16.07.07 – By Sam Gregory: When Gene Tunney retired in 1928, he vacated the heavyweight title. Jack Sharkey, Young Stribling, Johnny Risko and Max Schmeling were all in line to fight for the vacated title. The New York Boxing Commission and the National Boxing Association ordered an elimination bout for the title and promoter Tex Rickard was the man to set the wheels in motion.
While in Florida setting up a fight between Sharkey and Stribling, Tex Rickard died an untimely death following an appendix operation. Jack Dempsey had been associated with Rickard’s promotions in the past so he accepted a call from Madison Square Garden Promotions to step in to promote the fight. On February 27, 1929 Jack Sharkey won a 10 round decision over Young Stribling as part of the elimination bouts for the heavyweight title. Earlier in November of 1928 Max Schmeling had already knocked out Joe Monte in eight rounds, than nine months later Schmeling TKOed Johnny Risko in nine rounds to set up a shot at Jack Sharkey for the heavyweight title.
Max Schmeling felt like he deserved a title shot with Sharkey but he was temporarily denied that opportunity by the Garden Commission. While both Sharkey and Schmeling were waiting for a title shot with each other, Max Schmeling won a 15 round decision over Paulino Uzcudun and Jack Sharkey stopped Tommy Loughran in 3 rounds. The anticipation for a fight between Schmeling and Sharkey grew but Madison Square Garden officials prolonged the fight again to have Sharkey fight Phil Scott of the U.K. in an international elimination bout at Miami Beach in which Sharkey stopped the Brit in the 3rd round.
In the bout between Sharkey and Scott, Sharkey dropped Scott in the second round with what was described as a punch and a push. Than again in the third round Sharkey put Scott on the canvas with a left hook to the stomach which Scott claimed was a low blow. Two more times in that round Scott was dropped with similar punches, finally refusing to get to his feet claiming all the punches were below the belt. Referee Lou Magnolia called a time out and asked Scott if he wanted to continue; Scott said he did. Once again Scott went down from another shot to the mid-section; this time while he was down Magnolia counted him out giving the nod to Sharkey. Many that were in attendance along with fans in Britain believed that Scott was fouled and Sharkey should have been disqualified in the fight.
In spite of all the controversy over Sharkey’s foul, Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey finally fought at Yankee Stadium in front of a crowd of 79,222 fans. The gross gate receipts were shy of the million dollar mark; unexpectedly low for this caliber of a fight. All the fans that night were well aware of Sharkey’s tainted victory over the British heavyweight and the gate receipts were a reflection of that. Fans for the Boston Gob were few and far between that night as the odds heavily favored Schmeling to win; which he did.
On June 12, 1930; after just four rounds Schmeling was proclaimed heavyweight champion despite a blow to the stomach which left him squirming on the canvas in pain. Jack Sharkey dominated in the first three rounds of the fight. In the forth round Schmeling stunned Sharkey with a punch; Sharkey countered with a left hook to the body of Schmeling which the German claimed was a low blow. Neither Harold Barnes, a judge, nor the referee had seen the punch. But Charles F. Mathison, the other judge, agreed with Schmeling and awarded him the heavyweight crown. So for the first time in history a challenger won the heavyweight title on a foul.
The New York Boxing Commission was strongly in favor of a rematch but Schmeling and his manager turned the idea down. As a result, The New York Commission vacated Schmeling’s title until he agreed to give Sharkey a rematch for the championship. (The vacant title only stood in New York State; Schmeling’s title was recognized everywhere else.)
It took two years and nine days before Schmeling granted Sharkey a rematch for his title. In the meantime, Max Schmeling fought Young Stribling, who had recorded knockouts over Otto Van Porat in one round and the Brit Phil Scott in two. Knockout artist Stribling was many U.S. fans big hope to bring the heavyweight title back to the U.S. On July 3, 1931, in the Cleveland Stadium, Schmeling knocked out Stribling in the 15th round with 15 seconds left on the clock.
On June 21, 1932 the rematch between Max Schmeling and Jack Sharkey took place at The Madison Square Garden Bowl on Long Island. This time the title changed hands on what most ringside observers considered a bad decision. Schmeling cried foul in the early part of the fight to no avail. According to the press in attendance, Schmeling carried the fight to Sharkey having accomplished most of the effective work and landing the cleaner more aggressive punches of the few that were thrown throughout the fight.
Jack Sharkey held the heavyweight title just over a year. On his first title defense, June 29th 1933, Jack Sharkey lost the title to heavyweight contender Primo Carnera by way of a 6th round knockout. Once again the heavyweight title changed hands.