Side A: Jess Willard, the 6′ 6″ 245-pound boxing champion, was a shy and gentle Kansas native who had won the championship from Jack Johnson of Texas in 1915 in Havana, Cuba. Jack (William Harrison) Dempsey of Manassa, Colorado, hailed as the greatest fighter of the half-century by the Associated Press, began his career in 1911, defeating opponents with his trademark bobbing and weaving style. Dempsey’s manager, Jack “Doc” Kearns, captured the attention of fight promoter Tex Rickard, who was looking for a Willard challenger. Despite the size and weight difference of the boxers, the bout was arranged.
Side B: On July 4, 1919, at what is now Bayview Park, a stadium built entirely of wood solely for this event seating 80,000, housed the Dempsey-Willard fight and 19,000 spectators. Water and newspaper were a dollar each, the latter being used to keep freshly cut wood from staining the attendant’s pants. Dempsey, dwarfed by the defending champion, floored Willard seven times in the first round, and ultimately won after the third round, becoming heavyweight champion and earning $25,000. Receipts totaled $452,224 paving the way for future million-dollar boxing matches.
Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Bayview Retirees Golf Course, and The Ohio Historical Society