Distributor Unknown, circa 1930, 16mm silent 100’
The second Tunney-Dempsey fight remains one of the most famous and debated bouts in boxing history. After being outclassed and losing the heavyweight title to Tunney a year earlier, Jack Dempsey faired only slightly better in the return match, but the moment of truth came in the seventh round. In that round, “The Long Count”, as it’s called is an amazing piece of boxing theater, and the drama unfolds like a dream sequence. Dempsey catches Tunney with a combination of punches that sends the champion to the canvas. The referee delays the count for several seconds while directing Dempsey to a neutral corner. Tunney takes the extra time to recover during this Long Count and went on to win the fight.
The fight was a huge sporting event, and was captured gloriously on film by numerous cameras for theatrical release. Over the decades that followed, 8mm and 16mm editions of the fight were sold for home viewing. I first saw this film around 1970 when I borrowed the film from the local library. Since then I have collected numerous editions of the fight. Many differ in their edits, the rounds shown, and some contain footage that does not appear on the official 30 minute theatrical release. However, in almost all versions of the Long Count, the knockdown and count are shown in slow motion - Except this one.
Last year I discovered yet another version of the fight. On this rare highlight edition, the Long Count sequence appears in real time – not in slow motion as it’s usually shown. What’s amazing is how fast the entire sequence transpires. Dempsey’s attack is ferocious and Tunney is overwhelmed in a flash. But once Tunney is on the canvas, Dempsey pauses for only a moment before referee Dave Barry directs him away. The film cuts to titles as Barry begins his count, which is unfortunate, as we don’t witness Tunney’s recovery on the canvas. But what we do see is telling. The Long Count wasn’t all that long. Dempsey seemed more anxious than defiant, and the referee may simply have been too confused to locate the time keeper for the actual count. Whatever the result would have been, Barry’s (some say deliberate) delay of the count altered the course of the fight.
This film is a great find and I’m happy to share it with you. The footage is in great condition, with few scratches, and the picture is the clearest and sharpest I’ve seen of the fight.