Gene Tunney Returns

By George Thomas Clark on July 8, 2013
Gene Tunney Returns
I formulated a plan years before we fought. I perceived that he could be hit by right hands.

I’m James Joseph Tunney, friend of Shakespeare and other Muses, but you may call me Gene as I blister Messrs. Tyson, W. Klitschko, and George Foreman…

I see Jack Dempsey thinks Shakespeare and I have been hobnobbing in literary heaven. Actually, the truth is rather more mundane. I’ve been competing against experienced thespians, outperforming the louts, and am scheduled to debut as Hamlet, but restrictive political and economic circumstances as well as dreadful sanitation in early 17th century England have compelled me to accept a hundred million guarantee to reclaim my youth and career as an undefeated pugilist dedicated to deflating the engorged prima donnas of today.

My instincts urge me to retain my former physique and fight as what’s now called cruiserweight, a division in which I’d be nigh on invincible. Who could compete? If any of the many current cruiser champs wants to find out, he must immediately move into the heavyweight division since as before I’ve resolved to become the ultimate champion, even in its current dimension. I therefore accept the new standards of nutrition and training and establish a target weight. Standing six-feet and spanning 77 inches, I feel 210 muscular pounds, 20 more than before, are prudent.

To my most ardent critics—generally those who never fought me—I say that my already authoritative punching, which produced 48 knockouts, will be enhanced by additional long and lean muscle, and that my unsurpassed boxing skills will make me difficult to hit. Look at the films. I bounced and moved and fired as well as the young Ali. This style developed quite naturally in the physical sense, and also accorded with my conviction that only unwise men stand and trade with fellows who hit just as hard. Thus, at propitious moments I slid in, unloaded, and glided away.

Please do not interpret my confidence as arrogance. I am a prudent man who took risks only after contemplation. For Jack Dempsey, I formulated a plan years before we first fought. I perceived that he could be hit by right hands, but I bore a chronically sore knuckle. On a 1920 afternoon as I rode the ferry toward my hometown, New York City, I noticed the broad frame of new and celebrated champion Mr. Dempsey. I marched over and introduced myself as a campaigning professional, still rather slender, and was greeted warmly so told the champ about my ailment. Instantly, in two huge gentle paws he took my injured right and examined the swollen knuckle, rubbing it carefully, and advised me to add extra tape to the right and left of the distended knuckle, thus diverting energy of impact into padded areas. I followed instructions, and also fought regularly while the champion celebrated in London, Paris, and Los Angeles. After 1923 he failed to fight for three years. I meanwhile added weight and muscle. Then I twice tattooed Mr. Dempsey.

Today, using legal scientific means, I may accelerate the weight gain, but I shan’t debut against Tyson or Ali or Foreman or Louis or either Klitschko. I’ll first take on two top thirty current heavyweights, then two top twenties, and ultimately two top tens before I drive the first spike into Mt. Rushmore. At this time, with all luminaries receiving nine-figure bonuses, I cannot promise who I’ll first fight. But, in confidence, I can reveal a few of my tactical plans.

Against Tyson I assuredly won’t stand and trade. I’ll jab and move and nail him with the overhand right that, after our first fight, Dempsey said he never really recovered from. Mr. Tyson is a grand fighter. If I err, I’ll fall. Danger I’ll avoid by being forever cautious, except when aggression is needed. Then I’ll fire rapid rights and lefts. I do not believe this powerful young man will see my punches, which are as fast as any those of any middleweight. Whatever Tyson sees earlier he’ll be blind to later. Top drawer stamina is not among his many gifts.

I’m intrigued by Wladimir Klitschko and not inclined to delude myself he’s another Jess Willard or Primo Carnera. No, Mr. Klitschko is a modern beast, superbly conditioned, alarmingly muscular, and skilled as a boxer. Against this gentleman I will frequently dance outside his reach, which at 81 inches is not terribly greater than my own, and when he throws his long and admittedly quick punches, I’ll dodge or duck and shoot inside to pound his body and lash his head, and then disappear until I punish him again. He’ll get tired. He’ll get frustrated. He won’t catch me. He’ll catch more leather.

No sane man could underestimate George Foreman who, to my eyes—forget the scale—is bigger and stronger than either Klitschko. I shan’t charge him and be bounced around like Joe Frazier. I shan’t freeze like a Ken Norton deer in headlights. I’ll make Mr. Foreman work. He’ll work to pursue me. He’ll work as I slip his pile-driving left jabs. He’ll tire as I dodge or block his sweeping rights. He’ll first flinch and later stumble as I pummel him with right crosses and left hooks. I’ve seen his Jimmy Young fight thirty times. I’ve seen his Tommy Morrison fight at least twenty. Don’t you think I can do what those guys did?

I’m James Joseph Tunney, friend of Shakespeare and other Muses, but you may call me Gene as I blister Messrs. Tyson, W. Klitschko, and Foreman. And then I sense I’m going to fence with Ali. He’s a kindred warrior. So is Larry Holmes. But I won’t presume to fight Holmes. That’s the duty of young Ali, to avenge the wounds inflicted on his elder self. Thus, Ali and I will be the final survivors as this high-tech war climaxes. I believe the world will watch.

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  1. George Thomas Clark 05:31pm, 07/18/2013

    Tex - I’d love to see Tunney against some of the heavies who followed.  Today, without adding to his 187 pounds, he’d be a cruiserweight.  Give him 20 more pounds and he’d still be gliding and dodging as well as dropping heavyweight bombs.

  2. Tex Hassler 05:17pm, 07/18/2013

    Gene Tunney was vastly underrated as a fighter. He may have been an intellectual but he was a fighter from his radiator to his tail lights. He took his profession seriously.  80 plus fights and he was never ko’d says a lot. He fought often and trained hard. He would not be an easy fight for any heavyweight that ever lived.

  3. Michael Hegan 07:07pm, 07/10/2013

    Tunney was the best of his time…and few folks enjoyed that.

  4. Michael Hegan 07:05pm, 07/10/2013

    George Thomas Clark…..I really enjoyed this write…...never saw Willard’s comeback..he was thirty when he took his first fight…over forty when he tried to make the comeback…..
    instead of tomato cans…he went up against the best of the day…and , did pretty good….for as long as it went…
    Firpo was a beast..


  5. Michael Hegan 06:59pm, 07/10/2013

    Tunney just didn’t fit the ‘stereotype’ of what a professional fighter…was supposed to be….according the the scribes of the day.

    Skilled and ring wise…unquestionably….but he didn’t do the night life…read Shakespeare…was as interested in the stock market as other fighters were about hot spots and hot babes.

    Refused to be sucked in by the press of the day…and that worsened his reviews.

    Beat the tuffest fkr in Boxing….twice !!  Gene Tunney could have kept on..but he knew when to leave.  His interests were drifting, and that is no way to step into a professional fight…

    Besides…what did he have to prove anyway .

  6. GlennR 03:35pm, 07/09/2013

    With you on this Eric.
    To put it simply, we’re bigger these days and i think that MMA has (successfully) acknowledged this.

    Im personally sitting here weighing 194lb’s right on 6ft, but im hardly big by todays standard…. im average to be honest.

    I think an adjustment would be a great idea

  7. George Thomas Clark 01:53pm, 07/09/2013

    More on weight - Mayweather stipulated that Canelo Alvarez come down two pounds from 154 to 152…  These kinds of micro-assessments are made all the time for mid-size guys.  Yet, for a century mid-size guys - more than 175 - have had to yield 20 to 40 pounds or more to guys who should be a different division.

  8. George Thomas Clark 01:33pm, 07/09/2013

    Good call, Eric.  Boxing’s divisions have long needed adjusting.  Even years ago a boxer 180 to 190 pounds had to take on men far too big.  Check out the recent article on Joe Frazier, then scroll down and watch Frazier batter 190-pound Terry Daniels.  Daniels would’ve been a good cruiserweight.but was too damn small for the heavies…

  9. Eric 01:22pm, 07/09/2013

    Tunney would have been an ideal cruiserweight as would many other former heavyweight greats. Don’t know why the cruiserweight division continues to be the “bastard” of boxing’s weight classes. It is the only “tweener” division that actually makes sense. I know it borders on blasphemy but maybe boxing should adopt MMA style “weight divisions” and have the light heavyweight limit at 205lbs and middleweight at 185lbs and so on. Face it, a 205lb fighter is really a “light heavyweight” today.

  10. Darrell 03:26am, 07/09/2013

    As the saying goes, “Get your retaliation in first.”!  That seemed to be Tunney’s strategy against Dempsey, good strategy too.

  11. George Thomas Clark 08:41pm, 07/08/2013

    Watch the restored edition of Dempsey-Tunney 1 (above) - Tunney’s a brilliant boxer, perhaps as clever as anyone ever.  But he’d be a cruiserweight today, and that’s not a criticism.  The alternative would be to try a Holyfield-like weight-gaining program.

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