Great Boxers - Gene Tunney

Born 15th May, 1898 in the Old Greenwich village section of New York, Gene Tunney was a college man, seen by many as an "upper-class snob", who the public never accepted. He quoted, "I have not made a single friend since becoming champion." However, Tunney was brought up in a normal environment, not poverty stricken, but not significantly wealthy either. Growing up, he studied hard but did what others his age did, such as outdoor sports and using his fists when he needed to.

Becoming an all-round athlete at St. Veronica's school, he graduated and became a law student at New York University. Although Tunney joined the marines when enlisted for World War II, he had fought five professional preliminary fights already. After becoming known in his neighbourhood as a tough fighter, he was soon noticed by Billy Jacobs. Although his career was postponed by the war, in the marines, he realised his potential, winning the heavyweight company championship. He became determined to turn pro, observing Jack Dempsey and feeling he wasn't getting the recognition he deserved. Having defeated Harry Greb, Tommy Gibbons and Battling Levinsky, he became the American light heavyweight champion.

After 17 bouts without a loss, he prepared for his showdown with the heavyweight king, Jack Dempsey. Sesquicentennial Stadium on 23rd September 1926 was packed with a crowd of 120,757 to see one of the most anticipated sporting events in history. Although Dempsey was on the constant attack, Tunney took advantage of the rain making the canvas in the ring wet, hindering Dempsey. Having opened a gash near Dempsey's left eye by the final bell, Tunney became the champion by unanimous decision. At that time he was the better boxer, quicker and younger. Dempsey's reply to his wife when she asked him why he lost, "Honey, I forgot to Duck!"

Having defeated Dempsey twice, Tunney retired a millionaire at the age of 30. He was the only heavyweight champion ever to give up his title still undefeated. Tunney stood 6'0", weighing 192lbs. Known as the "Fighting Marine", he was never actually knocked out and only lost one of 76 fights.

Planning his fights step-by-step, he had tremendous courage and determination. He was possibly the greatest pure boxer among heavyweights, but could also punch. He was devoted to fitness and always in great shape. He was however always unpopular, especially for winning the title from Dempsey and choosing circles of friends such as writers and professors, those who were prominent socially.

Fighting from 1915-1928, Tunney's record stands at 77 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws and 45 knockouts. There is no doubt that he was one of the most underrated champions in history.