I was pleasantly surprised to see an article about a boxer in Chronicles. Roger D. McGrath's "The Fighting Marine: Gene Tunney" (Sins of Omission, January) describes a great champion and an admirable American who should be better remembered. Dr. McGrath alludes to Tunney's fights with Harry Greb, a five-fight series that is also unfortunately forgotten. Greb, a German-American from Pittsburgh and the greatest middleweight of all time, battered young Tunney to a bloody mess in their first fight. Tunney outweighed him 175 to 162, but Greb was vastly more experienced. Greb regularly defeated the best middleweights, light-heavyweights, and heavyweights of his day. The next three fights were close, hotly disputed battles, all won by Tunney by decision. In the fifth and final fight, Tunney, by then a full-fledged heavyweight, battered Greb as Greb had done to him in the first fight.
All five fights were fierce and brutal. In all the annals of boxing, no two fighters did more damage to each other than Tunney and Greb. Greb was so impressed by Tunney's courage in the first fight that he predicted the youngster would be a champion some day. Tunney himself stated that the Greb fights were what made him a champion. When Tunney took on Jack Dempsey for the heavyweight title, Tunney was a huge underdog. Greb predicted a Tunney win and even told Dempsey that he had no chance. Greb versus Tunney, another "sin of omission."
Paul F. Kennedy