Born in 1895, Dempsey was boxing’s first truly international, truly “super” star. His bouts with Jess Willard, Georges Charpentier, and Luis Firpo were among the biggest sporting events of the Roaring Twenties. Dempsey was loved for his wild, furious aggression and savage punching power, but his approach to the Sweet Science was crude, and that allowed Gene Tunney to out-point him and take the World Heavyweight Title in 1926. Dempsey got back into contention by knocking out Jack Sharkey in seven, and then got his rematch with Tunney. Most of the fight was a replay of the first time around, until Dempsey got his puncher’s chance and floored Tunney. “The Fighting Marine” was only saved by an infamous “long count” that has gone down in boxing history. Following the loss, Dempsey hung up the gloves.
Dempsey remained a popular figure for decades after his retirement, and his restaurant was a Manhattan landmark. He also kept his toes in the boxing world, and was instrumental in turning 1930s heavyweight champion Max Baer into a knockout artist.
The career of the “boxing Playmate” is often misunderstood: she turned pro in 1997, but didn’t appear on the cover of Playboy until 1999, so she was always a boxer first and a model second. St. John’s boxing career had its ups and downs, and in particular she endured the frustration of never getting a big name of women’s boxing into the ring until 2012, when she finally squared off with and out-pointed Christy Martin and captured the WBC Women’s Junior Welterweight Title. Unfortunately, she promptly lost it three months later, and in her last fight St. John was stopped in three rounds by the WBA-WBC-WBO Women’s Welterweight champ, Denmark’s undefeated Cecilia Braekhus. Mia St. John is 46 today.