100 years ago today on July 4th 1919, one of the most brutal boxing matches took place right here in Toledo, Ohio. Jess Willard took on Jack Dempsey. Jess Willard was not only the Heavyweight Champion, he was also a ruthless boxer. Not only did he upset the former heavyweight champion in 1915, he actually killed an opponent in the ring in 1913. Willard thought this fight would be a cakewalk. Little did he know he was in for a beating of a lifetime.
Setting the stage, boxing was huge in 1919. The nation was really anticipating this fight. It made national headlines. It put Toledo in the center of the sports world. A 97,000 person wooden stadium was built at Bay View Park (just off of today's Summit Street) and it was filled to capacity the day of the fight.
Dempsey ended up defeating Willard. More than defeat him, he pummeled him. Dempsey knocked Willard down seven times in the first round. Then won via TKO at the beginning of the fourth when Willard was too tired to leave his corner. This is still known as one of the most brutal bouts in boxing history!
Today Toledo celebrates it's Day in the Sun with a huge celebration at Detwiler Park, with a reenactment of the fight at 6pm.