Our Man for Dempsey

By The Fight Film Collector on October 26, 2013
Our Man for Dempsey
Born in 1900, Scott served as a teenager in the First World War and began boxing in 1921.

The introduction of motorized cameras, better film stock and synchronized sound brought new clarity to motion pictures…

Jack Sharkey vs. Phil Scott
Madison Square Garden Stadium
Miami, Florida
February 28, 1930
16mm Transfer & British Pathé Newsreels

British passion for boxing runs deep and rich through ring history. Much of the credit for the development of boxing as a commercial sport over the last century and a half goes to the British. Most of the fundamentals of boxing, including the rules, were developed by the British, and they remain in place today in boxing around the world. The ranks of greats in British boxing rivals the best of any nation and the enthusiasm for boxing throughout the UK has never been lost, even as other nationalities came to dominate the sport.

Of the many changes in boxing over the last generation, one of the most striking is the resurgence of UK boxers into the ranks of world champions. I say striking insofar as the historical arc in boxing has been for groups to emerge in numbers, usually from poverty, to experience a period of prominence in the sport, followed by a decline when that community began to prosper economically. Resurgence in boxing has been rare. In the case of the Brits, they’ve come roaring back. The fighters have also brought with them a pride in the sport, and a public enthusiasm not seen in the US for some time.

Phil Scott

In the 1920s and ‘30s, the heavyweight championship was held by boxers from the US, Germany and Italy. The UK offered a number of title-worthy challengers during that time. One of the uncrowned, and unsung, was Phil Scott. Born in 1900, Scott served as a teenager in the First World War and began boxing in 1921. At 6’3½” Scott was a giant in his day. He preferred to work on the outside, using a quick left to enforce his advantage in height and reach. His early record was spotty until a string of wins put him on Jack Dempsey’s waiting list. But in September 1925, Paulino Uzcudun stopped Scott in six rounds. Fighting on, Scott ascended again, including two wins over Tom Heeney. By 1930 Scott was one fight away from a title match. All he had to do was get past Jack Sharkey.

Facing Sharkey

The US press was skeptical of Scott before the fight, including rumors that Scott was in poor health and not prepared after his voyage from the England. Despite the downplay, the bout has held in Miami, Florida on February 27 (some accounts list the 28th), 1930. The fight got off to an exciting start, fast and competitive, but quickly ended in controversy. The two fought evenly in the first round. Sharkey pressed the action, but Scott proved to be elusive using footwork and his long left jab to stay on the outside. Newspaper accounts of the battle suggested that Sharkey waged a steady body attack, but the film shows that Jack mixed his assault as he usually did, coming in low followed by left hooks to the head. In round two Sharkey sent Scott to the canvas, but the British champion recovered and continued to hold his own. In the third round Sharkey closed the distance, dropping Scott again, who gestured the blows were low. At first the referee acknowledged the fouls, called a time out, but did not penalize Sharkey, who was furious. The fight started again and Sharkey continued his attack. After another exchange, Scott wilted on the ropes and appeared paralyzed. The ring quickly flooded with seconds and officials. Amidst the confusion and with Scott apparently, and dramatically, unable to continue, the fight was stopped and Sharkey declared the winner by knockout. There were protests and an inquiry, but the result was not changed.

For Sharkey, here again, controversy followed him like a curse. Few victories went unpunished.

The Film

The official film of the fight survived in good condition and is consistent with the movies of the day. As a note, this was an interesting period for fight films. The technology was improving fast.  The introduction of motorized cameras, better film stock and synchronized sound brought new clarity to motion pictures. However, some fight films from this period, like this one, were made with 1920s equipment. I did some restoration, including adjustments for exposure and contrast. Prior to the fight, I’ve also included footage from several British Pathé newsreels featuring Sharkey and Scott before the match. Phil Scott is shown in 1925 and in 1930 when his prospects were high.

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Jack Sharkey -vs- Phil Scott (16mm Transfer) Rare 1930 Heavyweight Fight!

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  1. cnorkusjr 05:17am, 11/02/2013

    Great piece on historic fight. Thanks for film restoration and posted here.
    I would think that Tony’s comments are below as his reputation follows him on the low blows claim, but a fighter like Sharkey with his pouncing in tactics could have certainly him him below the belts. He was concentrating on his midriff anyway. Surprised that Scott’s long reach couldnt keep him at bay at all.

  2. The Fight Film Collector 07:40am, 10/28/2013

    Thank you, Tony.

  3. Tony 07:04am, 10/28/2013

    —-Thanks for this—I had heard quite a bit about Scott for a long time, but had never seen any film of him.

    —-Whether fairly or unfairly, the reputation that trickled down through history about these two was decidedly to the benefit of Sharkey and to the detriment of Scott.  In my younger days, which were long after both of these guys had retired, every reference I read or heard about Scott used the nickname “Phaintin Phil.”  The American press apparently determined that Scott was quick to claim foul, and that was the verdict they stuck with in every description of him.  When I first saw this article, I wasn’t sure it was the same person—I was thrown off the track by the absence of the nickname!

    —-I do know that back in Scott’s day, fouling out was a relatively routine way out of avoiding a bad beating, and that DQs were more common than in modern times.  But even with that in mind, Mr. Scott does seem to have a higher than normal number of DQ wins on his record, including one in Scott’s fight immediately before this one, against Otto Von Porat.  And another, the year before, against Ted Sandwina, in London.  Plus two more in 1927, two more in 1926, and another in 1924.  That reputation and history is probably the reason for Sharkey’s display of anger, apparently caused by a belief that Scott was trying to pull a fast one.

  4. The Fight Film Collector 09:39am, 10/27/2013

    Thanks Clarence.  I enjoyed researching this one.  Aside from learning about Scott, it’s interesting to see Sharkey in action during the “dark ages” between Tunney and Schmeling.

  5. The Fight Film Collector 11:15am, 10/26/2013

    I do concur, my Celtic friend.  Scott’s injury looks other than a central southern strike.  His one leg seems paralyzed, and his ability to stand up but not walk is typical of a low back spasm.

  6. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 10:58am, 10/26/2013

    Fight Film Collector- My diagnosis is that it may not have been intentional, but it appears that one of Sharkey’s hooks strayed down to the nether region and traumatized Scott’s sciatic nerve causing pain, numbness and weakness. “Do you concur, Doctor?” (Ben Casey, M.D.)

  7. Clarence George 07:45am, 10/26/2013

    By the way, good timing, FFC:  Sharkey was born on this date in 1902.  Happy Birthday, Champ!

  8. Clarence George 05:08am, 10/26/2013

    Thanks, as always, FFC.  Nice restoration and write-up of a fight both unusual and fascinating, and one of which I never heard.  In fact…I’m not so sure I ever heard of Phil Scott!

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