Tunney, Gene

Tunney, Gene (James Joseph Tunney), 1898–1978, American boxer, b. New York City. He began boxing in neighborhood clubs as a youngster. In World War I, he served in the U.S. marines and while in Paris won (1919) the light-heavyweight championship of the American Expeditionary Forces. In 1922 he defeated Battling Levinsky for the American light-heavyweight title, but lost it the same year to Harry Greb—the only fighter to defeat Tunney in the professional ring. Tunney regained the title in 1923. The well-proportioned, handsome, and intellectually inclined Tunney generally fought standing straight up and was known as a powerful counterpuncher. In 1926, he defeated Jack Dempsey in a 10-round decision in Philadelphia and became the world heavyweight champion. In Chicago a year later, Tunney repeated this performance in a return bout with Dempsey; the decision was the subject of much controversy because of the famous “long count” after Tunney was knocked down in the seventh round and Dempsey at first failed to move to a neutral corner. Tunney retired from the ring as heavyweight champion in 1928. In World War II he served (1940–45) in the U.S. navy, directing the program to keep naval personnel physically fit. After the war he successfully engaged in business. He wrote A Man Must Fight (1932) and Arms for Living (1942).

See biography by J. Cavanaugh (2006).

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