Gene Tunney

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Gene Tunney
Gene Tunney Portrait LOC.jpg
Portrait of Tunney
Statistics
Real name James Joseph Tunney
Nickname(s) The Fighting Marine
Rated at Light heavyweight
Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Reach 77 in (196 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1897-05-25)May 25, 1897
New York City, New York
Died November 7, 1978(1978-11-07) (aged 81)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 68
Wins 65
Wins by KO 48
Losses 1
Draws 1
No contests 1

James Joseph "Gene" Tunney (May 25, 1897 – November 7, 1978) was an American professional boxer and the world heavyweight champion from 1926–28. Having defeated Jack Dempsey twice, first in 1926 and then in 1927, Tunney's successful title defense against Dempsey remains one of the most famous bouts in boxing history and is known as The Long Count Fight. Tunney retired as an undefeated heavyweight after his victory over Tom Heeney in 1928.

Biography[edit]

Mary Lydon from Culleen House, Gorthgarve, Kiltimagh, County Mayo, Ireland, emigrated to the United States after the Great Famine. She settled in New York City where she met John Tunney, also from Cill Aodain, Kiltimagh. They married after a short courtship. The Tunneys had seven children; one son was murdered around 1920, another was a NYPD Detective from 1924 to 1951, dying in 1971, while Gene would become famous as a World Heavyweight Boxing Champion.

Tunney fought some 68 official professional fights, losing only one, to Harry Greb, while fighting as a light heavyweight.[1] He reported that he lost a second fight during World War I, a 10 round decision, to Tommy Loughran, as a Marine before he began his professional boxing career. Tunney was regarded as an extremely skillful boxer who excelled in defense. In addition to beating Dempsey, the most famous fighter of his era, Tunney defeated Tommy Gibbons, Georges Carpentier and many other fine boxers.

Already the U.S. Expeditionary Forces champion, Tunney spent the winter of 1921 as a lumberjack in northern Ontario for the J. R. Booth Company of Ottawa, without revealing he was a champion boxer. He explained this as "wanting the solitude and the strenuous labors of the woods to help condition himself for the career that appeared before him."[2]

Tunney also had a brief acting career, starring in the movie The Fighting Marine in 1926. Unfortunately, no prints of this film are known to exist.

He was elected as Ring Magazine's first-ever Fighter of the Year in 1928 and later elected to the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1980, the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990 and the United States Marine Corps Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.

Tunney in Marine uniform

In 1928, Tunney was married to a wealthy socialite, the former Mary "Polly" Lauder (1907 – April 19, 2008). The couple lived in Stamford, Connecticut and had four children. Among them is John V. Tunney (born 1934), who was a U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from California from 1971 until 1977. The others are Jonathan "Jay" Tunney of Stamford, Connecticut; Gene L. Tunney of Honolulu, Hawaii and Joan Tunney Cook of Omaha in Boone County in northwestern Arkansas. Tunney's daughter Joan was committed to a mental hospital on June 6, 1970 after she murdered her husband.

Mrs. Tunney's grandfather was George Lauder, Sr., a first cousin and business partner of industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, founder and head of Carnegie Steel Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father, George Lauder, Jr., was a philanthropist and yachtsman whose 136-foot (41 m) schooner once held the record for the fastest trans-Atlantic yacht passage ever made. According to a 2007 biography, Tunney promised Polly that he would quit boxing and defended his title only one more time after the second Dempsey fight, against Tom Heeney of New Zealand.[3]

Death[edit]

Upon his death at the age of eighty-one, Tunney was interred at Long Ridge Union Cemetery in Stamford. He died at the Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut and had been suffering from a circulation ailment.[4]

Fighting style[edit]

Tunney at Trinity College Dublin, 1928

Tunney was a thinking fighter who preferred to make a boxing match into a game of chess, which was not popular during the times when such sluggers as Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb and Mickey Walker were commanding center stage. Tunney's style was influenced by other noted boxing thinkers such as James J. Corbett and Benny Leonard. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to think of Tunney as a stick-and-move fighter in the Ali style. While Tunney's heavyweight fights against Gibbons, Carpentier, and Dempsey featured his fleet-footed movement and rapid-fire jabbing, his earlier bouts, especially the five against Harry Greb, demonstrated his vicious body punching and willingness to fight toe-to-toe. It was Benny Leonard who advised Tunney that the only way to beat Harry "The Human Windmill" Greb was to aim his punches at Greb's body rather than his head.

Always moving and boxing behind an excellent left jab, Tunney would study his opponents from the first bell. He generally preferred to stay outside and nullify any attacks, while using quick counters to keep the opponent off balance. Although not a big puncher, Tunney could still hit with power, especially after hurting his opponents and mastering their styles.

In his fights against Jack Dempsey, today's viewer can see Tunney's style: hands held low for greater power, fast footwork that adjusts to every move his opponent makes and quick and accurate one-two style counter-punches with the left and right.

Tunney did own a very solid chin. He was never knocked out, and the only time he was ever knocked down was in the second fight with Dempsey in the infamous Long Count.

Publications[edit]

In 1932, Tunney published a book called A Man Must Fight, in which he gave comments on his career and boxing techniques.

Cultural references[edit]

Stamp honoring Tunney

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis had a comedy routine in which Lewis (in boxing shorts and gear) states he's fight'n Gene Tierney (the actress). Martin corrects Lewis and suggests that he must mean "Gene Tunney." Lewis then quips "You fight who you wanna fight, I'm fight'n who I wanna fight, I'm fight'n Gene Tierney."[5]

In the song She Twists the Knife Again from Richard Thompson's 1985 album Across a Crowded Room, describing the mismatched intensity in a strife-ladened relationship, Thompson writes: "I'm in a fist fight/She thinks she's Gene Tunney!"

He's also mentioned in Act 1 of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman: Willy tells his sons he has a punching bag with Tunney's signature on it.

Mentioned in A Whistle in the Dark (Act 1, p31) by Tom Murphy : 'in the words of the great Gene Tunney, a man must fight back. His father was a Mayoman too'.

Mentioned in the short story "Fallon" by JD Luther, when imprisoned character Tyson Wayne Vance recalls his abusive father, "Was more than one night momma'd look like she went fifteen rounds with Gene Tunney...",

Professional boxing record[edit]

65 Wins (48 Knockouts), 1 Defeat, 1 Draw , 1 No Contest[6]
Res. Record Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes
Win 65-1-1 New Zealand Tom Heeney TKO 11 (15), 2:52 1928-07-26 United States Yankee Stadium, New York, New York Retained World Heavyweight Title
Win 64-1-1 United States Jack Dempsey UD 10 1927-09-22 United States Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois Retained World Heavyweight Title
The Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year" (1927)
Win 63-1-1 United States Jack Dempsey UD 10 1926-09-23 United States Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Won World Heavyweight Title
The Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year" (1926)
Win 62-1-1 United States Dan O'Dowd KO 2 (10), 0:32 1925-12-29 United States Waterfront Park, Saint Petersburg, Florida
Win N/A United States Johnny Risko NWS 12 1925-11-18 United States Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio Newspaper Decision
Win 61-1-1 Republic of Ireland Bartley Madden KO 3 (10) 1925-09-25 United States Indoor Hockey Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Win 60-1-1 United States Italian Jack Herman KO 2 (10) 1925-07-03 United States Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri
Win 59-1-1 United States Tommy Gibbons KO 12 (15) 1925-06-05 United States Polo Grounds, New York, New York
Win N/A United States Harry Greb NWS 10 1925-03-27 United States Saint Paul Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota Newspaper Decision
Win N/A United States Jeff Smith NWS 15 1924-12-08 United States Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana Newspaper Decision
Win 58-1-1 United States Buddy McHale TKO 2 (8) 1924-11-10 United States Southern A.C., Tennessee, Memphis
Win 57-1-1 United States Harry Foley TKO 1 (8), 2:05 1924-10-27 United States Memphis Auditorium, Tennessee, Memphis
Win 57-1-1 United States Ray Neuman PTS 10 1924-09-27 United States Cambria Fairgrounds, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Draw N/A United States Harry Greb NWS 10 1924-09-17 United States Olympic Arena, Cleveland, Ohio Newspaper Decision
Win 56-1-1 United States Joe Lohman TKO 8 (12) 1924-08-18 United States Fairmont Arena, Columbus, Ohio
Win 55-1-1 France Georges Carpentier TKO 15 (15), 1:04 1924-07-24 United States Polo Grounds, New York, New York The Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year" (1924)
Win 54-1-1 Italy Erminio Spalla TKO 7 (12) 1924-06-26 United States Yankee Stadium, New York, New York
Win N/A United States Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 1924-03-17 United States Saint Paul Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota Newspaper Decision
Win 53-1-1 United States Martin Burke PTS 15 1924-02-15 United States Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana
Win 52-1-1 United States Ray Thompson KO 2 (10) 1924-01-24 United States Legion Arena, West Palm Beach, Florida
Win N/A United States Harry Foley NWS 10 1924-01-15 United States Grand Rapids Coliseum, Grand Rapids, Michigan Newspaper Decision
Win 51-1-1 United States Harry Greb UD 15 1923-12-10 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Retained American Light Heavyweight Title
Win 50-1-1 United States Dan O'Dowd PTS 15 1923-07-31 United States Queensboro Stadium, Queens, New York
Win N/A United States Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 1923-05-16 United States Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois Newspaper Decision
Win 49-1-1 United States Jack Clifford TKO 8 (10) 1923-05-07 United States Fair Grounds Coliseum, Detroit, Michigan
Win 48-1-1 United States Harry Greb SD 15 1923-02-23 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Won American Light Heavyweight Title
Win 47-1-1 United States Chuck Wiggins PTS 12 1923-02-03 United States Commonwealth Sporting Club, New York, New York
NC 47-1-1 Canada Jack Renault NC 4 (8) 1923-01-29 United States Philadelphia Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win 46-1-1 Austria Charley Weinert KO 4 (15) 1922-11-29 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Win 45-1-1 United States Jack Hanlon KO 1 (12), 1:22 1922-11-03 United States Clermont Avenue Rink, Brooklyn, New York
Win 44-1-1 United States Chuck Wiggins PTS 10 1922-10-27 United States Commercial A.C., Boston, Massachusetts
Draw N/A United States Tommy Loughran NWS 8 1922-08-24 United States Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Win N/A Austria Charley Weinert NWS 12 1922-08-17 United States Broad A.C., Newark, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win 43-1-1 United States Ray Thompson KO 3 (10) 1922-08-04 United States Ocean Park Casino, Long Branch, New Jersey
Win 42-1-1 United States Fay Keiser PTS 12 1922-07-07 United States Rockaway Beach Arena, Queens, New York
Loss 41-1-1 United States Harry Greb UD 15 1922-05-23 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Lost American Light Heavyweight Title
The Ring magazine's "Fight of the Year" (1922)
Win 41-0-1 United States Jack Burke TKO 9 (10) 1922-04-10 United States Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Win N/A United States Fay Keiser NWS 10 1922-03-03 United States Armory, Grand Rapids, Michigan Newspaper Decision
Win 40-0-1 United States Whitey Wenzel TKO 4 (8) 1922-02-14 United States Ice Palace, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win 39-0-1 United States Jack Clifford TKO 6 (12) 1922-02-11 United States Clermont Avenue Rink, Brooklyn, New York
Win 38-0-1 United States Battling Levinsky PTS 12 1922-01-13 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York Won American Light Heavyweight Title
Win 37-0-1 United States Eddie O'Hare KO 6 (8) 1921-12-22 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Win 36-0-1 United States Wolf Larsen TKO 7 (12), 1:35 1921-10-25 United States Pioneer Sporting Club, New York, New York
Win 35-0-1 United States Jack Burke TKO 3 (8) 1921-10-14 United States Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
Win 34-0-1 United Kingdom Herbert Crossley PTS 7 1921-09-26 United States Dyckman Oval, New York, New York
Win 33-0-1 United States Eddie Josephs PTS 12 1921-08-18 United States Sisco Park, Staten Island, New York
Win 32-0-1 United States Martin Burke PTS 10 1921-08-04 United States Dyckman Oval, New York, New York
Win 31-0-1 United States Soldier Jones TKO 7 (8) 1921-07-02 United States Boyle's Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 30-0-1 United States Johnny Ambrose KO 1 (12), 2:45 1921-06-28 United States Pioneer Sporting Club, New York, New York
Win N/A United States Leo Houck NWS 10 1920-12-07 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win N/A United States Leo Houck NWS 6 1920-11-25 United States Olympia A.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Win N/A Germany Paul Samson Koerner NWS 10 1920-10-25 United States 6th Regiment Armory, Paterson, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win 29-0-1 United States Sgt. Ray Smith TKO 2 (8) 1920-10-22 United States Sportsman's Club, Camden, New Jersey
Win 28-0-1 United States Ole Anderson TKO 3 (10) 1920-06-28 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 27-0-1 United States Jeff Madden TKO 2 (12) 1920-06-07 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 26-0-1 United States Jack Clifford KO 3 (10) 1920-04-09 United States Community Hall, Johnson City, New York
Win 25-0-1 United States K.O. Sullivan KO 1 (8) 1920-04-05 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey
Win 24-0-1 United States Ed Kinley KO 5 (8) 1920-03-04 United States Grand View Auditorium, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 23-0-1 United States Al Roberts KO 8 (8) 1920-02-02 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey
Win 22-0-1 United States Jim Monahan TKO 1 (8), 2:50 1920-01-26 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win 21-0-1 United States Bud Nelson KO 1 (8) 1920-01-20 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey
Win 20-0-1 United States Whitey Allen KO 2 (8) 1920-01-01 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey
Win 19-0-1 United States Bob Pearce KO 2 (8) 1919-12-29 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey
Win N/A United States Dan O'Dowd NWS 8 1919-12-16 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey Newspaper Decision
Win 18-0-1 United States Ted Jamieson PTS 10 1919-04-26 France Paris
Win 17-0-1 United States K.O. Sullivan PTS 10 1919-04-14 France Paris
Win 16-0-1 France Dare Lewis KO 3 1919-03-31 France Tours, Indre-et-Loire
Win 15-0-1 United States Bob Martin PTS 4 1919-01-27 France Paris
Draw 14-0-1 United States Tommy Gavigan PTS 10 1918-12-20 France Romorantin, Loir-et-Cher
Win 14-0 United States Howard Morrow KO 6 1918-12-10 France Romorantin, Loir-et-Cher
Win 13-0 France Victor KO Marchand KO 2 1918-12-05 France Paris
Win 12-0 United States Johnny Newton KO 6 1918-11-20 France Romorantin, Loir-et-Cher
Win 11-0 Hank Werhl KO 6 1918-11-01 France Romorantin, Loir-et-Cher
Win 10-0 United States Young Guerini KO 1 (8) 1918-07-08 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Tunney fought many other fights whose scoring was unofficial, judged by newspaper reporters. He also lost none of these "newspaper decisions."
  2. ^ "Tunney was Lumberjack for Ottawa Company". The Globe. September 28, 1926. p. 9. 
  3. ^ http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/deaths/5699867.html
  4. ^ "Tunney, Boxing Champion Who Beat Dempsey, Dies. Lectured on Shakespeare.". New York Times. November 8, 1978. Retrieved 2008-10-16. "Gene Tunney, the former heavyweight boxing champion who twice defeated Jack Dempsey, died yesterday at the Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut. He was 80 years old and had been suffering from a circulation ailment." 
  5. ^ Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait, The Biography Channel. March 26, 1999
  6. ^ Gene Tunney's Professional Boxing Record. BoxRec.com. Retrieved on 2014-05-03.

External links[edit]

Achievements
Preceded by
Jack Dempsey
World Heavyweight Champion
September 23, 1926 – July 31, 1928
Succeeded by
Max Schmeling
Filled vacancy
Awards
Preceded by
Inaugural Award
Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year
1928
Succeeded by
Tommy Loughran