Jess Willard vs. Luis Firpo Lot of 6 Original Antique 8 x 10 Photos – 1923
On July 12, 1923 at Boyle’s Thirty Acres in Jersey City, New Jersey heavyweight contenders Luis Firpo of Argentina and Jess Willard, the former champion, met in an important division matchup. Firpo dominated the fight and knocked out Willard in the 8th round. Labeled as “The Battle of the Giants.” Firpo was a 5:3 favorite. Firpo won six rounds, and one round was even before Firpo closed it out in the 8th.
Jess Willard (December 29, 1881 – December 15, 1968) was a world heavyweight boxing champion known as the Pottawatomie Giant. He won the heavyweight title from Jack Johnson in April 1915 which earned him the nickname “The Great White Hope”. He was known for his great strength and ability to absorb tremendous punishment, although today he is best known for his title loss to Jack Dempsey. Willard held the championship for more than 4 years but only defended his title once as few people dared to challenge him. Today his reign is considered the 11th longest in the heavyweight division. He lost the title to Jack Dempsey in 1919 and to this day the fight is considered the worst beating any man has ever received in the history of boxing. Willard was knocked down for the first time in his career during the first round and another 6 times before the round was over; he suffered a cracked skull, broken ribs, shattered jaw, broken nose, four missing teeth, partial hearing loss in one ear along with numerous cuts and contusions. Jess fought for two more rounds before retiring on his stool due to the injuries he received in the first round, relinquishing the title. It is one of the most controversial fights in boxing history and many thought Dempsey had something in his gloves during the first round to act as a knuckleduster to weaken the big Willard down.
Luis Angel Firpo, (October 11, 1894 – August 7, 1960), was an Argentine boxer. Born in Argentina, he was nicknamed “The Wild Bull of The Pampas.” In 1917, Firpo began his professional boxing career by beating Frank Hagney by a decision in six in Buenos Aires. Originally declared a no decision, the bout’s result was later changed to a win for Firpo. For his second bout, he traveled, on January 1918, to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he suffered his first defeat, a first round knockout at the hands of Angel Rodriguez. He put a string of six wins in a row after that, and so on November 1, 1919, he found himself challenging Dave Mills in Santiago, for the South American Heavyweight title. He lost on that occasion by a decision in 15 rounds, but then came back with a win over Andres Balsa by a knockout in round six. On April 20, 1920, he and Mills had a rematch and Firpo won the title with a first round knockout. After one more win, he and Mills faced each other in a rubber match, and the result was the same as that of their second bout: Firpo the winner by a knockout in the first. In 1921, the quality of Firpo’s challengers improved, when he defeated fringe contender Gunboat Smith twice, the first by decision in 12 and the second by knockout, also in 12. In 1922, he continued his rise in the Heavyweight rankings by winning all four of his fights by a knockout. Firpo began 1923 by knocking out former title challenger Bill Brennan in the 12th round. He followed that with seven more wins in a row, including wins over Jack McAuliffe and former world champion Jess Willard. After a win against Charlie Weinert, Firpo challenged world heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey at New York on September 14, becoming the first Latin American in history to challenge for the title. Firpo was floored seven times in the first round of the bout, before he trapped Dempsey against the ropes and launched a combination that sent the champion out of the ring. Dempsey hit his head against a writer’s typing machine, and for a moment, it looked as if Firpo would become world Heavyweight champion. But Dempsey was helped into the ring at the count of nine (in spite of having been seventeen seconds outside the ring; fighters are given a twenty-second count when they are knocked through the ropes) and he eventually knocked out Firpo in the second round. This fight has been regarded by critics and experts as one of the greatest fights in history. Boxing historian Bert Sugar called it the greatest fight in the history of the sport. Despite losing, Firpo gained substantial fame all over Latin America after this bout, as many people on different parts of that region spoke about his feat of dropping Dempsey. In 1924, Firpo won his first three fights by knockout, but then lost his last two by decision, the last of which was to legendary black challenger Harry Wills. He retired for a short period, but came back in 1926 to beat Erminio Spalla by a decision in ten. Then, he kept away from the fight game for nine years, but he attempted another comeback in 1936, winning two fights before being beaten by a knockout in three by future Joe Louis challenger Arturo Godoy. Firpo finally retired after compiling a record of 32 wins and 6 losses in 38 fights, with 26 wins by knockout. Afterwards, Firpo became a car-dealer for Stutz and a rancher. By 1940 he was ranching on a large scale in Carlos Casares with 8,000 cattle, 4,000 sheep and 400 horses. He discovered Abel Cestac in July 1940. Firpo and Jack Dempsey agreed to jointly manage Cestac, who went on to become the South American heavyweight champion. On his passing in 1960, Luis Firpo was buried in La Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires. His mausoleum has a statue of him at the front. Firpo’s popularity around Latin America was immeasurable. Years later, a professional football team in El Salvador, a Latin American country that is thousands of miles away from Firpo’s Argentina, was named after him. In addition, various schools, streets and avenues across Latin America have been named after him. In 2003, he was named by The Ring as one of the 100 greatest punchers of all time.