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The Long Count Fight

The Long Count Fight was the boxing rematch between world Heavyweight champion Gene Tunney and former champion Jack Dempsey, held on September 25, 1927, at Soldier's Field in Chicago.

Exactly 364 days before, on September 26 of 1926, Tunney had beaten Dempsey by a ten round unanimous decision to lift the world Heavyweight title, in Philadelphia. Ironically, the first fight between Tunney and Dempsey had been moved out of Chicago because Dempsey had learned that Al Capone was a big fan of his, and he did not want Capone to be involved in the fight.

Despite the fact that Tunney had won the first fight by a wide margin on the scorecards, the rematch created much interest. Dempsey was one of the so called big five sports legends of the 1920s, and he also refused to participate in the military. Tunney, who enjoyed literacy and the arts, was a former member of the United States Marine Corps. His nickname was The fighting Marine.

Days prior to the fight, many new rules took place in boxing: referees would, from now on, have to take a fallen fighter to a neutral corner and issue an eight second count in the event that the fighter got up before the referee reached eight. Similarly, the fighter who dropped his opponent would have to move immediately to a neutral corner. These changes were made so that fallen fighters could have a chance of recuperating and avoid worse injuries. Dempsey, in the final days of training prior to the rematch, apparently ignored the setting of these new rules.

Tunney was, by most accounts, dominating the fight from rounds one to six, using his familiar style of boxing from a distance while looking for openings and, at the same time, building a points lead. Up until the end of round six, nothing indicated this fight would be far different from their original meeting.

In round seven, however, the 104,000 in attendance witnessed a moment that would live on in boxing history: With Tunney trapped against the ropes and near a corner, Dempsey unleashed a combination of punches that floored the champion. Two rights and two lefts landed on Tunney's chin and staggered him, and four more punches deposited him on the canvas. Dizzy and disoriented, Tunney grabbed on to the ring's top rope with his left hand. Dempsey, who used to stand over opponents and rush right back at them after they got up when this was still allowed, looked down on Tunney. Referee Dave Barry ordered Dempsey to move to a neutral corner; but to no avail. Dempsey just stood there, observing his opponent. This gave Tunney precious seconds in which he recuperated. By the time Dempsey finally walked to a neutral corner, Tunney had been down for around 3 to 7 seconds. Barry could not start to count on Tunney until Dempsey reached the neutral corner, but he was still able to count to nine before Tunney got up. Had Dempsey responded to the referee's orders in time, he would have likely regained the world Heavyweight crown with a seventh round knockout of Tunney. Experts say Tunney lay on the canvas between 13 and 16 seconds. In the fight film, a clock was installed that took Tunney's time on the floor and it marked 13 seconds from the moment he fell until he got up. Because of this, it became known as The long count fight.

By the eighth round, Tunney had resumed his boxing from a distance, and he dropped Dempsey for a brief moment. Tunney then went on to retain the world title by a unanimous decision.

Dempsey later joined the US Coast Guard, and he and Tunney became good friends that visited each other frequently. Tunney passed away in 1978 and Dempsey followed him in death in 1983.

They are both members of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.