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Sample Exhibition Poster

An "exhibition" bout is one where no official decision is rendered, and is provided merely to entertain the audience. It is often of short duration; e.g., two to three two-minute rounds. In the early part of the 20th Century, many world champions--such as Jack Dempsey--traveled widely to give countless exhibitions, to earn money between title bouts during his reign, and for awhile after he had lost the title. (For example the August 5, 1931 San Francisco Chronicle reported that Dempsey was planning an exhibition tour, where he expected to earn $5,000 per bout.) This was often the only time people could see a champion "fight" in person.

In the United States of the 1930s and the 1940s, it was common to have the exhibition fighters box three two-minute rounds with fourteen-ounce gloves, although this was not always the case. The rules varied from state to state. The champion would almost always get the advantage of what the rules were to be, or there would be no bout. Sometimes his opponent was forced to wear head-gear, which hindered vision, to protect the champion from being injured if head-butted. Or the opponent was required to use heavier gloves. Or the opponent had to wear both head-gear and heavier gloves. Opponents were willing to pay this price to get the opportunity to be in the same ring with the reigning champion. During some exhibition tours, such as those by Joe Louis, the rules were even for both the champion and his opponent. Yet, despite these varying rules, whether the boxers wore head-gear or heavy gloves or not, some of these exhibition bouts could get pretty brutal.