Posted on 10/10/2021
By: Sean Crose
In 1927, former heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey fought to regain his title from the man who had taken it from him a year earlier, the “Fighting Marine,” Gene Tunney. Although Dempsey was favored to win the fight, Tunney was dominating up until the seventh round, when the former champion sent him to the mat with a flurry of blows. Tunney was hurt – but Dempsey didn’t go a neutral corner. Therefore, the referee held off on starting the count until Dempsey went to a neutral corner and waited. Needless to say, Tunney beat the referee’s count and went on to win the fight by decision.
The problem, of course, was that the referee was supposed to pick up the timekeeper’s count, which began the moment Tunney hit the mat, not begin a count of his own. Ultimately, the referee gave the wounded Tunney extra time to recover – a long count indeed. The question, of course, was whether or not Tunney would have gotten up sooner had the referee picked up on the time keeper’s count. Fighters often intentionally stay down when dropped in order to sensibly get more time to recuperate. And so, because no one can really tell when Tunney could have gotten to his feet, the victory will always be his.
The same could be said for Tyson Fury, who may well have gotten a long count of his own Saturday night when Deontay Wilder put him on the mat for the second time in the fourth round. Fury was receiving the count when referee Russell Mora turned and directed Wilder to a neutral corner (sound familiar?). Mora then turned back to Fury and resumed counting. Needless to say, Fury got back to his feet in time and ended up knocking Wilder out in the eleventh round of a immediately classic heavyweight battle.
I’ve watched the few brief moments in question, both live while it was happening, and later on replay. The truth is, Fury may indeed have been given a long count. But honestly, that doesn’t matter. Why? Because no one knows if Fury would have beaten a faster count. What’s more, the man looked pretty clear headed. Even counting on his own – and rather quickly at that – this author felt the man was up before the count of ten. No matter. Fury got the win, and no video replay will take it from him. It’s good to remind ourselves just how fast and chaotic boxing can be, though. Entire fights, and even careers, can rest on the split second decisions of referees, ring doctors and trainers. That’s always worth keeping in mind.
*Cover Photo: AP – Chase Stevens