Yankee Stadium, New York, May 20, 1927
Boxing has a rich history of title eliminator or “contender” fights. Many epic battles were waged by hungry lions as they battled for title shots. Sadly many have faded into obscurity, overshadowed by the championship fights that followed. One such battle was this one, the fifth fight between heavyweights Jack Sharkey and Jimmy Maloney in 1927. The winner would be in position to challenge Champion Gene Tunney for the heavyweight title. By all accounts, Sharkey and Maloney were fierce east coast rivals. They fought four times between 1924 and 1927. For their last fight, in front of 40,000 fans at Yankee Stadium, Sharkey and Maloney wasted no time from the opening bell. A tactical slugfest with plenty of action, Maloney boxed well in the first round, but had trouble landing often enough to hurt Sharkey. By the third round Sharkey was coming on strong. The end came in the 5th round with brutal right by Sharkey that drove Maloney to the canvas.
It’s too bad that Sharkey never fought Gene Tunney. He was a much better fighter in the 1920s than in the 1930s when he briefly held the title. Sharkey not only beat Maloney, but the great Harry Wills, Johnny Risko, Tommy Loughran, Primo Carnera (in 1931) and drew with Tom Heeny. Instead Sharkey was matched in July 1927 with former champion Jack Dempsey in a runoff for the title. Sharkey was leading against Dempsey through seven rounds. In the seventh, Dempsey stunned Sharkey with a low blow, and followed with a left hook to Sharkey’s jaw. Sharkey dropped to the canvas and was counted out.
As with most night or indoor fight films of the 1920s, the results depended on the venue and abilities of the film crew. This film is about average for the period. The shadows are heavy, but there’s enough detail to follow the action. The exposure changes from round to round, probably from different cameras, and is clearest at the end.
The print I have is clean and transferred to video with no problem. Film speed and exposure were adjusted. This is a great fight and shows future champion Jack Sharkey, perhaps at his best.