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The New (Old) Garden

Among many other things, there is one (literally) concrete proof of the way in which Carpentier-Dempsey contributed to the institutionalization of boxing as both a beloved spectator sport and a big business  in America.  It was, according to one historian, Carpentier-Dempsey that led to the construction of a new Madison Square Garden (now, having been replaced in the 1970’s by a third building at a third location, referred to as “the Old Garden”), the hallowed site of so many of the legendary bouts from boxing’s Golden Era. What happened on and around July 2, 1921 made it clear that a lasting and highly profitable nexus of sport, publicity and money had emerged, a phenomenon that would easily support bigger, more elaborate venues such as a new Madison Square Garden:

The success [of Carpentier-Dempsey] solidified Rickard’s certainty that New York City would support a new Madison Square Garden.  The $11 million building, backed by a banking syndicate, was a tribute to the business of sports and its marriage of convenience with the nation’s sports-writing establishment.  From his paneled office, the former cowpuncher [Rickard] now oversaw a twenty-member support staff and a high-salaried publicity department that would have been the envy of any major corporation.[1]

It is indeed not much of a stretch to imagine that Rickard was emboldened by Carpentier-Dempsey, widely considered to be the single greatest achievement in his impressive career as a promoter.  Chronology lends further credence to this theory: the second MSG opened in 1925, several years after Carpentier-Dempsey but before the two Dempsey-Tunney bouts that would eclipse it in terms of attendance and gate-receipt numbers.

Boxing historians have often opined that the Carpentier-Dempsey fight ushered in the Golden Era of boxing.  In his Pictorial History of Boxing, a standard reference on the sport if ever there were one, Nat Fleischer states the idea as fact: “The Golden Era got under way when the champion [Dempsey] faced the Orchid Kid from France, a popular boxer who had previously won the world light heavyweight championship.” (100)

[1] Bruce J. Evensen, When Dempsey Fought Tunney: Heroes, Hokum, and Storytelling in the Jazz Age (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996): 48. Return to text