Jack Dempsey vs. Luis Ángel Firpo

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The Jack Dempsey versus Luis Ángel Firpo fight was a historical boxing fight: It was the first time that a Latin American fighter would challenge for the world Heavyweight title, and it would be one of the defining fights of Dempsey's career.

The fight[edit]

Dempsey versus Firpo took place on September 14, 1923, at the Polo Grounds in New York City. Dempsey had been champion since 1919, and Firpo was one of the top heavyweights of the world, nicknamed "El Toro de las Pampas" ("The Bull of the Pampas"). 80,000 fans paid to see the fight live.

Firpo displayed his power immediately, when he dropped Dempsey with a right hand at the start of the first round. Dempsey landed on one knee, then quickly recuperated. Dempsey then rushed onto his rival and proceeded to drop Firpo seven times before the round was over. There was no "three knockdown" rule, and Dempsey was permitted to stand over the fallen fighter and immediately knock him down again, as there was yet no rule about going to a neutral corner.

Towards the end of the first round, Firpo struck again. Trapping Dempsey against the ropes, he struck with another right to Dempsey's chin. Dempsey went out of the ring, and a photographer caught him as his legs pointed upwards. Dempsey was hit by a ringside writing machine during this fall, and he suffered a severe cut to the back of his head. He was helped back into the ring by the writers at ringside. Film of the fight shows the referee had reached the count of four by the time he returned. People outside the ring with stop watches had counted fourteen seconds when Dempsey had finally stood up again. This slow count, by some accounts, plus the fact that Dempsey did not return to the ring completely under his own power, led many to claim that Firpo ought to have won by knockout.

After that scare, Dempsey recovered, dropping Firpo two times in the second round, knocking him out at the fifty-seven second mark of that round.

The aftermath[edit]

Luis Firpo throws Jack Dempsey out of the ring; this was the basis for artist George Wesley Bellows' famous portrait.
Firpo sending Dempsey outside the ring; painting by George Bellows

Dempsey and Firpo both became icons. Dempsey later lost his Heavyweight title to Gene Tunney in two equally historic bouts (see: The Long Count Fight), he did military service and opened a restaurant in New York before dying in 1983.

Firpo, for his part, was also the first Argentinian to ever challenge for the world Heavyweight title. Although he did not become a world champion, he was revered in Argentina and most countries in Latin America, to the point that there are several streets and avenues in other Latin countries named after him, as well as one of the most important football teams in El Salvador.

Argentinian Oscar Bonavena also challenged for the world heavyweight championship, challenging Joe Frazier.

George Bellows painted a work depicting Firpo dropping Dempsey through the ring's ropes on their historic fight. In 1950, Firpo's second knockdown of Dempsey was named "the most dramatic sports moment of the (20th) century so far".

Firpo died a wealthy man in 1960; and his body rests in the La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

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