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1930s & Earlier / Dempsey-Carpentier Bout - First Million-Dollar Gate
On Saturday, July 2, 1921, world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey defended his title versus France's Georges Carpentier. The venue was a specially built stadium at a place called Boyle's Thirty Acres in Jersey City, NJ. More than 92,000 fans filled the wooden bowl paying between $5.50 for a distant perch in the far bleachers and $50 for a ringside seat. All told, the crowd paid nearly $1.8 million for the privilege of watching a prize fight--the first time the million-dollar mark had ever been eclipsed. The huge gate was the result of several factors: Dempsey was an exciting heavyweight with plenty of knockouts on his record. Carpentier was a glamorous and handsome French war hero whose every move was followed in the society pages of New York City's newspapers. Thus women attended the fight in huge numbers. (In contrast, Dempsey was disliked in some quarters for having no service record during the First World War.) The fight was broadcast on the new medium of radio for the first time. With the stadium dangerously swaying due to the weight of the enormous crowd, the main event started about 30 minutes early. Before the fight started, promoter Tex Rickard pleaded with Dempsey not to knock out the much smaller Carpentier in the first round so the fans would get their money's worth. Dempsey agreed, but he was solidly hit with a hard right hand from the Frenchman. This was bad news for the challenger: Carpentier broke his thumb with the blow--and he had angered the fearsome champion. Dempsey wore down Carpentier with hard body shots into the fourth round. In that fourth round Carpentier was knocked down twice. The second time he did not get up. Dempsey received $300,000 for about 11 minutes of work.