at the Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York, on 24 July 1922. This came about after Dempsey, who was due to box three exhibition bouts in one evening in Buffalo, was told by the local boxing commissioner that under the NYSAC regulations the State made no distinction between exhibition and regulation contests.

With much support, Harry Wills was clamouring for a title shot in 1921 and defended his ‘black’ title against Denver Ed Martin (w co 1 on 18 November at the Milwaukie Arena, Portland, Oregon), Jack Thompson (nc 5 on 30 November at the Stockyards Stadium, Denver, Colorado, the referee stopping the bout without giving a decision, with Thompson on the floor looking for a foul) and Bill Tate (w pts 12 at the Stockyards Stadium, Denver, Colorado on 8 December).

Then, on 2 January 1922 (at the Milwaukie Arena), Wills seemingly lost his ‘black’ title by a first-round disqualification, having flattened Tate after the referee had called for the two men to break. This was a fight that was also considered to be a final eliminator for the world title. However, after much discussion, the local commissioner refused to accept the result because it left a bad taste in the mouth and announced that it had been a no-contest. He then withheld both fighters’ pay and demanded the contest be re-started in four days time. The rematch duly took place at the same venue on 6 January and was declared a ten-round draw, with Tate more than holding his own.

Regardless of all that had gone on, Tate claimed the title, despite Wills continuing to see himself as the rightful champion, and was supported by a fair percentage of the press. Putting his version of the 'black' title on the line, Tate took on Battling Owens (nd-w co 2 at Memphis, Tennessee on 6 February), Rough House Ware (w rsc 2 at the Chamber of Commerce Auditorium, Columbus, Ohio on 20 March), Sam Langford (nd-w pts 8 at Memphis on 27 March) and the Boston Bearcat (nd-w co 1 at an open-air site in Porter, Indiana on 17 June) before being outscored over 15 rounds by Jack Thompson at the Tulane Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana on 21 June. While there was no support for Thompson, it is clear that Tate’s ‘black’ title claim also disappeared on the result.

Meantime, Wills went on to defend the ‘black’ title against Langford (w pts 10 on 17 January 1922 at the Milwaukie Arena); Kid Norfolk (w co 2 on 2 March at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan, NYC, New York); Jeff Clark (nd-w rtd 2 on 30 June at The Arena AA, Trenton, New Jersey); Clark again (w co 3 on 17 July at the Amphitheatre Rink, Winnipeg, Canada); Buddy Jackson (nd-w co 2 on 21 August at the Broadway AC, Newark, New Jersey); Tut Jackson (w co 3 on 29 August at Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NYC) and Clem Johnson (w rsc 12 on 29 September at Madison Square Garden). The Chicago Tribune reported Wills’ contest against Norfolk as a battle of the champions of the ‘black’ heavyweight and light heavyweight titles, the winner to meet Jack Dempsey.

Now rated the number-one challenger by The Ring magazine and the NYSAC, and backed by Jimmy Walker, of ‘Walker Law’ fame, who had promised the negro voters in New York during his campaign for mayor that he would support a Wills v Jack Dempsey fight, Wills and his manager, Paddy Mullins, demanded a fight against Dempsey. Bearing in mind that many former champions had avoided coloured fighters by putting up the ‘Colour Bar’ and ever since Jack Johnson had scandalised the sport, it was always going to be difficult to get a championship fight for Wills.