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
Height 6 ft 0 in (183 cm)
Reach 76 in (193 cm)
Nationality American
Born (1897-05-25)May 25, 1897
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died November 7, 1978(1978-11-07) (aged 81)
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 85 (17 NWS)
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 who competed from 1915 to 1928. He held the world heavyweight title from 1926 to 1928, and the American light heavyweight title twice, from 1922 to 1923. A highly technical boxer, Tunney had a five-fight rivalry with Harry Greb in which he won three, drew once, with one loss. He also knocked out Georges Carpentier and defeated Jack Dempsey twice; first in 1926 and again 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. He retired undefeated as a heavyweight after his victory over Tom Heeney in 1928, after which Tunney was named Fighter of the Year by The Ring magazine.

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. Tunney fought many other fights whose scoring was unofficial, judged by newspaper reporters. He also lost none of these "newspaper decisions." 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."[1]

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 married 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 who became a lawyer and served as District Attorney for Sonoma County, California for 20 years, 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.

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.[2]

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."[3]

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...",

In the 1932 boxing film Winner Take All, James Cagney's character Jimmy Kane—a has-been former champion trying to get educated—laments that William Shakespeare was "the one who ruined Gene Tunney."

Professional boxing record[edit]

Professional record summary
85 fights 65 wins 1 loss
By knockout 48 0
By decision 17 1
Draws 1
No contests 1
Newspaper decisions/draws 17
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
85 Win 65–1–1 (1) New Zealand Tom Heeney TKO 11 (15), 2:52 Jul 26, 1928 United States Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S. Retained NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
84 Win 64–1–1 (1) United States Jack Dempsey UD 10 Sep 22, 1927 United States Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Retained NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
83 Win 63–1–1 (1) United States Jack Dempsey UD 10 Sep 23, 1926 United States Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. Won NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
82 Win 62–1–1 (1) United States Dan O'Dowd KO 2 (10), 0:31 Dec 29, 1925 United States Waterfront Park, Saint Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
81 Win N/A United States Johnny Risko NWS 12 Nov 18, 1925 United States Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
80 Win 61–1–1 (1) Irish Free State Bartley Madden KO 3 (10) Sep 25, 1925 United States Indoor Hockey Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
79 Win 60–1–1 (1) United States Italian Jack Herman KO 2 (10) Jul 3, 1925 United States Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
78 Win 59–1–1 (1) United States Tommy Gibbons KO 12 (15) Jun 5, 1925 United States Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.
77 Win N/A United States Harry Greb NWS 10 Mar 27, 1925 United States Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
76 Win N/A United States Jeff Smith NWS 15 Dec 8, 1924 United States Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
75 Win 58–1–1 (1) United States Buddy McHale TKO 2 (8) Nov 10, 1924 United States Southern AC, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
74 Win 57–1–1 (1) United States Harry Foley TKO 1 (8), 2:05 Oct 27, 1924 United States Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
73 Win 56–1–1 (1) United States Ray Neuman PTS 10 Sep 27, 1924 United States Cambria County Fairgrounds, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
72 Draw N/A United States Harry Greb NWS 10 Sep 17, 1924 United States Olympic Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
71 Win 55–1–1 (1) United States Joe Lohman TKO 8 (12) Aug 18, 1924 United States Fairmont Arena, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
70 Win 54–1–1 (1) France Georges Carpentier TKO 15 (15), 0:14 Jul 24, 1924 United States Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.
69 Win 53–1–1 (1) Italy Erminio Spalla TKO 7 (12) Jun 26, 1924 United States Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S.
68 Win N/A United States Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 Mar 17, 1924 United States Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
67 Win 52–1–1 (1) United States Martin Burke PTS 15 Feb 15, 1924 United States Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
66 Win 51–1–1 (1) United States Ray Thompson KO 2 (10) Jan 24, 1924 United States Legion Arena, West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
65 Win N/A United States Harry Foley NWS 10 Jan 15, 1924 United States Coliseum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
64 Win 50–1–1 (1) United States Harry Greb UD 15 Dec 10, 1923 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Retained American light heavyweight title
63 Win 49–1–1 (1) United States Dan O'Dowd PTS 12 Jul 31, 1923 United States Queensboro Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S.
62 Win N/A United States Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 May 16, 1923 United States Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
61 Win 48–1–1 (1) United States Jack Clifford TKO 8 (10) May 7, 1923 United States Fairgrounds Coliseum, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
60 Win 47–1–1 (1) United States Harry Greb SD 15 Feb 23, 1923 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Won American light heavyweight title
59 Win 46–1–1 (1) United States Chuck Wiggins PTS 12 Feb 3, 1923 United States Commonwealth Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
58 NC 45–1–1 (1) Canada Jack Renault NC 4 (8) Jan 29, 1923 United States Philadelphia Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. NC after the referee deemed both boxers to be too inactive
57 Win 45–1–1 Austria Charley Weinert KO 4 (15) Nov 29, 1922 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
56 Win 44–1–1 United States Jack Hanlon KO 1 (12), 1:22 Nov 3, 1922 United States Clermont Avenue Rink, New York City, New York, U.S.
55 Win 43–1–1 United States Chuck Wiggins PTS 10 Oct 27, 1922 United States Commercial AC, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
54 Draw N/A United States Tommy Loughran NWS 8 Aug 24, 1922 United States Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
53 Win N/A Austria Charley Weinert NWS 12 Aug 17, 1922 United States Broad AC, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
52 Win 42–1–1 United States Ray Thompson KO 3 (10) Aug 4, 1922 United States Ocean Park Casino, Long Branch, New Jersey, U.S.
51 Win 41–1–1 United States Fay Keiser PTS 12 Jul 7, 1922 United States Rockaway Beach Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.
50 Loss 40–1–1 United States Harry Greb UD 15 May 23, 1922 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Lost American light heavyweight title
49 Win 40–0–1 United States Jack Burke TKO 9 (10) Apr 10, 1922 United States Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
48 Win N/A United States Fay Keiser NWS 10 Mar 3, 1922 United States Armory, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
47 Win 39–0–1 United States Whitey Wenzel TKO 4 (8) Feb 14, 1922 United States Ice Palace and Auditorium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
46 Win 38–0–1 United States Jack Clifford TKO 6 (12), 2:50 Feb 11, 1922 United States Clermont Avenue Rink, New York City, New York, U.S.
45 Win 37–0–1 United States Battling Levinsky PTS 12 Jan 13, 1922 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Won American light heavyweight title
44 Win 36–0–1 United States Eddie O'Hare KO 6 (8) Dec 22, 1921 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
43 Win 35–0–1 Norway Wolf Larsen TKO 7 (12), 1:35 Oct 25, 1921 United States Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
42 Win 34–0–1 United States Jack Burke TKO 3 (8) Oct 14, 1921 United States Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
41 Win 33–0–1 United Kingdom Herbert Crossley PTS 7 Sep 26, 1921 United States Dyckman Oval, New York City, New York, U.S.
40 Win 32–0–1 United States Eddie Josephs PTS 12 Aug 18, 1921 United States Sisco Park, New York City, New York, U.S.
39 Win 31–0–1 United States Martin Burke PTS 10 Aug 4, 1921 United States Dyckman Oval, New York City, New York, U.S.
38 Win 30–0–1 United States Soldier Jones TKO 7 (8) Jul 2, 1921 United States Boyle's Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
37 Win 29–0–1 United States Johnny Ambrose KO 1 (12), 2:45 Jun 28, 1921 United States Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
36 Win N/A United States Leo Houck NWS 10 Dec 7, 1920 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
35 Win N/A United States Leo Houck NWS 6 Nov 25, 1920 United States Olympia AC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
34 Win N/A Germany Paul Samson Koerner NWS 10 Oct 25, 1920 United States 6th Regiment Armory, Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
33 Win 28–0–1 United States Sgt. Ray Smith TKO 2 (8) Oct 22, 1920 United States Sportsman's Club, Camden, New Jersey, U.S.
32 Win 27–0–1 United States Ole Anderson TKO 3 (10), 0:40 Jun 28, 1920 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
31 Win 26–0–1 United States Jeff Madden TKO 2 (12) Jun 7, 1920 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
30 Win 25–0–1 United States Jack Clifford KO 3 (10) Apr 9, 1920 United States Community Hall, Johnson City, New York, U.S.
29 Win 24–0–1 United States K.O. Sullivan KO 1 (8), 2:15 Apr 5, 1920 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
28 Win 23–0–1 United States Ed Kinley KO 5 (8) Mar 4, 1920 United States Grand View Auditorium, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
27 Win 22–0–1 United States Al Roberts KO 8 (8), 1:06 Feb 2, 1920 United States 1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
26 Win 21–0–1 United States Jim Monahan TKO 1 (8), 2:50 Jan 26, 1920 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
25 Win 20–0–1 United States Bud Nelson KO 1 (8) Jan 20, 1920 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
24 Win 19–0–1 United States Whitey Allen KO 2 (8) Jan 1, 1920 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
23 Win 18–0–1 United States Bob Pearce KO 2 (8) Dec 29, 1919 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
22 Win N/A United States Dan O'Dowd NWS 8 Dec 16, 1919 United States Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
21 Win 17–0–1 United States Ted Jamieson PTS 10 Apr 26, 1919 France Cirque, Paris, France
20 Win 16–0–1 United States K.O. Sullivan PTS 10 Apr 14, 1919 France Paris, France
19 Win 15–0–1 France Dare Lewis KO 3 Mar 31, 1919 France Tours, France
18 Win 14–0–1 United States Bob Martin PTS 4 Jan 27, 1919 France Paris, France
17 Win 13–0–1 France Victor Marchand KO 2 Jan 10, 1919 France Paris, France
16 Draw 12–0–1 United States Tommy Gavigan PTS 10 Dec 20, 1918 France Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
15 Win 12–0 United States Howard Morrow KO 6 Dec 10, 1918 France Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
14 Win 11–0 United States Johnny Newton KO 6 Nov 20, 1918 France Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
13 Win 10–0 Hank Werhl KO 6 Nov 1, 1918 France Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
12 Win 9–0 United States Young Guerini KO 1 (8) Jul 8, 1918 United States 4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
11 Win 8–0 United States Virgin Islands Hugh Weir KO 2 (10) Jan 15, 1918 United States Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
10 Win 7–0 United States Joe Borrell KO 2 (10) Dec 28, 1917 United States New Polo AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
9 Win 6–0 United States Sailor Wolfe KO 2 (10) Dec 29, 1916 United States Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
8 Win N/A United States George Leahy NWS 6 Dec 22, 1916 United States Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
7 Win 5–0 United States Young Sharkey KO 6 (10) Dec 15, 1916 United States Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
6 Win 4–0 United States Young Guerini TKO 8 (10) Dec 8, 1916 United States Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
5 Draw N/A United States KO Jaffe NWS 10 Jul 21, 1916 United States New Polo AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
4 Win N/A United States Billy Rowe NWS 6 Dec 1, 1915 United States Fairmont AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
3 Win 3–0 United States George Leahy KO 2 (6) Aug 28, 1915 United States Fairmont AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
2 Win 2–0 United States Battling Genrimo KO 3 (10) Aug 6, 1915 United States Bowery Theatre, New York City, New York, U.S.
1 Win 1–0 United States Bobby Dawson TKO 8 (10) Jul 3, 1915 United States Sharkey AC, New York City, New York, U.S. Professional debut

Titles in boxing[edit]

World titles
Preceded by
Jack Dempsey
The Ring heavyweight champion
September 23, 1926 – July 31, 1928
Vacant
Title next held by
Max Schmeling
World heavyweight champion
September 23, 1926 – July 31, 1928

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tunney was Lumberjack for Ottawa Company". The Globe. September 28, 1926. p. 9. 
  2. ^ "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. 
  3. ^ Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait, The Biography Channel. March 26, 1999

External links[edit]