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Heavyweight Fights that have had the Biggest Attendances

A total of 120,557 packed into the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia expecting to see Tunney become the latest victim of Dempsey’s fast and ferocious attacks.

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Philadelphia, PA, USA (May 30, 2024) - Heavyweight boxing has grown in prominence in recent years, because of the quality of the fighters in the weight class that are gracing the sweet science. From current champion Oleksandr Usyk to his main challengers – men like Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – this is a golden age for heavyweight boxers.

Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney in 1926 was the largest live paid attendance with 120,557.

Each fighter has his own distinct style and skills, while some like Fury have managed to raise their profiles outside of the boxing world. To some extent heavyweight boxing has always caught the imagination of the public to a greater degree than any other sport.

Truly iconic boxers – think Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson – tend to be heavyweights. They are the fighters whose battles have attracted massive attendance figures that have gone down in history.

Let’s take a look at heavyweight boxing's biggest crowds.

Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney – 1926

This heavyweight title fight saw one of the legends of the sport, Jack Dempsey, take on Gene Tunney. Dempsey had held the title since beating Jess Willard seven years previously and was expected to once again retain it.

A total of 120,557 packed into the Sesquicentennial Stadium in Philadelphia expecting Tunney to become the latest victim of Dempsey’s fast and ferocious attacks. It didn't quite play out that way though.

Tunney was dominant virtually from start to the finish and won the title by ten round decision. The crowd even speculated that Dempsey was suffering from food poisoning, as it was considered one of the greatest upsets of all time.

Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney – 1927

The major global sporting events always attract big crowds, whether they are boxing, football or horse racing, because of the thrills and drama provided. At the annual Belmont Stakes betting shows, some people add more spice to proceedings by wagering on the outcomes.

There's a good chance that many of the 104,943 that went to Soldier Field in Chicago to see the return between Dempsey and Tunney had bets on it. There was huge media interest in the fight and a record gate of $2 million, over $36 million in today's dollars.

Dempsey was eager to atone for the events of the previous year, but there would be no redemption. In a battle remembered as the ‘long count fight’, he refused to go to a neutral corner after knocking Tunney down during the seventh round.

Whether anger or adrenaline behind this clear violation of the rules, it cost Dempsey dearly. The extra time it bought Tunney the extra time needed to recover from knockdown and he took control from the eight round on, even dropping the former champion.

Tunney held retained the title by unanimous decision and Dempsey never fought professionally again.

Max Schmeling vs. Walter Neusel – 1934

This fight took place at the height of the Great Depression but still attracted 102,000 people. It was held in Hamburg and the crowd remains the largest ever for a European heavyweight fight and one of the highest in boxing history.

Germany's Schmeling was the first European heavyweight champion, whereas Neusel was a US-based German fighter known for his aggressive attack. It didn't prove enough to take the title though, as Schmelling scored a ninth round TKO to retain his crown.

Tyson Fury vs. Dillian Whyte - 2022

An impressive 94,000 jammed into Wembley Stadium in London to watch Tyson Fury take on Dillian Whyte for the WBC and the Ring heavyweight titles.

Part of that may have been down to sheer anticipation, after a planned fight between the two the previous year was cancelled at the last moment. Whatever the reason though, it was the largest crowd for any UK fight since the Second World War.

Fury was in control from start to finish, setting the pace up until round six and then catching Whyte with a jarring uppercut to the chin. Whyte was dropped but managed to beat the count, only to have the referee stop the fight.

Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko – 2017

Recalled by fans lucky enough to witness it as one of the finest heavyweight fights this century, 90,000 were in Wembley Stadium to witness history in the making. What they saw was a battle that swung from one warrior to the other, as both were knocked down in the first five rounds.

Klitschko appeared to assert control in round six, but couldn't setup the finishing shot. Then Joshua fought back, dropped and stopped the man who had held lineal and unified heavyweight title longer than any other. It was a fitting spectacle for such a massive crowd.

These boxing matches all drew huge crowds for differing reasons but all featured top class heavyweights.

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