By Joel Lipsitt
In some important contests a boxer has, for one reason or another, been allowed more than ten seconds to rise after he has been knocked down.
The most famous of these so-called “long counts” was that which occurred in the second Gene Tunney-Jack Dempsey contest at Chicago on September 22, 1927.
Tunney was leading all the way until it happened in the 7th round. Dempsey got Tunney against the ropes and dropped him with at least two hooks to the jaw. No man had previously survived this sort of punching from Dempsey in his prime and there is no doubt that when Tunney went down, the Manassa Mauler thought he had finished the brawl.
After some hesitation Dempsey moved back toward the ropes. The count had been started but it was ignored by the referee until, quite correctly, he had succeeded in getting Dempsey to move into a neutral corner. Then the count was restarted and Tunney got up when it reached nine and back-pedaled for the remainder of the round in order to recover.
The official timekeeper reckoned that Tunney had been down for fourteen seconds, but other estimates put it at 16 or 18 seconds. At any rate, any considered it doubtful whether Tunney could have beaten ten seconds had it been counted from the time he went down. On the other hand it could be said that Tunney deliberately stayed down as long as possible. The argument will never be settled.
Another occasion when a champion might have lost his title but not for a “long count” was the first meeting between Bombardier Billy Wells and Dick Smith at Blackfriars, London on May 31, 1915. Much to everyone’s surprise, Smith put Wells down with what looked like a “finisher.” Even referee Tom Dunning seemed taken aback. He was officiating from outside the ring and did not commence his count until he had climbed through the ropes. This gave Wells at least another six seconds in which to recover, and came back to win by a KO in the ninth.
Wells was involved in what was considered at the time to have been another “long count.” This was at Ghent, near Brussels, on June 1, 1913, on the occasion of his first meeting with Georges Carpentier, the great French champion. Some eyewitnesses, believed that the Frenchman was down for longer than nine seconds when he had been floored by Wells in the first round. However, Wells failed to take advantage of his groggy opponent and Carpentier recovered to KO the Englishman in the fourth stanza.
It is frequently asserted that Jack Dempsey was out of the ring for more than ten seconds when Luis Angel Firpo sent him through the ropes in the first canto of their historic battle in 1923.
Former world featherweight champion Terry McGovern also figured in a “long count” incident. He was put down in the second round of a fight with Oscar Gardner in New York in 1900. Some witnesses alleged that McGovern was allowed a count of 18 to 20 seconds. However, he recovered to KO Gardner in the next round.
In the eighth round of a world lightweight title bout between Joe Brown and Ralph Dupas at Houston on May 7, 1958, Dupas was counted out by the official timekeeper but the referee stopped his count at nine because Brown had not remained in a neutral corner. This made little difference to the outcome, for when Dupas rose after eleven or twelve seconds he was dropped twice more before the referee stopped the contest later in the round.
The second Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston title bout in May 1965 (at Lewiston, Maine) was one of the ring’s biggest fiascos. Liston was down for 12 seconds before regaining his feet, but the contest proceeded for at least ten more seconds before it was stopped.