Loss of title and the Long Count

In September 1926, Dempsey fought Irish-American former U.S. Marine Gene Tunney in Philadelphia.[27] Tunney was an excellent boxer who had lost only once in his career. Nevertheless, Tunney was still considered the underdog. In a big upset, Dempsey lost his title on points in ten rounds. No longer displaying his legendary punching power or hand speed, Dempsey was easily outboxed by the slick Tunney, who would dodge, use excellent pad level and then let loose with a salvo of punches of his own. The attendance for this fight was a record 120,557, the largest attendance ever for a sporting event outside motor racing and soccer. When the battered Dempsey returned to his dressing room, he explained the defeat to his film actress wife Estelle Taylor by saying, "Honey, I forgot to duck."[20] This phrase was later used by President Ronald Reagan to his wife after Reagan was shot during a failed attempt on his life in 1981. Dempsey contemplated retiring, but after a few months of rest decided to try a comeback. On July 21, 1927, at Yankee Stadium, he knocked out future Heavyweight Champion Jack Sharkey in the seventh round of an elimination bout for a title shot against Tunney. Sharkey was beating Dempsey until the end, when the fight ended controversially. Sharkey claimed that Dempsey had been hitting him below the belt. When Sharkey turned to the referee to complain, he left himself unprotected. Dempsey crashed a left hook onto Sharkey's chin, knocking him out cold. The referee then counted out

Sharkey. The Tunney rematch took place in Chicago, Illinois, on September 22, 364 days after losing his title to Tunney in their first bout. This fight generated even more interest than the Carpentier and Firpo bouts, generating an amazing $2 million gate, a record that stood for many years. According to legend, Al Capone offered to fix the rematch in his favor, but Dempsey refused. Millions of people around the country listened to the bout on the radio and hundreds of reporters covered the event. Tunney was paid a record one million dollars (equivalent to approximately $13,379,310 in today's funds[28]) for the Dempsey rematch (his official purse was actually $990,000, so he gave the promoters a check of his own for $10,000 so he could receive the "million dollar payday," a photostat of which is still owned by the Tunney family). Dempsey earned about half that. Dempsey was losing the fight on points when he knocked Tunney down with a left hook to the chin in the seventh round and landed several more punches. A new rule for boxing at the time mandated that when a fighter knocked down an opponent, he must immediately go to a neutral corner. But Dempsey seemed to have forgotten that rule (compare his fight with Willard where he almost stood over his downed opponent ready to strike again) and refused to immediately move to the neutral corner when instructed by the referee. The referee had to escort Dempsey to the neutral corner, which bought Tunney at least an extra five seconds to recover.