1926-09-23 Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey, Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - WORLD

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1926-09-23 Gene Tunney w pts 10 Jack Dempsey, Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA - WORLD. Referee: Pop Riley. Fought in a rainstorm, Tunney (189½) adapted to the prevailing conditions far better than Dempsey (190), who was sorely ring-rusty, with no fewer than 120,000 plus fans turning out in anticipation of Tunney being put to sleep. Fighting on the back foot and stepping in when needed, Tunney fought a brainy, technical battle over the whole ten rounds that left Dempsey shorn of his title. Moving well and in the main evading Dempsey’s wild swings, Tunney boxed well on the counter and was only once in real trouble, when he was caught in the sixth round by a solid left hook to the jaw that almost felled him. But sticking to his boxing, the challenger continued to ram the left into Dempsey’s face, with the occasional right thrown in for good measure, and at the end of the ninth it was the champion who was the one suffering most. By now Dempsey’s left eye was almost closed and into the tenth it was Tunney who was looking to finish matters as he smashed heavy rights in to the champion’s head. At the bell it was clear as to who had won and it was not Dempsey in the eyes of the referee. Tunney’s victory had turned the heavyweight division on its head and had proved that skill could overcome power.

On 29 September it was announced that Harry Wills would be meeting Jack Sharkey, who had recently outpointed George Godfrey over ten rounds at the Mechanics’ Building, Boston, Massachusetts on 21 September. Paddy Mullins, Wills’ manager, criticized Dempsey for sidestepping his man for five years and then Tunney for indicating that he too would be drawing the ‘Colour Line’. Although Wills had, up to a point, remained active while all the hassles with Dempsey were going on the damage had been done and, at the age of 37, he was beaten by the future champion, Sharkey, when suffering a 13th-round disqualification defeat at the Ebbets Field, Brooklyn, NYC, New York on 12 October.

Having overcome Wills, Sharkey next defeated Homer Smith and Mike McTigue, the former light heavyweight champion, before eliminating Jim Maloney (w rsc 5 on 20 May 1927 at the Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NYC). The win over Maloney effectively took Sharkey to the top of the pile, but with Dempsey angling for a return with Tunney it was obvious that the pair should come together in a final eliminator. Matched by Tex Rickard and contested on 21 July 1927 at the Yankee Stadium, Dempsey earned the right to meet Tunney again when he knocked out Sharkey (who was complaining to the referee at the time), inside seven rounds, but not before the former champion had been badly hurt himself in the first session.

With coloured fighting men still feeling that they were not getting a fair crack of the whip, George Godfrey won the unofficial vacant ‘black’ heavyweight title when stopping Larry Gains inside six rounds (at the Broadway Auditorium, Buffalo, New York) on 8 November 1926, before successfully defending against Bearcat Wright (nc 10 on 23 November at the Armory, Portland, Oregon), Long Tom Hawkins (w co 7 at The Coliseum, San Diego, California on 13 May 1927), Jake Kilrain (w pts 10 at The Arena, Culver City, California on 23 June) and Neal Clisby (w co 7 on 5 July at the Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California) prior to the second Tunney v Dempsey fight.