The Champ!

Written by on July 2, 2018

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS July 2, 2018, #699…The Champ!
After further review…“It was an odd and intriguing book about an odd friendship and a strange and intriguing life” said Christopher Newton, in the forward to “The Prizefighter and the Playwright” authored by Jay R. Tunney. Jay said that his father, Gene Tunney, heavyweight boxing champion, and George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright were, indeed, best of friends. Odd, in that, it seemed unusual for a world-renowned playwright to have much in common with someone whose career was in the boxing ring. That’s where the intrigue lies.
Gene Tunney, heavyweight boxing champion, whose fame was highlighted by his defeat of Jack Dempsey in a boxing match at Chicago’s Soldier Field on September 22, 1927, held the World Heavyweight title from 1926 – 1928, retiring after he defeated Tom Heeney that year. He was the first of five heavyweights who retired without suffering a stoppage defeat, He was never knocked out and only knocked down once (by Dempsey in that “long count” fight). Tunney’s boxing style was not one of a “fighter” (slug-fest). Rather, he studied his opponent and preferred to stay outside, nullifying any attacks by using quick counters and jabs to the body keeping his opponents off-balance. He was known as a “thinking boxer,” not a slugger, which was popular in those days.
What makes the champ so interesting to me is that since I was about five, people have asked if I was “the son of the boxer?” I answered then, as now, I am not, although we carry the same given name: James Joseph Tunney, with me being JJT, III, – my dad having the same name. The champ has always interested me as I admired a man who could walk away from his game, while still on top. In 1960 I was fortunate to meet him in LaGuardia Airport (NY), to introduce myself.
Recently, I spent time with Jay R. Tunney, the author, who is the third son of the champ. Gene had 4 children with Polly Lauder, whose grandfather was George Lauder, first cousin and business partner of Andrew Carnegie. I am fortunate to have been born into a family with the name of Tunney. The intrigue for me was the champ’s intellect and study of literature that possessed George Bernard Shaw to seek him out and maintain a life-long friendship.
Will you grant me the self-indulgence to relate how fortunate I have been?
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Living the Life – Up and To the Right

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