The Reincarnation of Gene Tunney?

By Robert Ecksel on July 17, 2014
The Reincarnation of Gene Tunney?
The problem with Algieri, if it’s indeed a problem, is that he’s a boxer and not a slugger.

Rather than leave well enough alone, Bob Arum gilded the lily by claiming that Algieri is the “reincarnation of Gene Tunney…”

Chris Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs), the college-educated underdog from Huntington, New York, shocked the world when he defeated Ruslan Provodnikov on June 14 at the Barclays Center. Some said it couldn’t be done, and some say that it wasn’t done, that the Siberian Rocky, who pressed the action, however ineffectively, was robbed.

But what others think needn’t concern Manny Pacquiao and Bob Arum. Manny needs an opponent to fight in Macau, and who better than an undefeated kid without power and a backstory with legs?

On Nov. 22 at the Venetian Hotel-Casino in Macau, China, WBO welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KOs) defends his title against Chris Algieri, the “little known” WBO junior welterweight champion. Algieri isn’t “little known” in this neck of the woods, not after outsmarting Provodnikov on HBO, and he’ll be even less “little known” after he tangles with Manny.

But however known or little known Algieri may be, few seem pleased that he’s been chosen to fight Pacquiao. They may not want to see Manny fight Juan Manuel Marquez for the umpteenth time. And they surely aren’t interested in watching another fight with Timothy Bradley. But Algieri, perhaps because he’s “little known,” has been deemed inappropriate, undeserving, and just too darn boring to give the time of day.

The problem with Algieri, if it’s indeed a problem, is that he’s a boxer and not a slugger, and boxers are held in low regard these days. If he were Cuban like Guillermo Rigondeaux and Erislandy Lara, the displeasure would sound with the full-bodied gusto that jingoism encourages. But Algieri is American, a red-blooded American, a red-blooded white American, so grumbling has replaced a full frontal assault.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum has heard the grumbling and brushes it off like lint.

“I think it’s an interesting fight between him and Manny,” Arum said. “I’m excited. This is a college-educated kid, a good boxer, the kind of kid who will draw interest other than the just the hardcore boxing fan. And the kid can also fight.”

All that is true. But rather than leave well enough alone, Arum, gilding the lily for Telegraph Sport, said that Algieri is like the “reincarnation of Gene Tunney.”

That’s an interesting statement. I thought I knew Arum fairly well, but had no idea he believed in reincarnation. That explains a lot of things, none of which occur to me at the moment. But questions do arise. For example, did Bob Arum turn Buddhist when no one was looking? And if Algieri is the “reincarnation of Gene Tunney,” who, pray tell, is Arum the reincarnation of?

“He’s a college kid,” continued Arum, “he’s articulate, he could be a medical doctor. Give me those kind of guys in this sport.”

Tunney was articulate. He and Algieri have that in common. Tunney could have been a doctor, had the lure of Wall Street not been so tempting. Another similarity is that Algieri, like Tunney in his prime, has failed to win the hearts and minds of fickle fight fans.

History has been kind to Tunney. Maybe history will be kind to Algieri. But as far as Chris Algieri being the “reincarnation of Gene Tunney,” I don’t think so, however flattering the thought.

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  1. Tex Hassler 02:14pm, 07/20/2014

    When Algieri has 80 plus fights and loses only one like Tunney then we can make a comparison. That said I do not mean to take away from Algieri, just that he has not really proven himself at this point with only 20 fights.

  2. Eric 08:07am, 07/19/2014

    Oops. Probably should’ve included Sam Langford in there somewhere. Forgot about “The Boston Terror.” I would place Langford at #6 and drop Conn and everyone else a notch. Fitzsimmons was beating heavyweights while weighing less than today’s light heavyweight limit, so you could even make a case for Fitz in the top 10.

  3. Eric 07:22am, 07/19/2014

    @Franklin….I believe Tunney fought Greb 5 times, with a final tally 3-1-1 against the Pittsburgh Windmill. One of those 3 wins against Greb was disputed, however. Tunney also fought and beat Georges Carpentier, Tommy Loughran, Battling Levinsky, Jim Delaney, and Tommy Gibbons. That is quite an impressive list of light heavys that came up short against Gene. I would rank the top light heavies as follows:

    1. Tunney
    2. Charles
    3. Moore
    4. Spinks
    5. Foster
    6. Conn
    7. Tommy Loughran
    8. Harry Greb
    9. Roy Jones
    10. Georges Carpentier

  4. FrankinDallas 08:12pm, 07/18/2014

    Tunney beat Harry Grebb twice. I’m just saying.

  5. George Thomas Clark 04:40pm, 07/18/2014

    Archie started his career at a lower weight and those guys and, though he was strong - even as an old man when he slapped my arms to demonstrate some moves - he also had some flab… Tunney, Charles, and Spinks were cut much better…

  6. Eric 03:55pm, 07/18/2014

    Of the four, Archie is the only one to not capture the big prize. Ironic in a way because Archie was probably naturally bigger than Spinks, Tunney, and Charles.

  7. George Thomas Clark 01:27pm, 07/18/2014

    I think it gets down to Tunney, Charles, and Spinks.  If it’s a four-man tournament, then Archie gets the final spot.

  8. Eric 12:06pm, 07/18/2014

    I would place Foster in the fifth slot. Bob “The Beast” Foster, just didn’t face the same competition that the others faced. Charles, and Moore faced major competition in both the heavy and light heavy divisions. Tunney had a relatively brief stay at heavy, but his two near shutout victories over Dempsey speak volumes, but Gene, like Charles and Moore faced some very talented fighters at 175. Spinks faced a more talented opposition than Foster as well, having fought in arguably the best light heavy era ever. Hard to top the list of victims that Spinks defeated at 175lbs, they included Mustafa Muhammad, Marvin Johnson, Yaqui Lopez, Dwight Qawi, Eddie Davis, Murray Sutherland, Vonzell Johnson, etc. Foster fought some good fighters like an undersized Dick Tiger, Roger Rouse, Pierre Fourie, Quarry, Ahumada, Chris Finnegan, etc., but this list pales in comparison to the list of opponents that Moore, Spinks, Charles, and Tunney defeated. Head to head, I don’t see Bob beating anyone of the other four fighters. The Foster left hook probably had more power than the Spinks Jinx but overall Bob is a solid fifth. Best puncher ever at 175, but not the best fighter.

  9. George Thomas Clark 10:10am, 07/18/2014

    Eric - What a tournament Tunney, Charles, Moore, Foster, and Spinks would make.  Each guy fights the other once, four fights total for each.  Then, if two have emerged, they’d fight for the all time light heavy title.  Of course, much as I love the Mongoose, I have to emphasize that Ezzard Charles, who’d already decisioned him twice and knocked him out once, would again be victorious.  So Archie would have to hope that Spinks or Tunney could outpoint Charles and get him out of the tournament..  There’s no way to settle this tournament but in the ring.

  10. Eric 10:04am, 07/18/2014

    A lot of lists have recently been rating heavyweight champs Tunney and Charles as the top two all time light heavyweight champs. Until recently, Archie Moore was routinely acknowledged as the greatest light heavy, occasionally Foster and Spinks would get a vote or two in their favor. I would say that Tunney is the greatest 175lber, followed by Charles. Moore and Spinks is a tough, tough call, could go either way for the 3 & 4 slots.

  11. George Thomas Clark 08:57am, 07/18/2014

    Tunney was an authoritative puncher who recorded 48 knockouts.  Dempsey said after his first fight with Tunney that Tunney hit him early with an overhand right and he never really recovered.  I would liken Tunney’s punching, on a pound for pound basis, to Ali’s punching.  People said they couldn’t hit but few of the people doing the talking were in the ring with them, getting busted up.

  12. Eric 07:55am, 07/18/2014

    Watched some of the Dempsey-Tunney video provided. Tunney made Dempsey look like a plodding ordinary fighter in that fight. Not so sure if Jack ever had the right style to deal with Tunney even in his prime.

  13. Eric 07:09am, 07/18/2014

    Wlad Klitschko would be far more similar to Gene Tunney than Algieri. Tunney wasn’t born a natural fighter both made himself one through patience, tireless training, devoting himself to each and every detail in making himself a world class fighter. Wlad looks like a “manufactered” fighter just like Tunney, and probably took the same route in making himself a great fighter. Both Wlad and Tunney could have been successful in less physically demanding occupations had they chosen. Dr. Klitschko and Mr. Tunney could’ve just as easily became an attorney, a history professor, etc., rather than the heavyweight champion of the world. Both Tunney and Wlad were blessed with matinee idol good looks so both men might have even made a go of it in the movies. Tunney, while not known as a puncher, had an underrated hurtful punch that did carry some respectable power behind it. Tunney was such a great defensive boxer that many consider him to be a light puncher. While Tunney was no Dempsey in punching power, he wasn’t a featherfist by any means. Tunney was a respectable puncher and he could get you out of there.

  14. Stephanie 02:59am, 07/18/2014

    Arum: »a good boxer, the kind of kid who will draw interest other than the just the hardcore boxing fan« I’m laughing myself to tears.

    (Would you let your granny buy a used car from Arum?)

  15. Clarence George 02:46am, 07/18/2014

    I don’t see the slightest resemblance between Algieri and Tunney.  Because Algieri is a college boy?  What does that have to do with Tunney, who didn’t know college from a collage?  He was intelligent, and educated himself in a variety of ways and areas, yes, but he was no college boy.  And his fancy way of talking shouldn’t fool anyone—his was a hard background and he was as tough as they come.

    As for Pacquiao-Algieri…it neither appeals nor makes sense.  Will it help prepare the Filipino for a bout with Mayweather, as GTC suggests?  Perhaps, I suppose, but I for one don’t think there’s much more resemblance between Algieri and Mayweather than there is between Algieri and Tunney.  Besides, I don’t think Mayweather-Pacquiao will ever happen.  And it wouldn’t prove much if it did—years past its due date.

  16. George Thomas Clark 10:27pm, 07/17/2014

    If Manny’s going to fight Floyd next spring, as some hint, then it’ll be good for him to go against a slick boxer.

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