September 22, 1927: Jack Dempsey loses to Gene Tunney in “The Long Count” heavyweight boxing fight. Dempsey held the heavyweight title from 1919-1926, when he first lost to Tunney. Dempsey was one of the greats, knocking out 26 of his opponents in the first round.
Dempsey lived the life of a celebrity and married a movie star, Estelle Taylor in 1925. He appeared in films and fought rarely in the years leading up to his first match against Tunney.
Tunney, an ex-Marine, was only two years younger than his opponent, but had been fighting regularly. He was fast and skilled and could out-box Dempsey who had lost his timing and reflexes in the intervening years. Dempsey accepted defeat gracefully in 1926, but did consent to a rematch.
Before their bout, a new rule came into play. It was not accurately followed during the fight which was viewed by thousands and gambled on by even more, especially Mobsters. The new rule said that during a knock down, the standing fighter should go to a neutral corner while the timekeeper began the count. The referee took eight seconds to get Dempsey into a corner and only then began the count. Tunney got up at nine and won the fight on points.
The debate remains. Could Tunney have really gotten up without the extra seconds to regroup? Was the referee paid off by those heavily betting on the fight? Ring size was at issue as well, since rather than the usual 16-foot ring Dempsey favored, the fight was held in a 20-foot ring. Tunney held the heavyweight championship title until 1928.
“Honey, I just forgot to duck.” – Jack Dempsey, after losing to Tunney on September 23, 1926
“A champion is one who gets up when he can’t.” – Jack Dempsey
“I zigged when I should have zagged.” – Jack Roper, after losing to Joe Louis on April 17, 1939
“Reporter: [Billy] Conn is going to use plenty [of] footwork, and do lots of running.
Louis: He can run, but he can’t hide.” – Joe Louis
Also on this day, in 1776 Nathan Hale gave his one life for his country.