Jack Dempsey KO/TKO/All But Murders Cowboy Luttrell.
Date: July 1, 1940
Location: Ponce De Leon Park, Atlanta, GA USA
Rules: Boxing and Wrestling??
Weights: Dempsey 211 lbs; Luttrell 236 lbs
Dempsey vs Luttrell wasn’t a sanctioned boxing match as the great Dempsey’s last official boxing fight had occurred 13 years prior – a 10-round unanimous decision loss to Gene Tunney in the fabled ‘Long Count’ fight. If Tunney vs Dempsey 2 was famous, Dempsey vs Luttrell was infamous.
The iconic Dempsey remained a well-respected celebrity long after his boxing career ended. The consummate fitness freak, he also stayed in shape, managed his restaurant, and trained fighters. In some ways, the 45-year-old Dempsey had never left boxing.
He gave frequent exhibitions, sometimes sparring the likes of Max Schmeling, Max Baer, Arturo Godoy, and others to help promote fights. Dempsey was also a referee for boxing and wrestling matches.
When refereeing a wrestling match one night, Dempsey engaged in a heated argument with Cowboy Luttrell, one of the participants. Apparently, tempers flared and the verbal argument evolved into a physical altercation.
To settle their very public skirmish, an opportunistic promoter arranged a somewhat lucrative, relatively high-profile fight between the 45-year-old boxing legend and famed wrestler Cowboy Luttrell in Atlanta, Georgia on July 1, 1940.
“I’ve licked tougher guys than Jack Dempsey,” Luttrell told reporters before the bout.”
“There’s never been a boxer who could beat a good wrestler. I want to be known as the guy who KO’d Dempsey.”
We’ll try out the show here, boys. We might work our way up to a fight with Joe Louis.”
“It’s no gag,” Dempsey told the New York Times.
“I’m going to fight a wrestler down in Atlanta on July 1. We’re going to fight with gloves, the lightest ones Georgia officials will permit.”
“I ought to knock him out quick because I can still punch, and he doesn’t know how to fight.”
Neither an exhibition nor a sanctioned boxing match, Dempsey vs Luttrell may have been the first MMA bout of sorts.
Despite being a polished wrestler, Luttrell could never get his hands on Dempsey.
This farce was hardly a “fight” as the 45-year-old, over-the-hill legend orchestrated what was little more than a glorified public lynching.
Early in Round 2, Dempsey, having brutalized his opponent in the opening stanza, caught Luttrell flush with a massive left hook, sending the wrestler head over heels through the ropes and out of the ring.
Luttrell is unconscious. Fight over!
Many called the bout a disgrace to boxing, insisting Jack Dempsey, boxing royalty, should have never given Luttrell the time of day.
Was it a boxing fight or MMA match?
While some insist Dempsey vs Luttrell was fought under boxing rules, there’s evidence to suggest it was an MMA match.
After Luttrell, the legendary ‘Manassa Mauler’ would face two more wrestlers before calling an end to the charade. In one of those bouts, it’s alleged an opponent managed to get Dempsey in a headlock, suggesting Dempsey was, in fact, fighting under some sort of unified rules of boxing and wrestling… Whatever those rules were.
And yes, Dempsey prevailed in both bouts.