First Million Dollar Gate

Appendix Thirty Two

New York Times 5th May 1918New York Times 5th May 1918

Exerpt from the book 'Gene Tunney' by John Jarrett

It wasn't all roses, however. In March 1920 Dempsey appeared in United States District Court in San Francisco to answer charges of draft evasion. His former wife, Maxine, had written a letter to a newspaper maintaining that Jack's claim to have supported her an members of his family in those final days of the war had been false; She had in fact been supporting Jack on her immoral earnings. The newspapers printed that celebrated photograph again, showing Jack in the shipyard, and allegations of 'slacker' were hung on him. The judge threw out the case and Dempsey was cleared of all charges, but the stigma followed him for some time.

Kearns reckoned it was time his champion got back to work and matched him with old opponent Billy Miske at Benton Harbour, Michigan. Miske was suffering from Bright's disease, which eventually took his life in January 1924, and Dempsey knew the $25,000 purse would help Billy and his family. That September day in 1920 the champion didn't know whether to carry Miske along or knock him out. The record shows Dempsey did what he did best : KO, round three! Three months later he had a tougher assignment facing another former victim, Bill Brennan, in the old Madison Square Garden.

A capacity crowd of 15,000 screamed themselves hoarse as Brennan staggered the champion with a terrific right uppercut in round two. By the fifth Dempsey was back in the fight and in the eighth a tremendous right hand nearly took Brennan's head off. In the tenth a booming right from Brennan ripped Dempsey's left ear almost from his head and Doc Kearns was having fits in the corner, yelling "You've gotta knock this bum out, Jack!" In round twelve the champion did just what the doctor ordered and flattened Brennan for the full count.

The press played up the slacker angle when Rickard matched Dempsey with French war hero Georges Carpentier in what would be boxing's first million-dollar gate at Jersey City in 1921. Carpentier was hardly a light-heavyweight, even if he did throw a straight right that was good enough to cream the best heavyweight in Europe. He jolted Dempsey with it in the second round but was knocked out two rounds later.