“Gene Tunney” on ESPN Sports Radio 1340 AM, 7:55 AM, Dec. 8 – Dec. 12, 2014
After his first and only defeat in the ring, heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney salved his physical and mental anguish by pondering the pithy perplexities of Shakespeare’s retelling of the Iliad, Troilus and Cressida. Lanky, literate, blessed with athletic and mental agility, uncommon self-possession, and artistic tastes ranging from Victor Hugo to Wagnerian opera, Gene Tunney was a pugilistic enigma. A marine corps boxing champion in WWI who after turning pro went undefeated as a heavyweight (his only loss came as a light-heavyweight), Tunney was knocked down only once in his career. He retired at age 31, married heiress Polly Lauder, and for the rest of his life pursued a variety of business ventures and the arts. Tunney, like F. Scott Fitzergerald’s Gatsby, was a remarkable self-created individual. Tunney’s heroic flaw, however, was that he wasn’t the champ the people wanted him to be – but what a fighter he was. What a man.
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