SHELBY - Montana has seen its fair share of high profile sporting events over the years - but the biggest contest in the history of the Treasure State was held in Shelby 99 years ago on Independence Day.
The build-up brought the eyes of the world to this small town on the Hi-Line, but the aftermath was nearly a TKO for the community.
The year was 1923 and the town of Shelby was preparing for a world title fight between Jack Dempsey, the most famous boxer in the world at the time, and challenger Tommy Gibbons. It was supposed to bring untold riches and influence to Shelby
They built a 40,000-seat arena — committed hundreds of thousands to the fighters — and expected a full house with people traveling from across the world for the spectacle.
Though the fight went a thrilling 14 rounds, it was a financial disaster for Shelby, even leading to the failure of four banks in the area.
After years of trying to move past it, Shelby has since embraced it. They built Champions Park on the site of the octagon, and in the museum, you can find all kinds of memorabilia from the event, from Gibbon’s gloves to the bell used ringside.
Shelby has hosted a 50th and 75th anniversary celebration, and 2023 will mark 100 years since the fight, with a ceremony and week of festivities already in the works.