Dempsey Carpentier 1st $Million Gate July 2, 1921
A crowd of 91,000 assembled in Jersey City, paid legendary promoter Tex Rickard almost $1.8 millionto see Jack Dempsey defend his heavyweight championship, knocking out Frenchman Georges Carpentier, in the 4th round. The crowd was the largest ever to see a sporting in the U.S., and the gate shattered all previous records as well. It was the first time in history that a fight grossed more than a million dollars, and it was forevermore known as The Million Dollar Gate. Dempsey was paid what at that time was, the staggering sum of $300,000. Carpentier went back to France with $200K and no doubt, a very nasty headache.
The official attendance for the fight was 80,183, but by all accounts the stands built for over 91,000 were packed to capacity. Roberts reports that “the fight grossed $1,789,238, well over twice as much as any previous fight” (120). In attendance was a roster of notables: Jersey City Mayor Frank Hague and New Jersey Governor Edward I. Edwards; the three children of Theodore Roosevelt–Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. and Alice Roosevelt Longworth; industrialists John D. Rockefeller, Jr. William H. Vanderbilt, George H. Gould, Joseph W. Harriman, Vincent Astor, and Henry Ford; entertainers Al Jolson and George M. Cohan; and literary figures H.L. Mencken, Damon Runyon, Arthur Brisbane, and Ring Lardner. Prominent Long Island residents, such as Ralph Pulitzer, Harry Payne Whitney and J.P. Grace, made the trip to Jersey City. Their interest in the fight came from Carpentier’s used an estate on Manhasset Bay as his training camp. A larger than expected turnout of some 2,000 women attended the sporting event. Jersey City Past and Present
Dempsey, a rough-and-tumble figure from Manassa, Colorado, was prolific and widely disliked. He did not become a soldier in the First World War, gaining exemption from the U. S. draft board because of economic commitments to his family. He was tried on charges of draft evasion in 1920, the case exacerbated by a messy divorce from his wife and a publicity photo that showed Dempsey ‘working’ in a Pennsylvania shipyard while wearing expensive dress shoes.
Though Dempsey was acquitted, criticism was heavy. Tex Rickard, who promoted several of Dempsey’s most important fights as lavish extravaganzas, hooked onto the publicity value of a fight between Carpentier and Dempsey. Carpentier was given no significant chance of winning, but Rickard saw the French war hero and the alleged draft-dodger as an ideal confrontation for both sports history and the wallets of investors.
The Million-Dollar Gate
By ELMER DAVIS
July 2, 1921 JERSEY CITY-Jack Dempsey is still heavyweight champion of the world-it might almost be said that for the first time he is really the champion. Georges Carpentier, in many respects the most serious opponent Dempsey has ever faced, stood up against him this afternoon in Tex Rickard’s stadium here and could not last through the fourth round. And at that, Carpentier fought better than most American critics believed possible.