The Montana Standard
3 Feb 1929
A curious thing about the heavyweight fighting champions is that no two have been alike. Sullivan was a roaring brawler, Corbett a suave and clever showman, Fitzsimmons the
ring's greatest general and hardest hitter, Jeffries a good-natured Hercules; Burns a bold and crafty small man who didn't dodge big ones, Johnson a master of defense who won by
waiting, Dempsey a rip-snorting one round knocker-out, utterly reckless, and, at his best, most sensational of them all.
Gene Tunney was a different type entirely. A complex type not easily described or understood. Even now that Tunney has played his part, achieved exactly the kind of success he wanted, and dropped disdainfully out of the game that made him, I doubt that anyone really knows him.
Tunney has close friends. They're few in number, partly because he never went out of his way to make friends except among those who could help his climb to the position he has now reached.
It was easy to know and appreciate the good qualities of a Jeffries or a Fitzsimmons, who were friends of all the world because of their rugged honesty and simplicity. Dempsey's friendly courtesy and lack of conceit made even his enemies into friends whenever he met them. The world saw the real Dempsey in the past few weeks, throwing everything else aside to work for his dead "pal," Tex Rickard. Dempsey always gives you the impression that he thinks of himself last.
Gene First and Last,
And that is where Tunney is different. You feel that Gene thinks of Gene, first, last and all the time. Perhaps that's wrong, just an impression given out by his manner. But if it's so, his habit of mind has carried him farther, as the world measures success, than many go, even if it hasn't given him the popularity to which he's so indifferent.
It was when Tunney was under Billy Gibson's management that he really began to jump ahead. Gibson's clever match-making got him his chance to fight Dempsey for the big title. He stopped Erminio Spalla, a big Italian, in 7 rounds and after Carpentier had gone through a ten round bout with Tommy Gibbons, Tunney knocked the flying Frenchman out in 15 rounds in New York. This wasn't much of a feat, as Carpentier was far past his best form, but it was good advertising. Then Gene knocked out Tommy Gibbons in 12 rounds. He outboxed Gibbons in that fight. Tommy had lost a lot of his speed after fighting Dempsey, still as Gibson knew it would the mere fact that Tunney flattened the man who had gone 15 rounds with the champion was a great boost. To make it better Tunney was sent against Bartley Madden who had gone 15 rounds with old Harry Wills. Gene stopped him in 3 rounds.
Tex Rickard rushed out west to talk fight to Dempsey and got jack’s agreement to fight anyone. Dempsey wanted Wills. He told me he knew Wills would be a softer mark than Tunney.”I know Wills has lost his speed and I can knock him out in a round” said Dempsey. “I have been idle a long time myself and I’d like to take Wills first and Tunney six months afterward. Tunney young and ambitious and more dangerous and I’d like to have a fight under my belt before I fight him”. But Dempsey didn’t really think Tunney had a chance at that.
Confidence and Nerve
That thought wasn’t shared by Gene. He was cockily confident in his training camp at Stroudsburg. told everybody he'd try to get Dempsey or daze him with the first right hand punch, and flatly said he would surely outbox him if he couldn't knock him out. It was only a 10 round bout. Tunney flew down to the fight in an airplane — his first time in the air. Nerve — plenty! And he popped Dempsey with that first right and shook him badly, and outboxed him through 10 rounds, running and circling and coming back suddenly to fight. Once Dempsey knocked Tunney into the ropes and almost had him, but could not follow. The old champion was in no shape to fight. He had split with his old manager. Jack Kearns, months before, and Kearns had run him ragged
day and night for weeks with subpoenas, suits, warrants and every legal annoyance, making it impossible for Dempsey to train properly. In the last two rounds, both of Dempsey's eyes were closed — but Tunney couldn't put him down. He did give Dempsey a complete and convincing beating.
Again Meets Dempsey.
Rickard held an elimination tournament, and Dempsey wound it up by knocking out Jack Sharkey. So Dempsey was matched Tunney at Chicago. Tunney was certain he could beat Dempsey again. Gene didn't do much guessing. He based his deductions on facts.
Before the Philadelphia fight, he had moving picture films of other Dempsey fights and studied Dempsey's action in detail. He figured that Dempsey would be in better shape in Chicago than at Philadelphia, but he had studied Jack from the ringside in the Sharkey fight and knew that
at the best he was a shadow of the old Dempsey.
But the Tunney backers weren't depending on Tunney's punch to win. A propaganda campaign against Dempsey filled the last few days before the fight. Stories were sent out everywhere that Dempsey was the foulest fighter in the world, had won all his fights by fouling, would be closely watched to prevent his fouling Gene, who was always fair. This was played up so much it was evident an effort was being made to influence the judges and smooth the way for a disqualification of Dempsey on the slightest pretence.
In the fight itself Tunney’s seconds shouted from Gene’s corner that Dempsey was fouling, was using a rabbit punch, that Dempsey’s seconds were greasing him – all false claims that might effect ringside and official opinion. It was in fact about as unsportsmanlike an affair as any I’ve seen, and it proved conclusively that sportsmanship had become a side issue when the huge sums depending on modern championship bouts are at stake.
That memorable Long Count
As for the fight, Tunney went in to drop his right hand on Dempsey at the start, just as he did at Philadelphia. And he was fooled. In Philly Dempsey swayed left and right and every time he swayed left Tunney could nail him with a right hand punch.. he bobbed right into it. At Chicago Dempsey never once swayed to the left. Always to the right, away from Tunney’s dangerous hand.
Scores of times Tunney’s flailing right slipped around Dempsey’s neck. Exasperated Tunney hooked that missing right around Dempsey’s neck, pulled him in, grabbed his right arm, and wrestled. Sometimes he held with one hand and socked with the other, which was unfair. And he landed fair blows too, many of them, but he couldn’t get over the big punch.
Dempsey also landed blows. But Dempsey had changed from his old rushing attack, and was boxing deliberately to save himself for a great effort when the break came his way.
It came in the seventh round. Tunney had been leading, when Dempsey suddenly rushed and for a few seconds cut loose with all the old Dempsey determination and fury. Nothing could stand before that attack. A flock of blows drove Tunney back and the last crushing hook on the chin hurled him against the ropes and down, to fall on his back within three feet of me there at the
ringside. He was knocked out—no doubt about it. His right leg was grotesquely doubled under him. His left wrist looped over a ring rope kept him from lying flat and his right elbow was under him, but his head was back and his dazed eyes stared vacantly up at the lights overhead.
Should have Won
With a fair 10nsecond count Dempsey had the worlds championship won. What happened is much argued and disputed history. I saw it exactly like this. I always had a stop watch on big fights, to check timing of rounds and knock downs. As Tunney flew backward against the ropes from that last punch I thought he was coming through on top of me, and I ducked down and to the left so he’d fall on my shoulder instead of my head.As he slipped from the ropes I straightened up and looked at his eyes to see how badly he was dazed. Then I suddenly thought of the watch in my hand and pressed the lever. I had lost at least two seconds, probably three. Dempsey had stepped around Tunney and gone to his own corner.
The timekeeper was up, counting, and the referee following Dempsey and shooing him to a farther corner according to Illinois rules. I heard the timekeeper count “five2 and heard him no more as the referee slowly returned to a position between the timekeeper and Tunney, lifted his hand and dropped it and shouted “one”. He was starting the count all over. This has been explained as in accordance with some unpublished commission agreement, but it was against the clear printed rules outlining the action of referee and timekeeper.
Down 15 Seconds
At the referee’s “Five” ( when Tunney had been down at least 10 seconds ) Tunney raised his head a little and looked toward his corner. The count went to “nine”, Tunney hadn’t moved at “nine” and the referee seemed to hesitate and wait a moment. Tunney lurched forward, pushed up and was on his feet. My stop watch registered exactly 14 seconds at the referee’s cont of “nine” and with the time lost the actual time Tunney was down must have been two or three seconds more.
Then came an amazing scene. Dempsey came forward slowly and Tunney turned and ran. He was wobbly for a few steps but recovered and went faster and faster. Missing him Dempsey followed . Tunney ran around and around. Dempsey dropped his hands and waved Tunney to come and fight. But Gene was to wise. He ran and dodged until he was strong again, and then began to jab and run. Soon he was fighting better than Dempsey who was evidently growing weak on his legs as Tunney grew stronger.
Tunney Takes lead
A round later Tunney took the lead again, although Dempsey grimly kept going forward. Tunney chipped jack on the chin and dropped him to one knee. The referee rushed in, waving his hand in a one second count, not waiting to send Tunney to a far corner, but Dempsey leaped up in half a second and the fight went on. In the last round Tunney was punching and landing better than Dempsey, was strong and fighting to overcome the disaster of the seventh. Dempsey’s legs were very weary and blood was running from a cut over his left eye.
Referee and judges lost no time in giving Gene the decision. He had been squarely knocked out, but with that knockout ignored, his courageous and effective finish made the decision possible. Later Dempsey said simply that he had tried his best and lost, had no alibi and was through. Tunney talked a lot about Dempsey “foul fighting”.