Sunday, March 29, 2009

Shelby, Montana: Dempsey-Gibbons Fight Site

The town of Shelby, Montana, means as much to boxing fans of the 1920's as Lewiston, Maine, does to fans of the 1960's. They were both unlikely places for heavyweight championship bouts.

Jack Dempsey beat Tommy Gibbons for the title in Shelby in 1923. As you'd expect, there was money behind the reason for the bout being in Shelby. A promoter thought he could attract attention to this little town near the Canadian border. A stadium was constructed near the railyard, but the scheme didn't succeed as it wasn't a sellout.

So, when boxing fans come to Shelby now, they want to know about that fight. The local museum has some memorabilia connected to the bout. That's fine, but you really should head for the Pizza Hut that's on U.S. 2 just east of the Interstate. The parking lot essentially is where the boxing ring was. As the sign above says, the Pizza Hut has a couple of displays dedicated to the fight, complete with tickets and newspaper clippings.

By the way, this isn't easy to find. A big thank you goes out to the helpful woman at the Shelby visitors' center, who knew all about the subject and provided helpful directions.

And if you are interested, Muhammad Ali beat Sonny Liston for the second time in Lewiston, Maine.

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