TUNNEY by Jack Cavanaugh
Kirkus Star


The Boxing Scholar Who Upset the Great Jack Dempsey
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An intellectual pugilist and a brawling superstar enter the ring for two of the greatest fights of the Jazz Age.

With the rise of boxing in the 1920s, there came to the fight game big money, widespread media coverage and celebrity for its champions. Few boxers enjoyed more success than Jack Dempsey, the Manassa Mauler, a rail-riding Colorado tough guy who won the world heavyweight title in 1919. After repeatedly defending his championship, Dempsey shifted his focus to making Hollywood movies and dating starlets. The Mauler would eventually lose his title to Gene Tunney, an Irish kid from New York. Tunney, a high-school graduate and World War I soldier, was good-looking and well-spoken. Dubbed The Fighting Marine, he brilliantly fought his way up the US boxing ranks, gaining a reputation for reading Shakespeare and employing a prodigious vocabulary. By 1926, a heavyweight showdown between Tunney and Dempsey was inevitable. Dempsey, who by then hadn’t fought in three years, would fight only for the largest of purses. In the end, Tunney beat Dempsey twice—first in front of more than 120,000 people in Philadelphia, then a year later at Soldier’s Field in Chicago. Within a year of their second fight, both men, now wealthy, retired, and their two title matches became boxing legend. Tunney moved on to high-society married life with Polly Lauder, grand-niece of Andrew Carnegie, and developed a correspondence and friendship with playwright George Bernard Shaw. Boardrooms, business and books now appealed to him far more than boxing fame.

Filled with vivid characters from one of boxing’s most glamorous eras, this tale goes 15 rounds and delivers plenty of punch, but always keeps its head.

Pub Date: Nov. 14th, 2006
ISBN: 1-4000-6009-5
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2006


by Ion Grumeza