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Tuesday, 28 November 2017 00:00

Jack Dempsey fights wrestler in first ever MMA match in 1940? (Brutal video)

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Jack Dempsey KO/TKO/All But Murders Cowboy Luttrell.

July 1, 1940

  • Location: Ponce De Leon Park, Atlanta, GA USA
  • Rules: Boxing and Wrestling??
  • Division: Heavyweight

Dempsey vs Luttrell Facts & Stats

  • 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 13 years prior. 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 really left boxing, and gave frequent exhibitions, sparring the likes of Max Schmeling, Max Baer, Arturo Godoy and others to 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

  • Cowboy Luttrell: In way over his head, even against a 45 year old Dempsey.

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"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.

The Fight

  • 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 was a disgrace to boxing, perhaps 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 and 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.