1920s Dempsey-Tunney Fight Items Up for Grabs

Gene Tunney gloves from 1927 Two items from one of boxing’s most famous rivalries are among pieces of Gene Tunney’s rather full life going up for auction this week.

Sports fans know Gene Tunney as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

The heavyweight champion from 1926-1928, Tunney was a thinking man’s fighter who used his technique and skill to knock off the hard-punching Jack Dempsey once, and then again in the 1927 rematch. That fight, known as "The Long Count", remains controversial some 81 years later.

Now two historic items, one from each fight, are about to be sold by Sotheby’s in New York. The gloves he wore in the September 22, 1927 ‘long count’ victory over Dempsey along with the stool on which he sat for the first fight, are being auctioned. The gloves carry a pre-sale estimate of $35-50,000.

Tunney was brains as well as brawn however. His collection of Shakespearean plays are also up for bid.

The ten-ounce gloves are accompanied by a presentation plaque engraved Gloves Worn by Gene Tunney in Heavyweight Championship Contest, Chicago, Illinois, September 22, 1927, Presented to Bernard F. Gimbel by Gene Tunney in Appreciation, as well as a one-page note signed by Tunney ("Gene") to Gimbel and dated Oct. of 1927: "Dear Bernard, Please accept these gloves as a token of our friendship. You aided in making them the most distinguished gloves in pugilism’s history. Need I say why?". There is also a studio portrait of Tunney in boxing pose, inscribed "To Bernard F. Gimbel, whose ‘right hand’ was never a bargain. Sincerely, Gene Tunney," matted, framed, and glazed with the stub of a Stool from 1926 Dempsey-Tunney championship fight ringside ticket ($27.50) for the first Dempsey-Tunney fight, that took place in Philadelphia in September of 1926.

The stool was given to Tunney several years after the fight. It carries a $5000-7000 pre-sale estimate.

Tunney made his mark in the boxing ring, but he was also a well-read man with an affection for Shakespeare. He owned the first complete collection of Shakespeare’s plays, published in 1685. They are expected to sell for $80-120,000.

The items had remained in the possession of Tunney’s widow, who died at age 100 in April. Tunney, who died at age 81 in 1978, was also friends with Ernest Hemingway and playwright George Bernard Shaw and items from those associations are also part of the Sotheby’s sale, which takes place this Thursday in New York.

Gene Tunney memorabilia currently on eBay