There are many motivational figures from the golden years of boxing. Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali; Jack Johnson and Joe Louis are well known examples. Their bravery and champion’s mindset are a proven well of inspiration. However, one classic boxer with an inspirational story has been sadly overlooked. That man is the late, great, Gene Tunney.

Tunney was one of the decorated champions from boxing history. But due to the nature of the sport, many fighters can say that they have worn gold around their waist. Few though, can say that they have beaten Jack Dempsey…twice.

Gene Tunney served as a marine in the army, he had to endure the life of a soldier, digging deep inside his psyche for the mental strength to push forward. After his time as a marine was up, he focused all of his efforts on a different fight, the one inside the squared circle.


With that said, it is not just Tunney’s toughness that made him special. As well as being a true fighter and alpha male, Gene Tunney was an incredible writer. Tunney had a passion for the English language, an avid reader of the classics, particularly Shakespeare. The point is, he was not afraid to be different from other boxers.

He has shown us that you can be an athlete AND an intellectual. One side of your personality does not have to define you. Tunney showed that you can enjoy the artistic side of things whilst being strong and fierce.


Tunney refused to let people define him too. He enjoyed what he enjoyed and refused to listen to anybody’s opinion on it. In his beautifully written article: ‘My Fights with Jack Dempsey’, he talks about his doubters. In the run up to his first clash with Jack Dempsey, people doubted Tunney especially when they saw him reading Shakespeare. Dempsey was a terminator in the eyes of the public and they believed Tunney’s penchant for the gentle arts gave him even less of a chance against Jack.

He proved them wrong. As an athlete that writes and appreciates art, he is a huge inspiration to me. He was a multi-faceted individual who achieved in everything he had a passion for. For more motivation from the boxing greats, click here!

Source: The Hurt Business (2013) Edited by Jack Schulian and George Kimball