How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an era

He beat Jack Dempsey twice to become heavyweight champion – and his staid personal style foreshadowed the end of the Roaring ’20s

How Gene Tunney brought down a boxing legend and an eraLast week’s column argued that Jack Dempsey’s July 1919 winning of the world heavyweight boxing championship prefigured the celebrity-obsessed Roaring ’20s. If so, Gene Tunney’s dispatching of Dempsey in 1926 and again 1927 can be viewed as a harbinger of the decade’s end. To be sure, the party didn’t come to a shuddering halt until…

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20s

The boxer was a prime example of the ascension of celebrity, perhaps rivalled only by baseball’s Babe Ruth

Jack Dempsey and the birth of the Roaring ’20sThe case can be made that the Roaring ’20s actually began 100 years ago this month. On July 4, 1919, Jack Dempsey won the world heavyweight boxing title from Jess Willard in Toledo, Ohio. Waged in a purpose-built outdoor arena with an ambient ringside temperature of around 100F (37C), the fight is considered one of…

America’s first ethnic working-class hero

An Irish-American Catholic, champion boxer John L. Sullivan rose to popularity from modest roots

America’s first ethnic working-class heroBefore inclusiveness became a social mantra, newly arrived immigrant groups invariably went through a period of being viewed warily by society’s established mainstream. Irish-American Catholics were no exception to this probationary process. Indeed, it wasn’t until John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory that acceptance was fully sealed. Along the way, the process got a boost…

Before Ali, there was Joe Louis

Where Ali was flamboyantly boastful, Louis was studiously modest and where Ali was outspokenly defiant, Louis was respectfully deferential

Before Ali, there was Joe LouisTORONTO, Ont. June 17, 2016/ Troy Media/ - Muhammad Ali’s recent death brought to mind another famous 20th century black American boxer. In his own way and in his own time, Joe Louis was just as famous as Ali. And by some estimations, he was an even better fighter. Born Joseph Louis Barrow in 1914 rural…

Muhammad Ali loved those friendly Canadians

"I’ve never been treated so nice in my life (as in Canada)"

Muhammad Ali loved those friendly CanadiansTORONTO, Ont. June 7, 2016/ Troy Media/ - Muhammad Ali was a larger-than-life figure with masterful oratorical skills, innate intelligence and a quick wit. Still, it’s Ali’s unusual link to Canada that has intrigued me the most. The three-time world heavyweight champion, who died June 3 at age 74, had two epic battles with Canadian…

Friday night fights and a last taste of Muhammad Ali

Larry Holmes used a devastating overhand right to end Ali's chances of a 4th comeback

Friday night fights and a last taste of Muhammad AliTORONTO, Ont. April 24, 2016/ Troy Media/ - An old urban experience, long gone, was Friday night fights. In New York the well to do would go to Madison Square Garden. This was long before my time, but I had been inspired by both the urban experience and boxing since I was a kid. The…

Rocky Marciano vs Sugar Ray Robinson

Rocky Marciano, who fought his last fight 60 years ago this month, retired undefeated while Sugar Ray went into a long decline

Rocky Marciano vs Sugar Ray RobinsonTORONTO, ON Sep 2, 2015/ Troy Media/ - When professional boxing was still a mainstream sport, it often caught the fancy of young boys who’d immerse themselves in the newspaper build-up to championship fights and root passionately for their favourites. And because it’s natural to identify with a winner, you often adopted whoever was the…