Dempsey vs Gibbons Boxing Artwork by Andy Thomas
Jack Dempsey vs Tom Gibbons - Historical Boxing Match
1923 Shelby Montana – Charles Russell, cowboy artist, had a tent near the arena and visited with Dempsey.
Jack Dempsey fought a defense of his World Champion Heavyweight Boxing title in the remote Montana town of Shelby, Montana, population of 500. The story of how these farmers, ranchers, and merchants raised enough money for the purse and built a wooden arena to host it is an incredible story of American pluck. Shelby was a little frontier town that became swamped with media, hookers, gambling, and New York thugs.
Consider these facts:
- There was an encampment of Blackfeet Indians near the arena.
- Grantland Rice, famous sportswriter, was there.
- Damon Runyon, sportswriter, and creator of short stories about New York’s underworld was there. Since Runyon is a favorite of mine, he’s shown in the painting with a press pass stuck in his hat band. Runyon was pals with Jack Kearns.
- Jack Kearns, Dempsey’s manager, and voice in all matters managed to squeeze the town dry of money and it’s popular in Shelby to tell the story of him sneaking out of town with a bag of money. Kearns is in the blue suit next to Dempsey.
- Dempsey beat Tom Gibbons, a light heavy in a 15-round decision. Gibbons fought a defensive fight… pretty wise considering Kearnes had a special condition written in the contract that allowed Dempsey to grab Gibbons with his left so he could punch him with the right.
- The fight was a financial disaster, with the biggest loss borne by Mayor James A. Johnson, who is shown on the far-right side of the painting, checking his watch.
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