BAD decisions, it seems, are not a modern phenomenon. World middleweight king Harry Greb found out first hand way back in 1923.
By this account, his great rival, Gene Tunney was rather fortunate to be rendered the winner in the third of their five meetings for the U.S. light-heavyweight title.
Let us take you back to the Roaring Twenties on a cold winter night at the Mecca of boxing, Madison Square Garden.
We have leafed through our deep, rich and highly delicate archive and have word-by-historical-word re-typed the original typewritten fight report by our man – Truman Harte – who sat ringside and witnessed these two great warriors from another time.
GENE TUNNEY RECEIVED VERDICT OVER HARRY GREB
Fans Hoot Verdict
There will be a riot some night in Madison Square Garden if these weird boxing decisions don’t stop. It looked for a few minutes as if there might be one on December 10th, when Gene Tunney was given the decision over Harry Greb in a fifteen-round bout for the light-heavweight championship of the United States.
In my opinion Greb won this fight by such a decisive margin that after the tenth round Tunney would have had to score a knockout to earn a victory. Greb swarmed all over the pride of Greenwich Village, hit him with everything but the water bucket, cut both his eyes, and had his nose bleeding – but lost the decision! Greb has never fought a better or a cleaner fight than this one in the Garden. It was Tunney who roughed and butted with his head. Greb did hold a bit now and then, but so did Tunney.
The Pittsburgh Windmill is the middleweight champion of the world, but last night weighed 171½lbs. The extra weight didn’t hurt him a bit. He was faster than ever, and tireless.
When the bout ended and Joe Humphreys announced Tunney as the winner, there was sustained booing and hooting. Tunney was given the raspberry as he left the ring and Greb was cheered to the echo.
Several thousand fans refused to leave the amphitheatre after the decision. They tried to crowd to the ringside, hooting and shouting derisively. One excited man reached the press seats, and was edged none too gently out of the Garden by three special officers.
Chairman Williams McCormrick of the licence committee of the State Athletic Commission was at the ringside. So was Senator James J. Walker, who sponsored the bill under which boxing is legalised in the State. There should be food for reflection for both of these gentlemen in the scene they witnessed last night.
The referee was Louis Magnolia. The judges were Charles Mathison and Frankie Malden. How they voted I do not know, but we can find out from the State Athletic Commission.
In the semi-final the decision was almost as bad as in the final bout. There was a different referee, but the same judges, and Roland Todd, England’s middleweight champion, who beat Tommy Loughran decisively in my opinion, lost the official verdict.
Tunney opened a 9 to 5 favourite in the betting. He went to 2½ to 1 before the fighters entered the ring. I offer this for what it’s worth, without comment.
Tunney Fouls Without Rebuke
After the last fight between Tunney and Greb, in which the former won the light-heavyweight title that he retained last night by virtue of dubious decision, it was said in defence of the verdict rendered that Greb fouled continually. Last night Tunney butted Greb with his head four or five times. greg fought in his usual whirlwind style, but was not guilty of any questionable tactics.
According to my count Greb won ten rounds, Tunney four, and one was even. The Pittsburger had the Greenwich Villager bewildered with his speed.
It was a fast and furious battle all the way. They fought like lightweights, and it was wonderful that they could sustain the dizzy pace they set over fifteen rounds. At the finish Tunney was rather weary, but Greb looked as if he could keep going for fifteen more rounds.
Battling Siki was introduced before the battle began and made a big hit with the crowd. He was arrayed in evening clothes and carried a cane. He shook hands with everyone in the ring, including the photographers, bowed profusely and as a parting shot rubbed his hand over Joe Humphrey’s bald head.
When Greb entered the ring he was presented with a silver cup, the gift of the volunteer firemen of Manhasset, L.I., for whose pension fund he boxed an exhibition some time ago. Everybody liked Harry in the Garden it seems, but the officials who rendered the decision against him.
Referee Annoys Greb
Greb started off by capturing the first round by a slight margin. His left hooks landed flush on Tunney’s jaw and shook Gene up. Tunney devoted his attention to body punching, but could not keep the Pittsburger away or slow him up with these blows. Referee Magnolia seemed to annoy Greb by continually cautioning him.
Greb kept his head, however, and fought a clever fight. He forced the issue all the time. Round after round he came out and chased Tunney. Tunney seldom led. He was always waiting, waiting with counters to the body. One round was much like the other. In the twelfth session Tunney fell through the ropes and landed on the press table. While he was trying to get back in the ring the bell rang.
Greb landed two punches to Tunney’s one, forced the issue all the way and was by far the fresher at the finish. But not even this could win for him.
Read: When Harry Greb dished out one of history’s most savage beatings in their first fight
It is true that Greb is not a hard puncher, yet several times he staggered Tunney with left hooks and right crosses to the head. In the tenth in particular he had Gene dazed from a right to the chin.
Gene Tunney is still the light-heavyweight champion of the United States, but how he retained that title I can never tell you, beyond the fact the officials voted him the winner over Greb.
Perhaps there is some way of judging fights that this writer is not familiar with, and that by this method Tunney was entitled to the verdict. It is too much for me. Having watched fights of importance all over this country and in England, I must still know little about them if Tunney beat Greb in the Garden.
The paid attendance was 11,079 and the receipts 43,016 dols.
The two would face each other twice more: a no-decision the following September in Cleveland, Ohio. The consensus is that a draw would have been the fair result. And the last – in March 1925 – a ten-round decision for Tunney in St Paul, Minnesota. This was Tunney’s most decisive victory and possibly Greb’s hardest defeat.
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