boxing exhibitions

Boxing exhibitions are nothing new and nothing to get mad about

I understand that it’s the norm to hate anything that Floyd Mayweather does. After defeating Conor McGregor, the boxing star has gone on to put on a slew of exhibitions all in the pursuit of money. That is his nickname after all, Floyd “Money” Mayweather. He’s fought Tenshin Nasukawa, the kickboxing sensation, and Logan Paul. In an era where boxing exhibitions are seemingly becoming more and more popular, they’re actually nothing new. You see, these exhibitions have gone on for years and have been around boxing for some time.

I’ve written about the freak boxing matches in the past. In that article, we talked about Jack Dempsey’s fight with a pro wrestler named Cowboy Luttrell, George Foreman fighting five people in one night, and Muhammad Ali fighting a defensive end from the NFL. I highly suggest you check that one out and you’ll see boxing has a very odd history. But today, we’re diving in on a specific topic: boxing exhibitions.

A Disgrace To Boxing: The Sport’s History With Gimmick Fights

Boxing exhibitions: nothing new

In the world of boxing, these exhibitions, which are seemingly new on the scene, are not that new of an idea at all. For years, retired fighters have gone on to fight in pro wrestling like Joe Louis, or they’ve gone on to do other endeavors like Jack Dempsey and his various other businesses. But, at their heart and soul, a boxer is good at one thing for certain: boxing. That can lead to boxing these no or low risk bouts and they’ve always been around. First one: we will talk about Muhammad Ali versus Rocky Marciano…

This fight pit Muhammad Ali, who was in exile for not accepting his call to the Army during the Vietnam War. At the time, Marciano was 45 and hadn’t fought for over a decade. He was balding and overweight. But the “producers” of this was determined to have undefeated champion versus undefeated champion. The event was determined by a computer and saw Marciano get the “win.”

In reality, Ali and Marciano sparred one minute rounds over seventy times. There were several endings recorded but the end saw Marciano the victor despite America’s love for Ali. The video was pieced together and shown in theaters across the country and Ali, who was Marciano’s friend, wasn’t happy with the decision to have Rocky Marciano the winner. While this wasn’t a textbook boxing exhibition that you’d think, it was cast as a real fight and sold quite well, especially with the news surrounding Ali allegedly dodging the draft.

In fact, Ali went on to have many boxing exhibitions with names like Michael Dokes, Antonio Inoki (this was an MMA match), Gorilla Monsoon, Lyle Alzado, Dave Semenko and Jose Miguel Agrelot.

Jack Johnson At 67 years old

The next we will talk about is the great Jack Johnson. Johnson had retired long before 1945 in 1931. But the United States was near the end of World War II. War bonds were a common thing then to help support the cause. Johnson returned to the ring against Joe Jeanette, who was also 66, in a boxing exhibition in New York City.

The two fought seven times between 1905 and 1906. The fights went in Johnson’s favor 5-1-1 and it seemed the rivalry was over. Jennette won the first fight by disqualification and they kept sending him out there to get slaughtered by Johnson. Regardless, it brought eyes to the fight. The exhibition wasn’t nothing to call home about. The two, although rivals, fought in what was basically glorified sparring, much like Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr did for their exhibition fight.

Later, Johnso would fight John Ballcourt in 1945 as well. He was 67 years old. It wasn’t long after that Jack Johnson was tragically killed in a car accident.

Jack Dempsey fights five guys in one night…twice

Fighting five people in one night sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That’s because it is. We talked about it in the past, actually, in the article above. George Foreman did it to much criticism from the fans. Jack Dempsey, the former heavyweight champion, not only fought five boxers in one night, he did it twice in the span of a couple weeks.

Dempsey had lost to Gene Tunney for the second time and retired. But the Manassa Mauler was considering a comeback and wanted to challenge then-champion Max Schmeling for the title. So what did Jack Dempsey do? He scheduled 13 boxing exhibitions to face 42 opponents in 30 days. He was insane.

This was at the height of the Great Depression and everyone still paid to see Dempsey show out. Overall, made $371,378 at the gate, Dempsey keeping $259,948 for his pay.

On August 31, however, he boxed five foes. Dempsey fought Elgin Taylor, Dee Richmond, Big Bill Neeeing, Tony Talerico, and Cyclone Thompson. Each had two three minute rounds. Of the 16 minutes possible, Dempsey needed only 11 minutes at 18 seconds.

A few short weeks later, Dempsey fought Indian Jack Smith, Louis O’Tari, Hank Potter, Battling Lamoreaux, and Mickey McCafferty. That fight’s time: 12 minutes and 59 seconds.

Unfortunately for Dempsey, a few months later he took another exhibition against King Levinsky. He didn’t look too good in that fight and his dream of facing Schmeling would come to an end as Dempsey would end his exhibition crusade. In the end, Dempsey fought 98 opponents in 41 cities. He took home $797,756 which is a good payday for a boxer today, much less the late 20’s.

So when you hear someone complaining about these exhibitions being bad for boxing, remind them this: George Foreman did it. Muhammad Ali, Jack Johnson, Jack Dempsey, many of the greats took part in events that weren’t officially boxing. Boxing is an unforgiving sport and fighters are left after their career is over trying to make ends meet. This is the way they’ve always done it.

author avatar
Blaine Henry
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.