Back to Philadelphia

Damon Runyon

Harrisburg Evening News/April 4, 1927


THE CITY OF Brotherly Love, which is that dear Philadelphia, has already extended to George Tex Rickard, the eminent fistic entrepreneur, a cordial invitation to pitch his next heavyweight championship struggle there.

It seems odd that the city that has loathed heavyweights since the signing of the Declaration of Independence should suddenly become the seat of the larger operations of the division. You may not know it, but when Mr. Tunney and Mr. Dempsey met in the Sesqui-Centennial Stadium there last fall they established three new records, as follows:

(a) For attendance.

(b) For gate receipts.

(c) For being the only heavyweights who escaped being thrown out of a Philadelphia ring before the conclusion of a bout.

I believe that some Philadelphians claim that the last should not be recognized as a record on the ground that they would have been hurled but for the fact that the referee’s arms were so water-logged that he couldn’t raise ’em in the interests of right and justice before-the end of the ten rounds.

But that as it may, the boys waded through to the finish, a darn good record for that vicinity, as the poet says. Mr. Tunney was doubtless a little nervous before the final bell, because Mr. Tunney knows how hard a heavy can be hurled in Philly. Mr. Tunney was once hurled from a Philadelphia ring along with M. Jacques Renault, the noble Canuck, on the ground of public inconvenience, or something to that effect.

BUT NOW PHILADELPHIA with its yawning stadium has placed a welcome mat at its portals for Mr. Tunney and any other heavyweight who may appear to be what the folks call a logical opponent next fall. I am not so sure that the welcome extends to heavyweights in general, however.

Mr. Tunney and Mr. Dempsey packed the hotels of Philadelphia with eager guests last year and made a good business for the citizens, as well as enlivening the premises. They must have brought a large amount of money to the town, one way and another.

Had they both trained in Philadelphia, as they should, they would have added to the prosperity and happiness of the community, because the strangers who drifted into the city from far-off ports the day of the battle would have been several weeks in advance, spending their money among the Quakers.

Both Mr. Tunney and Mr. Dempsey were working for George Tex Rickard on guarantees. They probably did not think the gate would exceed their guarantees and neither lifted a hand to assist the promoter in the matter of the publicity which attends the presence of a fighter on the scene of action. With both Mr. Tunney and Mr. Dempsey in Philadelphia, all the sports writers and ringworms would have headquarters there and the result would have rebounded to the large ballyhoo of the City of Brotherly Love aforesaid.

It will be different next time. George Tex Rickard tells me both the fighters in his heavyweight championship presentation will train within calling distance of the spot where they struggle. Mr. Rlckard’s idea is that a fighter is not a rose born to blush unseen.

IT IS QUITE EASY to see why George Tex Rickard has a kindly feeling toward Philadelphia. In the first place, there is the stadium in which he spotted over 130,000 clients last fall, with some room to spare. It is ready made for him.

In the second place, he was not “moved around,” politically, or otherwise. I mean to say, George Tex Rickard, on his own statement was subjected to none of the inconveniences, and petty proscriptions that he has encountered in other quarters as a pugilistic promoter.

His advisers told him Philadelphia was a cheap town, and single customers appeared as soon as he opened his offices to order $20,000 worth of seats. He had the most marvelous police protection ever accorded a huge assemblage. He had the friendship and co-operation of the officials.

The only drawback in Philadelphia to a world’s championship bout is the limit of ten rounds. When Mr. Dempsey was champion that made no difference because the clients never expected the contest in which he was engaged to go over ten rounds. He drew $1,600,000 in what was scheduled as a ten round no-decision affair in New Jersey, and close to $2,000,000 in that ten round decision bout in Philadelphia.

With Mr. Tunney as champion it may be a different matter, unless the logical opponent turns up in some good puncher. The clients may not buy $2,000,000 worth of seats to see Mr. Tunney box ten rounds. When the clients pay out that much they reasonably conclude that they are entitled to a murder, or at least a case of mayhem.

OF COURSE George Tex Rickard may give some serious attention to New Jersey, now that the scale of prices has been hoisted over there. I doubt if he will consider New York at any length. In New Jersey, however, he would have to rear a new stadium, now that Boyle’s Thirty Acres is a memory.

It cost Rickard plenty to build his arena on Boyle’s Thirty Acres. True, it was a very profitable venture in the long run, but when he has a stadium already laid out for his purpose, why bother spending money on a new project?

Unless there are some untoward developments within the next few months, I think the ringworms may get ready to buy their transportation to Philadelphia. And it isn’t a bad place to spend a few weeks of the early fall, at that, if anybody asks you.



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