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Old 05-31-2011, 03:53 PM   #1
JWSoats
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Default What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

As a followup to the thread "Why did Gene Tunney not have more fights", suppose he had not retired, and continued defending the heavyweight title until someone dethroned him. Who do you think would have done it, and when?
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Old 05-31-2011, 04:16 PM   #2
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

More than once, from the beginning of my membership here in April 2007, I've expressed the belief that, defending once per year, if Gene goes on as long as he can, that Louis would have been the once to eventually dethrone him. If Joe got to Tunney before Schmeling got to the Bomber in June 1936, that Gene would have easily deciphered the same susceptibility to the counter right, and successfully exploited that vulnerability in an initial defense against Joe, perhaps near the end of 1935, after Louis dispatched Max Baer. Tommy Farr was able to jab with Joe, so I believe the combination of Gene's faster jab, mobility, toughness, and fast right over the top, would have been too much for a less experienced and undefeated Louis (who thought he "was hot shit" going into Schmeling I).

Joe would earn a second title shot, and this time win the decision to finally end Gene's reign. Before that happens, I think it's entirely possible that Tunney achieves the record as oldest heavyweight champion which Foreman eventually breaks. Jack Britton was able to attain an obscenely long career with many of the same crafty tactics and artistry which Gene applied. (Don't forget that he also had the sage counsel of associates like stablemate Benny Leonard.)

Tunney came in at a career high 192 for Heeney. A year of lumberjack work had put his former hand problems behind him, and he was getting stronger at the end. He had the discipline and focus while competing not to let himself go and dissipate. And he doesn't likely let his weight go above 200 pounds, no matter how old he gets.
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Old 05-31-2011, 04:39 PM   #3
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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Originally Posted by Duodenum View Post
More than once, from the beginning of my membership here in April 2007, I've expressed the belief that, defending once per year, if Gene goes on as long as he can, that Louis would have been the once to eventually dethrone him. If Joe got to Tunney before Schmeling got to the Bomber in June 1936, that Gene would have easily deciphered the same susceptibility to the counter right, and successfully exploited that vulnerability in an initial defense against Joe, perhaps near the end of 1935, after Louis dispatched Max Baer. Tommy Farr was able to jab with Joe, so I believe the combination of Gene's faster jab, mobility, toughness, and fast right over the top, would have been too much for a less experienced and undefeated Louis (who thought he "was hot shit" going into Schmeling I).

Joe would earn a second title shot, and this time win the decision to finally end Gene's reign. Before that happens, I think it's entirely possible that Tunney achieves the record as oldest heavyweight champion which Foreman eventually breaks. Jack Britton was able to attain an obscenely long career with many of the same crafty tactics and artistry which Gene applied. (Don't forget that he also had the sage counsel of associates like stablemate Benny Leonard.)

Tunney came in at a career high 192 for Heeney. A year of lumberjack work had put his former hand problems behind him, and he was getting stronger at the end. He had the discipline and focus while competing not to let himself go and dissipate. And he doesn't likely let his weight go above 200 pounds, no matter how old he gets.
This almost to a tee. I think if Schmeling did beat Louis and thus earn the right to challenge Tunney(may have unfolded that way) and Tunney was succumbing to age like a regular guy and didn't turn out to be a Hopkins, I'd take that version of Max to do the job. Other than that, I agree totally with your post.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:05 PM   #4
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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This almost to a tee. I think if Schmeling did beat Louis and thus earn the right to challenge Tunney(may have unfolded that way) and Tunney was succumbing to age like a regular guy and didn't turn out to be a Hopkins, I'd take that version of Max to do the job. Other than that, I agree totally with your post.
Baer and Carnera would not be easy fights for an older Tunney. Both have their chances.

And their was a sense of destiny about the run of Jimmy Braddock that says nobody, no matter how good they were was going to stand in their way. I think Tunney got out at the perfect time.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:15 PM   #5
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

He would have run into three hall of fame heavyweights, all young, fairly sized, and dangerous....George Godfrey, Max Schmeling, and Jack Sharkey. No way Tunney goes 3-0 vs these men. You could also throw Larry Gains in there, a very dangerous fight for Tunney. O wait, I forgot, Tunney doesn't fight black fighters.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:17 PM   #6
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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. If Joe got to Tunney before Schmeling got to the Bomber in June 1936, that Gene would have easily deciphered the same susceptibility to the counter right, and successfully exploited that vulnerability in an initial defense against Joe, perhaps near the end of 1935, after Louis dispatched Max Baer.
A 38 year old Gene Tunney would have gotten slaughtered in 1 round by Joe Louis in 1936.

We don't even know if Gene Tunney in his prime would have beaten beat Max Schmeling, Jack Sharkey, and George Godfrey. He is unproven.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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Baer and Carnera would not be easy fights for an older Tunney. Both have their chances.

And their was a sense of destiny about the run of Jimmy Braddock that says nobody, no matter how good they were was going to stand in their way. I think Tunney got out at the perfect time.
I think he's good enough to stop both, but you make a good point.

Max clowns quite a bit, and Tunney was more than competent enough to beat him soundly. Carnera was good, but not great, and I don't think his size puts him over a good technician with two hands and pop.

Braddock beat Baer because Baer took half the fight off, to my estimation. I think Jimmy is underrated as a fighter on the whole, but I struggle to see him winning against a focused great champion. Just a bit too small and slow, for my money.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:26 PM   #8
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

Why does everyone think a 32-33 year old Tunney would get by hall of fame heavyweights George Godfrey, Jack Sharkey, and Max Schmeling so easily? He doesn't even get to Carnera and Baer if he doesn't beat those men. I don't think with tunney's lack of infighting, low hands, lack of headmovement, and age would allow him to beat all three younger hungry men. Tunneys legs would give out on him at some point, then hes toast.
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Old 05-31-2011, 05:28 PM   #9
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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Originally Posted by SonnyListonsJab View Post
Why does everyone think a 32-33 year old Tunney would get by hall of fame heavyweights George Godfrey, Jack Sharkey, and Max Schmeling so easily? He doesn't even get to Carnera and Baer if he doesn't beat those men. I don't think with tunney's lack of infighting, low hands, lack of headmovement, and age would allow him to beat all three younger hungry men. Tunneys legs would give out on him at some point, then hes toast.
I don't think he beats Schmeling, actually.

And Sharkey and Godfrey arent special to me.
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:08 PM   #10
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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Originally Posted by SonnyListonsJab View Post
Why does everyone think a 32-33 year old Tunney would get by hall of fame heavyweights George Godfrey, Jack Sharkey, and Max Schmeling so easily? He doesn't even get to Carnera and Baer if he doesn't beat those men. I don't think with tunney's lack of infighting, low hands, lack of headmovement, and age would allow him to beat all three younger hungry men. Tunneys legs would give out on him at some point, then hes toast.
After winning the championship, like everybody, Tunney must start to slip. I think he is in all of these fights, but they are all tough fights.

You make a particularly good point about Godfrey, who is a bit of an enigma. I do think Tunney is better than all these fighters prime for prime, but the age factor is what makes all of these fights closer to 50 50 or less for Tunney. As each extra fight is taken, the chances of Tunney winning is lessened.
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:15 PM   #11
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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After winning the championship, like everybody, Tunney must start to slip. I think he is in all of these fights, but they are all tough fights.

You make a particularly good point about Godfrey, who is a bit of an enigma. I do think Tunney is better than all these fighters prime for prime, but the age factor is what makes all of these fights closer to 50 50 or less for Tunney. As each extra fight is taken, the chances of Tunney winning is lessened.
Precisely why I think if he runs into Max, the game is probably up.
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:00 PM   #12
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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This almost to a tee. I think if Schmeling did beat Louis and thus earn the right to challenge Tunney (may have unfolded that way) and Tunney was succumbing to age like a regular guy and didn't turn out to be a Hopkins, I'd take that version of Max to do the job. Other than that, I agree totally with your post.
I do think Schmeling might have the best chance if he's on top of his game. However, it's difficult to win a championship over the distance by counter punching, and Tunney was superb in taking apart master boxer Tommy Gibbons. Watching Schmeling-Sharkey I & II, I don't see Max doing enough to prevail.

Godfrey has been coming up a good deal in this thread, but the reality is that he didn't break through to a title opportunity in a diminished post Tunney field, so how valid is the assumption that this could change with Gene on top?

Regarding the mention of Hopkins, I absolutely believe Tunney was capable of Methuselah longevity, maybe not quite to the level of a Moore or BHop, but he'd never taken a sustained beating from a significant puncher, and had a style which tended to build a body up and maintain it well, rather than breaking it down the way a swarming approach can. And as his physical gifts and abilities began to subside, sheer weight of intelligence, discipline and experience would have allowed him to compensate. He was a late bloomer who was still improving when he retired at 31. His professional career began at 19, an acceptably late start for supporting greater longevity, and he got his kicks out of making people miss (a positive premise I consider favorable to Jimmy Young's negative premise of not liking to be hit). He had the contemporary example of Britton to demonstrate that the kind of extended competitiveness I'm discussing here was possible. (And Jack also started at 19.)

Don't sell Tunney short on the inside. He was well capable of handling himself at close quarters. With respect to Carnera, Primo was conclusively beaten by the superior speed of Gains and Sharkey over the distance. Carnera did get the best of Loughran, but Gene was stronger and sturdier than Tommy, with a bigger punch.
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:17 PM   #13
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

Then you caveman lovers would love him more?
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:44 PM   #14
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

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I do think Schmeling might have the best chance if he's on top of his game. However, it's difficult to win a championship over the distance by counter punching, and Tunney was superb in taking apart master boxer Tommy Gibbons. Watching Schmeling-Sharkey I & II, I don't see Max doing enough to prevail.

Godfrey has been coming up a good deal in this thread, but the reality is that he didn't break through to a title opportunity in a diminished post Tunney field, so how valid is the assumption that this could change with Gene on top?

Regarding the mention of Hopkins, I absolutely believe Tunney was capable of Methuselah longevity, maybe not quite to the level of a Moore or BHop, but he'd never taken a sustained beating from a significant puncher, and had a style which tended to build a body up and maintain it well, rather than breaking it down the way a swarming approach can. And as his physical gifts and abilities began to subside, sheer weight of intelligence, discipline and experience would have allowed him to compensate. He was a late bloomer who was still improving when he retired at 31. His professional career began at 19, an acceptably late start for supporting greater longevity, and he got his kicks out of making people miss (a positive premise I consider favorable to Jimmy Young's negative premise of not liking to be hit). He had the contemporary example of Britton to demonstrate that the kind of extended competitiveness I'm discussing here was possible. (And Jack also started at 19.)

Don't sell Tunney short on the inside. He was well capable of handling himself at close quarters. With respect to Carnera, Primo was conclusively beaten by the superior speed of Gains and Sharkey over the distance. Carnera did get the best of Loughran, but Gene was stronger and sturdier than Tommy, with a bigger punch.
I think Max might actually stop him with a good right hand once he gets older and the reflexes fade, but its a valid point.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:10 PM   #15
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Default Re: What if Gene Tunney had not retired in 1928?

Tunney would have, in my opinion, beaten all the champs that came between him and Louis..and as for Louis...
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