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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 between 1922 and 1923. A highly technical boxer, Tunney had a five-fight rivalry with Harry Greb in which he won three, drew once, and lost once. 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.

Gene Tunney
Gene Tunney Portrait LOC.jpg
Tunney c. 1925
Statistics
Real name James Joseph Tunney
Nickname(s) The Fighting Marine
Weight(s)
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)
Greenwich, Connecticut, U.S.
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 85 (17 NWS)
Wins 65
Wins by KO 48
Losses 1
Draws 1
No contests 1

Contents

BackgroundEdit

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 (1934-2018), 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 Wilkinson 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, 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.

The Tunney CupEdit

In 1928, the U.S. Marine Corps presented – as a sign of friendship – a challenge cup to the Corps of Royal Marines, in the hope it might be competed for by Royal Marines association football teams.[2][3] The Royal Marines named the trophy the "Tunney Cup," in honor of then–USMC Captain Tunney, who, with Sergeant Major Charles R. Francis, presented the trophy on behalf of the U.S. Marine Corps.[2][3]

DeathEdit

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

Fighting styleEdit

 
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.[citation needed]

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. 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 was never knocked out, while only ever being knocked down once, that in his second fight with Dempsey in the infamous Long Count. This makes him one of only five Heavyweight champions, alongside Rocky Marciano, Riddick Bowe, Sultan Ibragimov and Nicolai Valuev to retire without ever suffering a stoppage defeat. Tunney, along with Marciano, Lewis and Vitali Klitschko is one of four heavyweight champions to have retired as champion and to have ended their career with a win in a world title fight. Having avenged his only defeat to Harry Greb with whom he also drew), Tunney joins Ingemar Johansson, Rocky Marciano, Lennox Lewis and Riddick Bowe as the only five heavyweight champions to have retired while holding a victory over every opponent he faced as a professional (barring no-contests).[citation needed]

PublicationsEdit

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

Cultural referencesEdit

 
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...",

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 recordEdit

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)   Tom Heeney TKO 11 (15), 2:52 Jul 26, 1928   Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S. Retained NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
84 Win 64–1–1 (1)   Jack Dempsey UD 10 Sep 22, 1927   Soldier Field, Chicago, Illinois, U.S. Retained NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
83 Win 63–1–1 (1)   Jack Dempsey UD 10 Sep 23, 1926   Sesquicentennial Stadium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. Won NBA, The Ring, and world heavyweight titles
82 Win 62–1–1 (1)   Dan O'Dowd KO 2 (10), 0:31 Dec 29, 1925   Waterfront Park, Saint Petersburg, Florida, U.S.
81 Win N/A   Johnny Risko NWS 12 Nov 18, 1925   Public Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
80 Win 61–1–1 (1)   Bartley Madden KO 3 (10) Sep 25, 1925   Indoor Hockey Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
79 Win 60–1–1 (1)   Italian Jack Herman KO 2 (10) Jul 3, 1925   Memorial Hall, Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
78 Win 59–1–1 (1)   Tommy Gibbons KO 12 (15) Jun 5, 1925   Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.
77 Win N/A   Harry Greb NWS 10 Mar 27, 1925   Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
76 Win N/A   Jeff Smith NWS 15 Dec 8, 1924   Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
75 Win 58–1–1 (1)   Buddy McHale TKO 2 (8) Nov 10, 1924   Southern AC, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
74 Win 57–1–1 (1)   Harry Foley TKO 1 (8), 2:05 Oct 27, 1924   Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
73 Win 56–1–1 (1)   Ray Neuman PTS 10 Sep 27, 1924   Cambria County Fairgrounds, Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, U.S.
72 Draw N/A   Harry Greb NWS 10 Sep 17, 1924   Olympic Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.
71 Win 55–1–1 (1)   Joe Lohman TKO 8 (12) Aug 18, 1924   Fairmont Arena, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
70 Win 54–1–1 (1)   Georges Carpentier TKO 15 (15), 0:14 Jul 24, 1924   Polo Grounds, New York City, New York, U.S.
69 Win 53–1–1 (1)   Erminio Spalla TKO 7 (12) Jun 26, 1924   Yankee Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S.
68 Win N/A   Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 Mar 17, 1924   Auditorium, Saint Paul, Minnesota, U.S.
67 Win 52–1–1 (1)   Martin Burke PTS 15 Feb 15, 1924   Coliseum Arena, New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
66 Win 51–1–1 (1)   Ray Thompson KO 2 (10) Jan 24, 1924   Legion Arena, West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
65 Win N/A   Harry Foley NWS 10 Jan 15, 1924   Coliseum, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
64 Win 50–1–1 (1)   Harry Greb UD 15 Dec 10, 1923   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Retained American light heavyweight title
63 Win 49–1–1 (1)   Dan O'Dowd PTS 12 Jul 31, 1923   Queensboro Stadium, New York City, New York, U.S.
62 Win N/A   Jimmy Delaney NWS 10 May 16, 1923   Chicago Coliseum, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
61 Win 48–1–1 (1)   Jack Clifford TKO 8 (10) May 7, 1923   Fairgrounds Coliseum, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
60 Win 47–1–1 (1)   Harry Greb SD 15 Feb 23, 1923   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Won American light heavyweight title
59 Win 46–1–1 (1)   Chuck Wiggins PTS 12 Feb 3, 1923   Commonwealth Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
58 NC 45–1–1 (1)   Jack Renault NC 4 (8) Jan 29, 1923   Philadelphia Arena, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. NC after the referee deemed both boxers to be too inactive
57 Win 45–1–1   Charley Weinert KO 4 (15) Nov 29, 1922   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
56 Win 44–1–1   Jack Hanlon KO 1 (12), 1:22 Nov 3, 1922   Clermont Avenue Rink, New York City, New York, U.S.
55 Win 43–1–1   Chuck Wiggins PTS 10 Oct 27, 1922   Commercial AC, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
54 Draw N/A   Tommy Loughran NWS 8 Aug 24, 1922   Shibe Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
53 Win N/A   Charley Weinert NWS 12 Aug 17, 1922   Broad AC, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
52 Win 42–1–1   Ray Thompson KO 3 (10) Aug 4, 1922   Ocean Park Casino, Long Branch, New Jersey, U.S.
51 Win 41–1–1   Fay Keiser PTS 12 Jul 7, 1922   Rockaway Beach Arena, New York City, New York, U.S.
50 Loss 40–1–1   Harry Greb UD 15 May 23, 1922   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Lost American light heavyweight title
49 Win 40–0–1   Jack Burke TKO 9 (10) Apr 10, 1922   Motor Square Garden, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
48 Win N/A   Fay Keiser NWS 10 Mar 3, 1922   Armory, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.
47 Win 39–0–1   Whitey Wenzel TKO 4 (8) Feb 14, 1922   Ice Palace and Auditorium, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
46 Win 38–0–1   Jack Clifford TKO 6 (12), 2:50 Feb 11, 1922   Clermont Avenue Rink, New York City, New York, U.S.
45 Win 37–0–1   Battling Levinsky PTS 12 Jan 13, 1922   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S. Won American light heavyweight title
44 Win 36–0–1   Eddie O'Hare KO 6 (8) Dec 22, 1921   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
43 Win 35–0–1   Wolf Larsen TKO 7 (12), 1:35 Oct 25, 1921   Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
42 Win 34–0–1   Jack Burke TKO 3 (8) Oct 14, 1921   Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
41 Win 33–0–1   Herbert Crossley PTS 7 Sep 26, 1921   Dyckman Oval, New York City, New York, U.S.
40 Win 32–0–1   Eddie Josephs PTS 12 Aug 18, 1921   Sisco Park, New York City, New York, U.S.
39 Win 31–0–1   Martin Burke PTS 10 Aug 4, 1921   Dyckman Oval, New York City, New York, U.S.
38 Win 30–0–1   Soldier Jones TKO 7 (8) Jul 2, 1921   Boyle's Thirty Acres, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
37 Win 29–0–1   Johnny Ambrose KO 1 (12), 2:45 Jun 28, 1921   Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
36 Win N/A   Leo Houck NWS 10 Dec 7, 1920   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
35 Win N/A   Leo Houck NWS 6 Nov 25, 1920   Olympia AC, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
34 Win N/A   Paul Samson Koerner NWS 10 Oct 25, 1920   6th Regiment Armory, Paterson, New Jersey, U.S.
33 Win 28–0–1   Sgt. Ray Smith TKO 2 (8) Oct 22, 1920   Sportsman's Club, Camden, New Jersey, U.S.
32 Win 27–0–1   Ole Anderson TKO 3 (10), 0:40 Jun 28, 1920   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
31 Win 26–0–1   Jeff Madden TKO 2 (12) Jun 7, 1920   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
30 Win 25–0–1   Jack Clifford KO 3 (10) Apr 9, 1920   Community Hall, Johnson City, New York, U.S.
29 Win 24–0–1   K.O. Sullivan KO 1 (8), 2:15 Apr 5, 1920   1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
28 Win 23–0–1   Ed Kinley KO 5 (8) Mar 4, 1920   Grand View Auditorium, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
27 Win 22–0–1   Al Roberts KO 8 (8), 1:06 Feb 2, 1920   1st Regiment Armory, Newark, New Jersey, U.S.
26 Win 21–0–1   Jim Monahan TKO 1 (8), 2:50 Jan 26, 1920   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
25 Win 20–0–1   Bud Nelson KO 1 (8) Jan 20, 1920   Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
24 Win 19–0–1   Whitey Allen KO 2 (8) Jan 1, 1920   Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
23 Win 18–0–1   Bob Pearce KO 2 (8) Dec 29, 1919   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
22 Win N/A   Dan O'Dowd NWS 8 Dec 16, 1919   Schuetzen Park, Bayonne, New Jersey, U.S.
21 Win 17–0–1   Ted Jamieson PTS 10 Apr 26, 1919   Cirque, Paris, France
20 Win 16–0–1   K.O. Sullivan PTS 10 Apr 14, 1919   Paris, France
19 Win 15–0–1   Dare Lewis KO 3 Mar 31, 1919   Tours, France
18 Win 14–0–1   Bob Martin PTS 4 Jan 27, 1919   Paris, France
17 Win 13–0–1   Victor Marchand KO 2 Jan 10, 1919   Paris, France
16 Draw 12–0–1   Tommy Gavigan PTS 10 Dec 20, 1918   Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
15 Win 12–0   Howard Morrow KO 6 Dec 10, 1918   Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
14 Win 11–0   Johnny Newton KO 6 Nov 20, 1918   Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
13 Win 10–0 Hank Werhl KO 6 Nov 1, 1918   Romorantin-Lanthenay, France
12 Win 9–0   Young Guerini KO 1 (8) Jul 8, 1918   4th Regiment Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.
11 Win 8–0   Hugh Weir KO 2 (10) Jan 15, 1918   Pioneer Sporting Club, New York City, New York, U.S.
10 Win 7–0   Joe Borrell KO 2 (10) Dec 28, 1917   New Polo AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
9 Win 6–0   Sailor Wolfe KO 2 (10) Dec 29, 1916   Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
8 Win N/A   George Leahy NWS 6 Dec 22, 1916   Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
7 Win 5–0   Young Sharkey KO 6 (10) Dec 15, 1916   Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
6 Win 4–0   Young Guerini TKO 8 (10) Dec 8, 1916   Miners 8th St Theater, New York City, New York, U.S.
5 Draw N/A   KO Jaffe NWS 10 Jul 21, 1916   New Polo AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
4 Win N/A   Billy Rowe NWS 6 Dec 1, 1915   Fairmont AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
3 Win 3–0   George Leahy KO 2 (6) Aug 28, 1915   Fairmont AC, New York City, New York, U.S.
2 Win 2–0   Battling Genrimo KO 3 (10) Aug 6, 1915   Bowery Theatre, New York City, New York, U.S.
1 Win 1–0   Bobby Dawson TKO 8 (10) Jul 3, 1915   Sharkey AC, New York City, New York, U.S. Professional debut

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Tunney was Lumberjack for Ottawa Company". The Globe. September 28, 1926. p. 9. 
  2. ^ a b Foster, Shaun. "A Brief History of the Royal Marines Football Association". Royal Marines Football Association. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  3. ^ a b "The USMC Challenge Trophy (The Tunney Cup)". Royal Marines Football Association. Retrieved 2017-03-14. 
  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

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
World boxing 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