Best of a Century

Fight of the Decade: 1920-1929

Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Firpo, Sept. 24, 1923

By: Monte Cox

The pick of this era was one of the easiest decisions to make. The Jack Dempsey fight against, the big Argentine, Luis Firpo, at the polo grounds was the most exciting heavyweight championship in history. 90,000 exasperated fans were present the night that rocked New York City and the boxing world for all ages. This fight is unmatched in terms of the thrills it produced for the fans. Don't believe the hype? Check it out. Eleven knockdowns in 3:57!!!!

At the opening bell a charging rhino named Luis Firpo rushed at the legendary champion, with one purpose to pound his man out of the ring! Firpo smashed Dempsey with a powering right to the jaw that buckled the champions knees! Dempsey was stunned and forced to clinch. The champion then retaliated with a flurry of savage blows that dropped Firpo to the canvas. He arose but a devastating right to the heart and a crushing left hook to the jaw put Firpo down again. Dempsey, a murderous puncher, kept up the assault dropping his man five times by the middle of round one!

Suddenly, the "Wild Bull of the Pampas" was back in the fight. A wild, but dangerous roundhouse right found its mark on Dempsey's jaw. Dempsey went down on his knees! He barely beat the count at 9 and looked in bad shape. The crowd was on its feet screaming like an army of barbarians attacking a retreating foe. Firpo moved in to finish the wounded champion, but he left himself open as he did, and Dempsey unleashed a terrific, perhaps desperate, counter shot. The hulking Argentine was down once again! Rising from the canvas Firpo fired a cannon like right to the jaw that knocked Dempsey clear through the ropes and out of the ring!! Jack landed upon the stunned laps of the ringside reporters who literally shoved him back into the ring.

Dempsey had a remarkable ability to fight when hurt. He could fight through the fog. He once won a fight and did not know it until he was told he had knocked his opponent out. Jack Dempsey was a viscious fighter with the primeval instinct of a tiger on the hunt.  When hurt he was like a cornered animal. Though still groggy Dempsey floored the bewildered Firpo with a crushing right to the head. Amazingly Firpo rose from the canvas yet again. The bell ended futher assaults by either man. It was the end of the most thrilling round in heavyweight history.

In the second round Firpo again attacked the champion hoping to catch him with another wild swing. This time Dempsey was ready for him.  Dempsey bobbed and weaved, slipping and blocking his opponents amateurish punches. Dempsey seizing an opening ripped home a sizzling uppercut that violently snapped Firpos head back. Firpo was down again, blood was spewing from his mouth and he was twitching horrifically on the canvas. Somehow, this courageous challenger once again struggled to his feet. Mercilessly, Jack Dempsey, moved in for the kill. Another pulverizing right lifted the bigger and stronger man off the canvas. Timber! It was all over. Luis Firpo was counted out.

A truly classic slugfest of epic proportions. Dempsey down twice in the first and knocked clear out of the ring, perhaps the most memorable kncodown in boxing history.  Firpo down seven times in the first and twice in the second, the last time for the full count.  Eleven knockdowns in under four minutes. Nothing can beat this for the fight of the decade for 1920-1929.

Honorable mentions:

Georges Carpentier vs. Battling Siki, Sept. 24, 1922 Another exciting affair. Carpentier floors Siki in 1st and 2nd and is ko'd in 6th. The Ref disqualifies Siki for "tripping" which causes a riot, before the decsion is reversed and Siki declared the winner.

Harry Greb vs. Mickey Walker, July 2, 1925. A 15 round classic. Walker gave Greb a shellacking the first five rounds and some even called for the fight to be stopped. In the 6th greb turned the fight around with superb counterpunching. Walkers ear was torn, an eye swollen. They battled toe to toe, Walker had greb hurt again in 14th, and Walker was hurt in 15th. A great fight, though some say the battle they had in the bar later that night was even better!

Gene Tunney vs. Jack Dempsey (2) Sept. 22, 1927 The famous "battle of the long count". Tunney on his way to decision victory is hammered by a powering left hook and right cross. He is down about 14 secs, but up at 9. Some question Ref who did not make Tunney go to neutral corner immediately but did not pick up count until Dempsey did. The controversy continues 70 years later.

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