Hannagan Promotes Two Pugs

 

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Tex Richard Fight Promoter1

In 1929, the nationally known fight promoter, Tex Richard, promoted a heavyweight championship bout between Young Stribling and Jack Sharkey in Miami Beach. Steve Hannagan was thrilled knowing that the fight would attract huge crowds of fans to Miami Beach. Shortly before the Stribling-Sharkey match, Tex Richard died.[2]

Bill Carey, Richard’s top assistant, took over his agency and hired Jack Dempsey as the chief promoter for the fight. It was Dempsey’s debut as a promoter. Carey then hired Hannagan to publicize the fight. Hannagan received $10,000 for promoting

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Grantland Rice4

Hannagan staged a promotion party for the news flacks at the Roman Pools Casino. Grantland Rice wrote that, Hannagan’s promotions “resembled New Year’s Eve in Babylon.”[3] Rice figured that everyone within fifty miles of Miami Beach came as a free-loader resulting in two drunks to every square yard of the Beach.[5] The return on Hannagan’s $32,000 for the press bash was evident when wire stories began to flow from Miami Beach about the fight.

Before the fighters threw their first blows, a pre-fight story out of Miami reported an attempt to kidnap Jack Dempsey. The story is that Dempsey and Floyd Fitzsimmons dove into the bathroom and locked the door when the kidnappers entered the room. When Hannagan heard about the invasion story, he raced to the Noir house and confronted Dempsey “what the hell is all this stuff about a shooting? You should have called me first.”[6]

Many reporters in Miami Beach for the fight claimed that Hannagan ginned- up the Dempsey story to publicize a lackluster heavyweight fight. Frank Sullivan of the New York World, supported Hannagan’s claim that the story was not a fake. Collier’s Magazine concurred. Irish luck played out for both Dempsey and Hannagan, and the coin flipped heads up – large crowds came to see both the fight and Jack Dempsey, one of the most famous fighters of the era..

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Graham McNamee7

The fight did turn out to be a dull affair with Sharkey winning easily. However, Hannagan’s magic worked; the fight was a sell-out. It drew the second-largest purse, $400,000 at that time for a non-championship bout. Only a Dempsey non-championship drew a larger gate.

Graham McNamee, the fight broadcaster for the National Broadcasting Company, praised Hannagan and his publicity machine during the fight. “You people over the country may not have heard much about Stephen Hannagan, but you [will] hear about him in the future.”[8]

One columnist wrote after the fight, “As for Steve Hannagan, anybody who can fill a wooden bowl with many people to see a timid kid and a considerable older [boxer] push one another around, is, I’m telling you, the ace of publicity experts. My hat is off to Steve ….” [9]

Aftermath

Sadly, Stribling died tragically in 1933 from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident on the way to see his wife and their newborn child. He died soon after being wheeled into his wife’s room to see her one last time. Stribling’s one chance at the heavyweight championship misfired when Max Schmeling defeated him by a TKO in 1931.

End Notes

  1. Photograph of Tex Richard (Retrieved April 25, 2013) http://boxrec.com/media/index.php/Tex_Rickard
  2. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 112.
  3. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 112.
  4. Photograph of Grantland Rice (Retrieved April 24, 2013) http://voiceseducation.org/content/grantland-rice
  5. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 113.
  6. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; pp. 115-116.
  7. Photograph of Graham McNamee (Retrieved April 24, 2013) http://bill37mccurdy.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/remember-graham-mcnamee/
  8. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 119.
  9. Ross, Edward Ellis; Hannagan Research Document; source: New York University Archives; p. 120.