Presentation on theme: "1920-1929 Boxing - History The “manly art of boxing,” seemingly ingrained in many cultures and introduced in the original Olympics in about 688 BCE,"— Presentation transcript:
Boxing - History The “manly art of boxing,” seemingly ingrained in many cultures and introduced in the original Olympics in about 688 BCE, adopted the Marquis of Queensbury rules in the late 1800s and made the sport less violent. In 1892 gloves were 1 st used in a heavyweight fight and have been standard equipment ever since. There are at least 11 weight classes, which negate the different weights that opponents might have and make fights decided upon skill rather than size. Boxing was done at various levels, both in an organized and less organized manner. Mining camps, lumber camps, and other “rough” places often had contests for the amusement of the workers, who were interested in demonstrations of strength and skill. In cities, boxing was often engaged in by lower-class or working-class youngsters, and it could serve as a way to gain fame and wealth. Until the 1920s, many states did not allow organized bouts because they deemed it too dangerous.
Ethnicity, Sexism, and Boxing Many ethnic groups were prominent in boxing in the 1920s, most notably lower-class groups, often more recent immigrants. At the lower weight classes Italians and Jews were very prominent. Many of these fighters were from inner-city neighborhoods and the young men fought on the street from their early years. Such fights would have been especially common where there was some ethnic “overlap” and more than one ethnic group “claimed” the neighborhood. This still occurs today, but at that time fists predominated, rather than guns.
Ethnicity, Sexism, and Boxing One of the greatest fighters was Benny Leonard, whose actual family name was Leiner. The son of very observant Jews, he used the name Leonard to prevent his parents from finding out about his boxing and was amazingly successful. He became the lightweight champion of the world in 1917 and held the crown until Except for a disqualification in 1922, Leonard did not lose a fight for 20 years from He had retired in 1925, but returned to the ring in 1932 after losing his fortune in the stock market crash of 1929.
Ethnicity, Sexism, and Boxing Many of Leonard's top rivals were Irish, indicative of the great Jewish-Irish rivalry in boxing at the time. Despite not being a recent immigrant group, the Irish were often discriminated against in many ways into the 20 th century, and their social progress was often impeded by this discrimination. In boxing there was no such prejudice and the Irish were also dominant in heavier weights.
Early Heavyweight Champions From the time of the 1 st American heavyweight world champion, John L. Sullivan, who was champ from , Irishmen dominated the weight class. Jack Dempsey (1919 – 1926) and Gene Tunney (1926 – 1928) were the world champions in this decade. The championship was open after Tunney's retirement in 1928, until 1930.
Jack Dempsey Dempsey came out of the West and was “discovered” by promoter George L. “Tex” Rickard fighting in mining towns in Colorado. Before being a fighter, Dempsey, who was from a large Mormon family (10 brothers and sisters) in Manassa, Colorado, was a hobo who found work as a peach picker and a ditch digger, among a number of low-paying jobs. He defeated Jess Willard in 1919 for the heavyweight championship and became an instant hero, particularly to the working class. His rise to fame and fortune made it seem possible for many of the downtrodden, uneducated masses to hope for similar success. Dempsey was a bruising 6 ′ 1 ″ and weighed 190 pounds, but could take a punch; he was only knocked out once in his 60 fights, and lost 7 total bouts.
Gene Tunney Tunney was from New York City, was a nondrinker, quite articulate, and a college graduate. He was also from a working-class family, but served in WWI as a Marine, and also became light-heavyweight champion of the American Forces in Europe. He fought as a light heavyweight upon his return, winning the world title in 1922, then losing it to a middleweight Harry Greb. He then defeated Greb 4 times in very bloody contests. In 1926 he decided to move up to heavyweight and fought Dempsey, defeating him twice before retiring from the ring in 1928 with a record of 65 victories, 1 loss, 1 draw, and 47 knockouts.
Racism and Boxing Racism in boxing made it difficult for African American fighters to compete for world titles and a so-called Negro circuit developed in which the top African American fighters fought each other, often many times. Sam Langford and Harry Wills, 2 top African American fighters, battled at least 14 times over a 5-year period. Wills was a savage puncher and no top white heavyweight was inclined to face him. Besides the fear of losing and being battered, there was another fear of having another African American champion, like Jack Johnson had been in the previous decade. Johnson was an outstanding fighter who flaunted his excellence and his blackness, much to the chagrin and anger of many whites. Anything resembling a repeat of that was simply unacceptable to whites who wanted to perpetuate the myth of black inferiority.
Racism and Boxing Reinforcing this fear of black fighters flaunting their “blackness” after winning a championship was “Battling” Siki, born in Senegal (a French colony) as Baye Phal in After serving with valor in the French army in WWI, he returned to his fighting career and in 1922, defeated Georges Carpentier in Paris for the light-heavyweight championship of the world. Following his victory, in which the referee tried to disqualify him but was overruled by the ringside judges, Siki made a career of partying and carousing. He fulfilled the worst fears of white men by marrying 2 white women and he soon was woefully out of shape for fighting. He lost his title in 1923 in Ireland, then moved to the United States where he compiled a mediocre record before he was shot in the back and killed in New York City. The crime went unsolved.
Sexism and Boxing Women gained the right to vote via ratification of the 19 th Amendment to the Constitution in the United States in 1920, but that right hardly extended to boxing. Women were prohibited from even attending prizefights until the late 1890s. Some boxing promoters tried to get women accepted as spectators at fights because they felt that it would make boxing look more respectable and would allow it to be publicly allowed in the many states that had prohibited public bouts. Tex Rickard, Dempsey's promoter, made arrangements for a special section for women spectators at the Dempsey-Willard fight in Toledo, Ohio, in 1919, and this was helpful in convincing New York State to sanction bouts beginning in 1920.
Sexism and Boxing This newfound interest of women in boxing led to the 1 st female journalists covering prizefights, often for the reporting of who attended and what they wore, but also for accounts of the fights themselves. Often distinctions were drawn between men and women spectators and what their real interests were in attending and observing fights.
Boxing – The World Geography of Boxing Because of the various state regulations that sanctioned or allowed boxing, fights, even championship fights, were staged in some very unusual or obscure locations. Some weight classes were dominated by men from countries other than the US, so many championship fights in those weight classes were fought in other countries. Within the US, the “checkerboard” laws governing the sport led to championship bouts in mining camps, such as the 1908 bout that pitted Jack Johnson against heavyweight champion Tommy Burns. The champion had been avoiding Johnson, but a fight was finally accomplished in Sydney, Australia, where Johnson won and became the champion. 7 years later, Johnson lost the title to Jess Willard in Havana, Cuba.
Boxing – The World Geography of Boxing The 1 st heavyweight champion of the 1920s, Jack Dempsey, fought throughout the West before winning the championship in Traveling to boxing matches would have been by train, except within the confines of a large city, where trolley cars were most common. The developed rail system that linked major- league baseball easily in the Northeast also allowed for fights and fans to travel almost anywhere within the country. 2 problems in attracting fans were price and time to travel to the designated location.
Boxing – Media and Boxing in the Decade For those who could not go to the fights, there were 2 ways to get up-to-the-minute accounts of the contests. 1 was through teletype machines, which used the telegraph/telephone wires to transmit accounts to various places such as Times Square in New York. The accounts of the round, sometimes even the blow-by-blow details, were then posted for large crowds to read and follow the fight. The 2 nd way was through radio broadcasting. Radio broadcast was easier and became more and more common through the 1920s as radio networks were formed and made the broadcasts more available.
Boxing – Media and Boxing in the Decade Graham McNamee, the broadcast announcer for the 2 nd Dempsey-Tunney fight became famous for his radio tones immediately recognizable to fight fans. He had begun his career as an actor and singer in New York, but, in 1923 he was chosen as an announcer for WEAF in Newark after a tryout and rose to prominence as the most well-known sports announcer of the decade. He 1 st covered the Greb-Wilson bout for the middleweight title in 1924 and also did color for Grantland Rice's announcing of the 1923 World Series. By 1925 McNamee was receiving 50,000 letters and telegrams a year from listeners.
Boxing – Boxing and the Law From its earliest inception, boxing was the subject of fervent interest on the part of some fans, and they often expressed their belief in their favorites by placing bets on the outcome of fights. These wagers were often followed by various “side bets” on the outcomes of rounds as people, intrigued with gambling, found lots of ways to carry out that interest. Most of the bets were relatively small amounts, but as boxing and gambling became more and more popular, larger amounts were bet and figures from organized crime were often involved in this gambling.
Boxing – Boxing and the Law As more money was bet on fights, gamblers found it profitable and more “secure” to bribe certain fighters to “take a dive,” or lose a fight intentionally. In some cases, a fighter might leave himself open for a powerful punch from his opponent and then take a full count from the referee and lose. Or a fighter might not punch as well or not block punches as well and allow punches to hit him, thus losing on a judges' decision. Sometimes the rumor of a ”fixed fight” would cause the judges to rule a “no decision.” Boxers could be suspended or lose their licenses to fight if there was proof or strong indications of them throwing a fight. Nevertheless, boxing was notorious for having crime figures involved with the sport.
Boxing – Boxing and the Law In the 1920s the biggest legal battles for boxing were simply to have the sport legalized in all states. It was recognized that boxing was often linked to gambling, but the prevailing notion was that if the sport was regulated in all states, there might be tighter controls on fights and potential fixes, and the game might have more overall “decorum.” When New York State decided to legalize and regulate professional boxing in 1920, many formerly reluctant states followed and allowed prizefighting. The result was that boxing commissions had tremendous authority to regulate the sport in each state.
Boxing – Boxing and the Law Boxing commissioners also saw the economic benefits for their respective states, so there were often times that rumors or incidences of bribery or questionable ethical conduct were ignored, so that a fight might be staged in a particular locale. In 1922, more than $5 million in gate receipts were taken in at prizefights in New York State at a time when the average American income was $1500 per year. Boxing had become an important industry and promoting a fight became significant, especially when the fight was not likely to be very close. It was great promotion by Tex Rickard that made Jack Dempsey such a big hero to millions of Americans in the 1920s, even though Dempsey had managed to avoid serving in the military in WWI by claiming that he was the sole support of his mother.
Boxing – Boxing's Decade in Summary The “glamour” title of boxing, heavyweight, was held by only 2 boxers during the 1920s, Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney. African American fighters such as Harry Wills were never allowed to fight for the title. Other top fighters in this decade were Harry Greb, Benny Leonard, Mike McTigue of Ireland, Battling Siki, Pancho Villa from the Philippines, and Jack Sharkey, a heavyweight who defeated Tommy Loughran in The undisputed title was not decided until 1930 when Sharkey lost to Max Schmeling of Germany for the open title.