Boxing’s first million dollar-gate was one hell of a spectacle

As David Haye’s white towel landed on the canvas, the British heavyweight’s ego had taken a battering and, whether he will accept it or not, his career was over for a second time. And for good.

But the humiliation and torn achilles was worth it, with £4.2million landing in Haye’s bank account – just over £381,000-per-round is not bad work, if you can find it.

The money in boxing has reached astronomical levels, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down either, with Eddie Hearn continuing to be the ringmaster that adds that showbiz element to a sport that didn’t know it was capable of having it.

But would Eddie Hearn have managed to have marketed Jack Dempsey versus Georges Carpentier as boxing’s first ever million dollar-gate, back in 1921?

Eddie Hearn would think so.

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The fight adopted the nickname ‘The Battle Of The Century’ – and when the century ended some 79 years later, there are still many who believe it was befitting of its name.

Dempsey was the working classes hero, and heavy favourite for the fight in Jersey City. With challenger, Carpentier, being billed as the French war hero who wouldn’t offer too much of a threat to Dempsey.

The venue was as special and iconic as the fight itself, with the man behind the two fighters coming together, Tex Rickard, having an arena specially built for what would become an historic moment for the world of boxing.

Originally designed to house 50,000 spectators, Rickard quickly organised for builders to extend the capacity to 80,000, with hype around the fight growing beyond the American fight promoter’s wildest dreams.

The project saw Rickard fork out $325,000 before he’d even paid Dempsey $300,000 and Carpentier $200,000 to partake in the event.

Tex Rickard
Tex Rickard – The original boxing promoter – Image Source: Boxing.com

 

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Thankfully for Rickard, the gate receipts clocked in at $1,789,238 – to put that into context, that would’ve earnt Eddie Hearne $22,266,974.68 in today’s market – with punters more than happy to depart with either $5 or $10 for their choice of seat.

“like a big bowl of honey covered in flies.”

Unknown spectator describing the scenes at Boyle’s Thirty Acres

Fears from Rickard that the heavily-fancied Dempsey might end up killing the French challenger were misplaced, with the favourite felling Carpentier in the fourth round, despite an early scare from the underdog in the opening round.

Boxing was entering a new age; an age of entertainment and showbiz littered with boxers that would go on to be fully deserving of their place in boxing’s hall of fame.