Gene Tunney

The Fighting Marine

World Heavy Weight Champion 1926-1928

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Highly cultured, extremely intelligent Gene Tunney was no ordinary fighter. Born in New York on 25 May 1898, standing at just over 6ft and weighing in between 155 and 192 lbs, he won 65 fights 47 KO's lost 1 drawn 19.

 

Tunney was from poor Irish Catholic parentage. When he left school he worked for the Ocean Steamship Company as a clerk, it was here that he took up boxing. In 1917 the year the US joined the great war Tunney joined the Marines and came to Europe with the US Expeditionary Force, he continued his boxing and in Paris in 1919 won the AEF Championships.

 

He was demobbed in New York and continued to fight there notching up a string of victories which ended with him fighting Battling Levinsky for the light heavy weight championship of America he took the title.

 

Having won the light heavy weight title in January 1922 went on to lose his only fight to Harry Grebb a reknowned dirty fighter, Tunney took a terrible beating but vowed he would get his revenge, he studied Greb's tactics learned how to counter and the following year 1923 saw him regain his title.

 

He then took on Georges Carpentier and beat him. Having beaten Carpentier he then wanted a shot at Dempsey, he had to wait three more years but on 23 September 1926 in Philadelphia he took Dempsey the distance and won on points. Dempsey was so badly beaten that he had to get his seconds to show him where Tunney was so he could congratulate him after the fight. Somehow the fight fans couldn't take too Tunney he liked the arts read Shakespeare and was friends with people like George Bernard Shaw.

 

Dempsey Rematch Controversy

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Tunney gave Dempsey a rematch in Chicago on 22 September 1927, the first few rounds went Tunney's way it looked like a rerun of the first fight, Tunney was cruising by the seventh as a points contest it was all over, when suddenly Dempsey caught Tunney with devastating combination of punches, Tunney hit the deck. Dempsey was so excited he forgot to go to a neutral corner and the referee wouldn't start the count, by the time the referee finally got to count to nine Tunney got up, he went on to win on points. This long count caused lots of controversy and some say it saved Tunney, much to Jack Dempsey's credit he always accepted Tunney's version that he was just taking advantage of the break and could have got up at anytime.

 

Tunney only ever defended his title one more time against New Zealander Tom Heeney, Heeney was strong and brave but Tunney was more than his equal, having toyed with Heeney for 11 rounds Tunney pleaded with the referee to end the contest due to Heeney bleeding profusely, the referee wouldn't and Tunney just refused to lay a glove on the man until the referee finally called a halt. When asked later why he hadn't laid another serious punch Tunney explained that he wouldn't risk a punch that could cost his opponent his sight.

 

This was to be Tunney's last fight he retired from the ring and married heiress Josephine Lauder and became a successful business man in his own right.