As Good As He Was, Jack Sharkey Failed To Live By The Code: Never, Ever Take Your Eyes Off Jack Dempsey In A Fight!

By James Slater - 07/21/2023 - Comments

Sucker punch or totally legal, legit shot?

It was back in July of 1927, in New York at Yankee Stadium, when former heavyweight champ Jack Dempsey met future heavyweight ruler Jack Sharkey, this in a final eliminator for a shot at current king Gene Tunney; a rematch with Gene in the case of Dempsey.

Tunney had of course taken the title from Dempsey ten months before, “The Fighting Marine” having taken the title via pretty wide decision. Now, if he could beat “Boston Gob” Sharkey, 27-6, Dempsey would get what he was craving: a second go at Tunney.

Sharkey, seven years the younger man, was a slight betting favourite to win against Dempsey. And Sharkey was winning the fight. Until he made a catastrophic mistake.

The fight, a massive money fight for a non-title affair – to the tune of a staggering $1 million and change – was promoted by the Don King of his day, Tex Rickard. And the form-book was obeyed for the better part of six rounds, with younger guy Sharkey winning the rounds (Dempsey, always honest, said later that he thought during the fight that Sharkey “was going to knock me out.”)

But then, in round seven, Dempsey, targeting the body, allowed some shots to go just a little low. Whether there was a planned method behind the slightly low shots or whether there was not can never be known. But Sharkey bit, he took his eyes off Dempsey and he placed them on the referee; Sharkey complaining about the low blows. This was the invitation a born warrior like Dempsey could not ignore, and he whipped over a left hook that landed flash-bang on Sharkey’s exposed jaw, the hard shot sending the younger Jack down.

“What was I gonna do, write him a letter?” Dempsey later said with regards to his criminally invited punch.

It was over. Dempsey had won the fight and he had earned the right to challenge Tunney in an effort at regaining the heavyweight title.

Controversy, you want controversy? What happened in September of that year was crammed full of the stuff (can you say “’Long Count!’)

But that’s another story.

Was Jack Sharkey the victim of a cheap shot when he fought Jack Dempsey, or was Sharkey merely guilty of failing to obey two rules: ‘Protect yourself at all times,’ and ‘Never take your eyes off Jack Dempsey when you’re in the ring with him!’