Boxing fans have been treated to some incredible spectacles over the years and for those lucky enough to have been in attendance at one of the all-time classic bouts, they will surely consider themselves lucky. Getting tickets for a main boxing event can be very difficult and is always expensive. It doesn’t help in certain cases whereby the venues hosting the event are quite small. For example, the upcoming rematch between Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua will take place in a 12,000 open-air venue in Saudi Arabia. Add to the fact that getting a visa to visit Saudi Arabia is certainly no easy task, it’s fair to say that being in attendance at this particular fight will be quite challenging.
So how does a crowd of 12,000 people compare to the biggest attendances in the history of boxing? Typically, boxing matches take place in smaller venues than what are used to host other popular sports such as football and American football, but there have been some pretty big crowds recorded in the past. The bouts at Wembley between Froch and Groves as well Joshua vs Klitschko are two recent examples that spring to mind.
But even these two fights don’t make it on the list of the all time highest attended boxing matches…
5. Max Schmeling v Walter Neusel – (102,000)
Walter Neusel was a German heavyweight boxer and progressed his career in America where he became famous for his aggressive approach in the ring. There he joined Max Schmeling who was heavyweight champion of the world between 1930 and 1932.
The pair came together in their first bout in 1934. It was held in Hamburg, Germany and the attendance was thought to be 102,000, such was the huge interest in the fight. It was Schmeling who came out on top, stopping the fight in the 9th round via technical knockout.
4. Jack Dempsey v Gene Tunney – (104,943)
This was the second meeting between these two great fighters and became known as the ‘long count fight’. The reason being that when Gene Tunney was on the floor, the count was delayed because Jack Dempsey would not go to a neutral corner.
This fight generated great interest and was the first $2 million gate in entertainment history. The bout took place at Soldier Field in Chicago and attracted 104,943 fans. Tunney went on to win the fight by unanimous decision and it was Dempsey’s last career fight.
3. Jack Dempsey v Gene Tunney – (120,557)
The first meeting between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney drew huge interest from boxing and sports fans in general. It was held at Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia and 120,557 people packed into the arena to see the two go toe-to-toe.
This was the record attendance for a boxing fight for over 60 years and Dempsey was the big favourite to come out on top. However, it is believed Dempsey suffered food poisoning having had a small glass of olive oil and Tunney went on to dominate the fight, creating one of the biggest upsets seen in boxing.
2. Julio Cesar Chavez v Greg Haugen – (132,247)
Fast forward to 1993 and Mexico City was the stage for the fight between Julio Cesar Chavez and Greg Haugen. The match took place in the huge Estadio Azteca, the scene of both the 1970 and 1986 World Cup finals.
It was a night to forget for Haugen who went down almost immediately in the first round but battled on gamely until the 5th round. Chavez knocked him down again and this time there was no coming back to the delight of the 132,247 spectators.
Tony Zale v Billy Pryor – (135,000)
For the biggest attendance in the history of boxing we head back to the 1940’s and the contest between Tony Zale and Billy Pryor. What makes this fight different from those above is the fact this was a free show, none of the spectators were asked to buy a ticket.
The bout was held at Juneau Park, Milwaukee and just over 135,000 people are believed to have attended. Zale was the favourite and the fight quickly developed in his favour. He had Pryor on the back foot for most of the contest and eventually knocked him out having previously put him on the canvass several times.