It felt like 100 degrees f. ringside in Duluth the night of August 27, 1953. Approaching his 28th birthday, Jim O'Hara was putting on a boxing clinic against a hometown favorite four years his junior. His opponent was none other than TNT-in-both-fists Don Jasper. Jasper could sock you to tomorrow.
Earlier the Duluth Herald had suggested that the victor of the evening’s main event would reign supreme in Minnesota if only for a night:
Big Jim O’Hara, St. Paul, considers himself the No. 1 heavyweight fighter in Minnesota and has staged a claim on the championship.
Tall, handsome, hard-punching Don Jasper, Duluth, has his own ideas on the subject but prefers to do his talking with his fists.
These two knockout artists meet tonight in the national guard armory to settle what difference of opinion there is between them on the heavyweight title, and it promises to be a rugged argument.
Preliminaries will start at 8:30.
Members of the state boxing commission think enough of the scrap to be here en masse, having changed their regular meeting to Duluth. They will have dinner tonight in the Gitchi Gammi club.
O’Hara will have a decided edge over Jasper in ring experience but nothing on the Morgan Park scrapper when it comes to dishing out punishment.
Jasper has dynamite in both fists and proved to the satisfaction of local railbirds that he can take a punch as well as deliver one. He has worked harder for this bout than any of his previous ring appearances.
Their scrap is scheduled for six rounds but it’s a good bet it will end before that.
(Jasper, O’Hara Battle, Duluth Herald, August 27, 1953, page 25.)
Perhaps more than any other fight, certainly from the vantage point of these many years later, the Jasper-O’Hara bout put a lasting shine on Jim’s reputation as a boxer. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported the outcome thusly:
St. Paul’s Jimmy O’Hara, starting what he hopes will be one of his finest years, whipped Don Jasper of Duluth here Thursday night in the main event of a boxing card at the Armory.
O’Hara’s verdict was unanimous. The St. Paulite boxed well and displayed a good left jab that went in combination with a right hook that kept Jasper off balance throughout the test.
(O’Hara Beats Jasper in Duluth Test, St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 28, 1953.)
If a unanimous decision means impressing the judges with your clean punches, your aggression and your ring generalship, as they say, along with your defense, it was Jim’s night.
Per the lineal making of a champion, the boxing historian may note:
August 27, 1953: Jim defeats Don Jasper in a six-round contest.
October 27, 1953: Jack Wagner defeats Jim in a six-round meeting.
January 10, 1957: Gene “Rock” White defeats Jack Wagner in a 10-rounder. White crowned the Minnesota heavyweight champion.
October 29, 1957: Don Jasper defeats Gene “Rock” White in a 10-rounder. Jasper crowned the Minnesota heavyweight champion.
If Jim was never crowned the de jure heavyweight champion, there were plenty around who recognized him as having held the de facto Minnesota title. One was Don Riley, sports journalist and historian. He was inducted into the Minnesota Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010 as a member of its inaugural class with the likes of The Black Pearl Harris Martin, Mike Gibbons, Tommy Gibbons, Glen Flanagan, Del Flanagan, Rafael Rodriguez, Scott LeDoux, Will Grigsby, Bill Kaehn, and Dr. Sheldon Segal.
Back in 1976 Riley wrote as only he could:
Finally, the state athletic commission has got a real boxing man on the panel. In the past they’ve leaned towards shoe salesmen, plumbers, stock brokers, sign painters and Avon drivers. True, Jim O’Hara qualifies as a produce executive. But he’s all boxing man. He’s a former state heavyweight pro champ who whipped Don Jasper in Duluth for the crown although there was a dispute that it was only a six-rounder and should have gone 10. But that’s not the point. Listen to his manager, venerable Murray McLean, look back:
"It was 100 degrees in the arena and Jasper could hit. But Jimmy out-hustled him all the way, jabbing and moving and fighting his way out of inside battles. Jim never asked who the foe was — only what time was the fight and what was the payoff. I handled Lee Savold against Jack Gibbons and the famous Lee was scared stiff for three rounds. He lost, too, because he was too cautious and tentative. O’Hara’s guts in Savold’s body would have made a super machine."
Jim, who has given hundreds of hours a year to the Golden Glove program, brings a fresh, honest integrity to the commission. As Murray McLean says, he won’t ask how tough is the problem, only say, “Let’s get at it.”
(Don Riley’s Eye Opener, St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press, June 13, 1976.)
In all Jim spent over a decade as a serious boxer, 1941 through 1953. He summed up his career in the ring by saying he won more than he lost.
In the winter of 1943-1944 Jim boxed in the Golden Gloves, winning the St. Paul tournament to become the light‑heavyweight champ (175 lbs. max.). He was the runner-up at what was then known as the Northwest Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions, which included Minnesota, and going into the semi-finals and finals of the tournament he showed promise. Louis H. Gollop wrote at the time:
In O’Hara’s case it is a question of whether the St. Paul boy can stand the gaff of fighting two tough fights in one night. *** If he can weather the storm he appears as an almost certainty to win the title.
(Louis H. Gollop, Stepka, Lentsch, O’Hara Rated ‘Even Chance’ in Golden Gloves Finals, St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 13, 1944, page 1 (Sports).)
If it was humiliating to be found unfit for military duty (classified 4-F) because of gout attacks, there was some consolation for 18-year-0ld Jimmy O’Hara in helping 10,000 fans of the sport of boxing take their minds off the War. The venue was the Minneapolis Auditorium, and in the semi’s and finals there were 32 remaining fighters in eight divisions, one representing the U.S. Navy, three representing St. Paul, 13 representing Minneapolis, and 15 from outside the Twin Cities area of St. Paul-Minneapolis. (10,000 Expected for Golden Glove Windup, St. Paul Pioneer Press, February 14, 1944.)
Jim turned pro in 1945. If you Google “boxrec.com” and “Jim O’Hara Minnesota,” you’ll find a summary of at least 11 of his professional contests. Unfortunately, at this writing entire years are missing from his record, including 1946, 1947, 1949, 1951, and 1952. It wasn’t him to save newspaper clippings or worry about whether he was getting credit for a fight in the history books. Back in the day when The Ring magazine was at its zenith, you mailed in your verified boxing result to the editor, the famous Nat Fleischer. Neither Jim nor his manager mailed in any information.
Thankfully boxrec.com provides at least a sampling of Jim’s record. The dates given also suggest that back then every day of the week was a good day for a boxing show.
Jim’s opponent in the first contest listed is heavyweight Jack Taylor, whose residence is given as Fort Snelling. So he must have been a solder; no other information on Taylor is provided. They faced each other in Duluth on Friday May 18, 1945, and Jim got the win by knockout in the second.
Next he fought Earl Adkinson of St. Paul. His alias is reported as Erie; Jim knew him as “Early.” The contest occurred Friday June 8, 1945 at the St. Paul Auditorium. No weight is given for either man but Adkinson is known as a light-heavyweight. As a welcome to the pro ranks, Jim was stopped in the first round.
He was 19 at the time of the first bout listed. The ages of his opponents (other than Don Jasper and Jack Wagner) are unknown at this time. His bouts with Taylor and Adkinson are the only ones listed for 1945, and nothing is listed for 1946 and 1947.
Adkinson is reported to have retired in 1946 with a record of eight wins, four losses, and one draw. He knocked out three others besides Jim. In October 1946 he decisioned middleweight veteran Don Espensen in a four-rounder at the St. Paul Auditorium. From Minneapolis, Espensen would retire in 1949 with 82 professional fights and a record of 42 wins, 30 losses, and 10 draws, including newspaper decisions. A newspaper decision is a bout left in the hands of the sportswriters. A draw, of course, is a bout neither fighter deserves to loose.
In the universal struggle known as making ends meet, Jim tried full-time fighting. It was the winter of 1947-1948. He’d arrived in San Francisco on a high horse, his brand new Chevy coupe for which he’d paid cash at the age of 21. He made the trip with another boxer, believed to be a heavyweight, whom Jim helped manage while in California. Basically they managed themselves, taking on all comers.
Financial success from full-time boxing wasn’t to be. Jim saved money living at the San Francisco YMCA while training, only to be kicked out for fighting on the outdoor handball court. Eventually he sold the Chevy and found another way home. Back in St. Paul by the spring of 1948 he vowed anew to find and keep a full-time day job in addition to boxing. See Round 13, entitled The Businessman.
The details of Jim’s matches in San Francisco are unknown. His opponents are believed to have included tough sailors.
Jim next stepped into the ring, as recorded by boxrec.com, when he was 22. His opponent was Willie Dee Jones, also of St. Paul, with the alias Piper. Standing 6-foot-3 and weighing in at 210 lbs., Jones boxed professionally from 1947 to 1956, including in California, Idaho, Utah, Iowa, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Florida. Jones would retire with a losing record (7-11-2) but when Jim faced him he was on the positive side of the ledger. With only one "W" by KO, Jones was no doubt a scientific boxer who taught Jim a thing or two.
Jim faced Jones twice in 1948 and got decisioned in both of these four-rounders. The first occurred Sunday April 4, 1948 at the Minneapolis Auditorium. The second occurred five months later, on Tuesday September 7, 1948, at the St. Paul Auditorium.
Jim’s bouts with Willie Dee Jones are the only ones listed for 1948, and nothing is listed for 1949.
The next opponent listed in boxrec.com is Big Jack Herman, who called Chicago his home. Born in Romania, his alias was Big Boy. Herman was 6-foot-3 and boxed professionally from 1949 to 1952, including in Florida as well as Illinois and Wisconsin. He has a 13-7 record. He must’ve been a terrific puncher. Of his 13 recorded wins, 11 are knockouts. But if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. All seven of his recorded losses are
Jim was 24 and faced Big Jack twice in a span of 14 days in 1950. Jim took the first meeting, Thursday June 1, 1950 at the St. Paul Auditorium, knocking out Big Jack in four.
Big Jack didn't stay licked for long. He redeemed himself on Wednesday June 14, 1950 at the Hippodrome in Eveleth. (Today the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum is in Eveleth.) The record suggests Big Jack scored a knockout but there’s a note that the facts haven’t been confirmed. In this second meeting Big Jack is listed at 215 lbs. while Jim is listed at 200. (Information on any rubber match has not been found.)
The next bout reported at boxrec.com has Jim against Tony Gallus of Drummond, Wisconsin. Gallus boxed professionally in 1950 and 1951. The match occurred Wednesday September 27, 1950 at the Armory in Duluth when Jim was 24. Jim outpointed Gallus in this six-rounder. Gallus is listed at 173 lbs. while Jim is listed at 180 even though three months earlier he’s listed at 200 in his second match against Big Jack Herman. Gallus’s record is reported as 4-3, with three of his four wins by knockout.
Nothing is listed for 1951 or 1952.
For 1953, when Jim was 27, there are four matches listed at boxrec.com. His opponent on Tuesday March 3, 1953 is Tom Tierney of St. Paul. The bout occurred at the St. Paul Auditorium. Jim won by technical knockout, and there’s a note that the round hasn’t been confirmed. Tierney is reported to have entered the roped square for pay in 1953 through 1955, with the outcome of a 0-4 record, all by kayo.
According to boxrec.com, Jim’s next opponent was Don Jasper of Duluth. They crossed gloves in Jasper’s hometown on Thursday August 27, 1953. Jasper was 23 years of age. As noted, Jim prevailed with a unanimous decision after six hard rounds.
Jasper boxed professionally from 1950 to 1959, including in Canada, Washington, Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin. He’s listed at 6-foot-1 and about 200 lbs. After Jim was able to get the best of him, Jasper went on a run of 11 wins and a draw. He was the real McCoy. In 1956 you know all of Minnesota was rooting for him when he faced Ezzard Charles, the successor to Joe Louis. Charles, who stopped Jasper in the ninth, is ranked number 24 on the Bert Sugar list of the top 100 fighters of all time. (Bert Randolph Sugar, Boxing’s Greatest Fighters 76 (The Lyons Press 2006).)
Jasper retired in 1959 after 39 pro fights, 27 wins and a draw against 11 losses. Sixteen of his wins were by knockout.
Jasper had become the undisputed Minnesota heavyweight champ on October 29, 1957, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Gene White at the Ascension Club in Minneapolis. Known as the Rock, White is listed at boxrec.com as 6-foot-2 and also about 200 lbs. Calling St. Paul his home, he boxed professionally from 1951 to 1958, including in Canada, Texas, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In 1993 White was inducted into the Mancini’s St. Paul Sports Hall of Fame, of which Jim was then Chairman.
On Tuesday October 27, 1953 Jim faced Jack Wagner of Battle Lake. Both are listed at 190 lbs. With the alias Timberjack, Wagner was 6-foot-3 and 23 years of age. The match occurred at the St. Paul Auditorium. There’s a note that Jack Gibbons was the referee. He awarded Wagner a technical knockout at one minute 30 seconds into the sixth round.
According to boxrec.com Wagner boxed professionally from 1953 to 1961, including a January 1956 fight in St. Paul against Ray Smude in which Jack Dempsey was the third man. Wagner has a 5-5-1 record, with all his wins by KO.
The O’Hara-Wagner bout is believed to have been Wagner’s first professional fight. ‘Twas a heck of a debut, before Jim’s hometown no less, especially considering that Jim had outboxed Don Jasper just two months prior.
Wagner never fought Don Jasper, but Wagner challenged twice for the Minnesota heavyweight title. He lost both efforts. In 1957 he battled Gene “Rock” White for the crown, losing by unanimous decision. In 1961 Wagner took on Don Quinn for the title, losing by kayo in the second.
If Jim underestimated Wagner, no one else made that mistake. Don Riley wrote in 1976: “Jim O’Hara cautions boxers about carrying foes. ‘I carried Timberjack Wagner and they carried me out of the ring.'” (Don Riley’s Eye Opener, St. Paul Pioneer Press, June 7, 1976.)
According to boxrec.com, White retired in 1958 with a 18-14 record. Eleven of his wins were inside the distance. Quinn retired in 1964 with a 23-10 record. Sixteen of his wins were short-route victories.
The final contest listed in boxrec.com for Jim occurred Sunday November 1, 1953. His opponent is Joe Thomas, who’s listed at 186 pounds. No weight is given for Jim. The match occurred in St. Paul. Jim stopped Thomas in three, and there’s no record of any other Thomas fight.
Thus from the boxrec.com information as reported in 2013, it appears Jim’s efforts produced a better than .500 record: six wins and five losses, about the same record as Timberjack Wagner’s. Of Jim’s five registered wins, three are booked as knockouts. By the same token, his inside gambles didn’t always pay off — it was lights out in three of his five recorded losses.
As mentioned, sportswriter Don Riley always called Jim state heavyweight champ for having whipped Don Jasper in Duluth in August 1953. If Jasper had had five fights under his belt when he faced Jim, Timberjack Wagner had had six fights under his belt when he faced Gene “Rock” White for the state heavyweight crown.
Leon Spinks had had only seven pro fights when he took the heavyweight title away from Muhammad Ali in February 1978. One of those, just four months earlier, was a draw with Minnesota Boxing Hall of Famer Scott LeDoux. (In September 1978 Ali regained the title from Spinks and a year later retired (for the first time).)
It’s of course a time-honored tradition in boxing to lay claim to a crown, as is debate about who should have won this or that decision or who deserves to be on the list of the greatest.
St. Paul’s Mike Gibbons had a claim to the middleweight title after the death of Stanley Ketchel, the Michigan Assassin, in 1910. (The Ring Boxing Encyclopedia and Record Book 19 (The Ring Book Shop 1979).)
In his day Ketchel was as famous as his heavyweight contemporary Jack Johnson. Elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1990, Ketchel is ranked number 19 on the Bert Sugar list of the top 100 fighters of all time. Gibbons was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. He’s ranked number 92 out of the top 100. (Bert Randolph Sugar, supra, at 60, 314, and 316.)
Mike Gibbons is ranked number five on the list of the top defensive fighters of all time and number 10 on the list of the greatest Irish-American fighters of all time. Bert Sugar put these last two lists together with Teddy Atlas. (Bert Randolph Sugar and Teddy Atlas, The Ultimate Book of Boxing Lists, 162 and 143 (Running Press 2010).)
In the early 1940s Jim gave boxing lessons to his cousin Tom Hoban in the Mike Gibbons Rose Room Gym in the basement of the Hamm Building in downtown St. Paul. Having followed Jim’s career in the ring, Hoban in 2013 recalled two, and perhaps more, main events at the St. Paul Auditorium over the years between Jim and another St. Paul heavyweight, who he believed was Joe Stepka.
With the alias Bill Zaire, Stepka is listed at boxrec.com as big as 215 lbs. He boxed professionally from 1944 to 1953, including in Nebraska, Illinois, and Michigan. You have to give Stepka credit for one-upping Jim in June of 1945. Whereas Earl Adkinson knocked out Jim in the first round at the St. Paul Auditorium on June 8, 1945, Stepka knocked out Adkinson in the first round in the same venue 19 days later.
Jim and Stepka started out together in the St. Paul Golden Gloves, Jim then a light-heavyweight and Stepka a middleweight, where they became lifelong friends. In 1988 Stepka was inducted into the Mancini’s St. Paul Sports Hall of Fame, of which Jim was then Chairman.
Boxrec.com reports that Stepka retired in 1953 with a 24-10-2 record, including 13 wins by knockout.
Hoban said that the two bouts he remembers for certain between Jim and another St. Paul heavyweight, believed to be Stepka, were in the ring set up on the stage in the theater section of the St. Paul Auditorium, the same location where Hoban’s high school commencement was held. When asked the outcome of the rivalry, he said they were split. “They were pretty evenly matched,” said Hoban.
There’s nothing like a bout where the contestants are skilled boxers evenly matched. Boxing essayist A.J. Liebling describes a hard-fought eight-round draw he witnessed in New York City in the early 1950s featuring a couple of experienced welterweights (147 lbs. max.). Earl Dennis and Ernie Roberts were their names. Here Liebling gives us a glimpse of the regimented lives of professional boxers who hold day jobs:
I knew from talking with their managers that both Dennis and Roberts were married men and fathers, and that they both held down full-time jobs. Roberts, a clerk in a hardware store, got to work at eight each morning and left at seven. His employer let him have three hours off in the middle of the day, during which he trained at Stillman’s and had his lunch. After work, he went home to his wife and child, in Harlem, and at five the next morning he was in Central Park, doing his roadwork – five miles in about forty-five minutes every day before breakfast. He was twenty-five. Dennis, who was only twenty-two, although he had been married for five years and had two children, lived in Brooklyn and worked normal hours for a firm on the fringes of the garment center, making women’s belt buckles. After work, he went up to the Broadway Gym, a small place near City College, to train, and a couple of hours later headed for Brooklyn. He, too, did his roadwork in the mornings. Roberts had had about forty fights and Dennis about thirty-five. Their daytime bosses were at ringside.
A.J. Liebling wrote these words in the essay entitled The Neutral Corner Art Group in the book that Sports Illustrated ranked, in 2002, the number one sports book of all time: The Sweet Science (The Viking Press 1956). For his essays on boxing, Liebling was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992. He believed television would put boxing into a coma. See his comments quoted near the end of Round 13, entitled The Businessman.
In the same essay, Liebling mentions how much these fighters, who like Jim maintained day jobs, were paid for their night’s work. He says they each received $300, less $100 for their managers. They fought in the early 1950s, as did Jim. So if you figure a conservative four percent annual inflation rate, their night’s pay in 2015 dollars might be about $3,028 gross before management fees.
If it weren’t for the drinking, Jim acknowledged, he’d have trained more. He said he never was Olympic material, for example, because of the late nights. Growing up around legends he knew intellectually that with few exceptions, like Harry Greb, you don’t become a great fighter let alone a Mike Gibbons without dedicated training and training and more training. Applying that knowledge to yourself is the hard part, what with a life outside the ring.
Jim’s aim was to have a regular day job, marry Kitty (which he did in 1948), become a father (their first child arrived in 1951), and be the all-around family man (maintaining the family home and car, etc.) that he saw in his Uncle John Hoban. See Round 4, entitled The O’Hara Name & St. Paul. Needless to say, Jim also aimed to keep all his friends, including his drinking buddies. Consequently, he had plenty of excuses to cut his training short.
Insufficient training has long been a problem among gloved combatants. (Johnny Salak, Training a Full-Time Job, The Ring, August 1950, 46.)
A middleweight, Greb is ranked number five pound for pound on the Bert Sugar list of the top 100 fighters of all time after only Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Willie Pep, and Joe Louis. (Bert Randolph Sugar, supra, at 14.)
A city boy, Jim appreciated the outdoors, at least as a spectator, not only in Minnesota but also in Alaska where he and Kitty visited family many times over 20 years beginning in the early 1980s. In Alaska the vehicle of choice for getting to fishing holes and the rest is the small aircraft. But pilots often give up their wings if they don’t have the time to put in the hours necessary to stay sharp and on top of their game. In flying small aircraft, you need to see not only where you are but to anticipate miles ahead, as in boxing, what you can’t yet see, lest you get into a mountain pass where clouds can descend and sock everything in.
As of this writing boxrec.com has a record of 11 of Jim’s fights from June 1945 through November 1953. If he never trained like a contender, he’s believed to have had more than 11 professional contests. You don’t box at the professional level at least eight and a half years and have just 11 fights unless you’re Jack Dempsey. Jim had a family to support, and the heavyweights he faced were formidable, including the world-class puncher Don Jasper and a troika of 6-foot-3ers in Willie Dee Jones, Big Jack Herman, and Timberjack Wagner.
Having just 11 pro fights spread over eight-and-a-half years would be as risky as calling yourself a pilot on top of your game but having only 11 flights over about as many years. There’s no substitute for experience.
An intriguing clue suggesting Jim took on all comers is a remark by his manager, Murray McLean, who after all wasn’t making a living unless his men were fighting. “Jim never asked who the foe was, only what time was the fight and what was the payoff,” said McLean. (Don Riley’s Eye Opener, St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press, June 13, 1976.)
Put it this way: in fistiana you rest, you rust. Jim turned pro in 1945. As late as 1953 he didn’t show any rust when he whipped the great Don Jasper. So it’s likely understated to say Jim’s pro record consists of 11 performances.
Understatement is perhaps fitting. Sure on a trip to Duluth he’d mentioned to his son Jeff that it was hot in August 1953 when he fought in the Armory there. But that comment was about as close as he got to tooting his own horn about his boxing career. “Don’t use the word ‘I’ too much,” he advised. “It’s not about you.”
Talk about other athletes, those who were good like himself as well as the greats, now that’s when he got energized.
How did Jim, at 6-foot-1 and 200 lbs. in his prime, stack up size-wise with some of the heavyweight champs of the golden age of boxing? According to boxrec.com:
Jack Johnson is ranked number 10 on the Bert Sugar list of the top 100 fighters of all time. Dempsey is ranked 9; Tunney, 13; Louis, 4; and Marciano, 14. (Bert Randolph Sugar, supra, at 10, 26, 29, 40, and 43.)
Preferring the boxing name Handsome Jim and claiming to have a “pretty face,” Jim said he could fight without messing his hair. Such was one of the benefits of the St. Paul School of No Get Hit, of which Mike Gibbons’ was the father.
A student of boxing history, Jim was a big fan of Benny Leonard who as a lightweight (135 lbs. max.) became world champion in May 1917. In the 1950s Jim became friends with Leonard’s manager Jack “Doc” Kearns through another of Kearns’ men, world light-heavyweight champ Joey Maxim. See Round 6, entitled The Boxer. Bert Sugar wrote of Leonard:
Practicing what he called the “Art of Self-Defense,” the master technician put into words his strategy: “Hit and not be hit.” And he was to prove it when, after each fight, he would proudly run his hand through his hair and announce,” I never even got my hair mussed.”
(Bert Randolph Sugar, supra, at 18.)
Ranking Benny Leonard number six on the list of the top 100 fighters of all time, Bert Sugar explained:
Leonard was the nearest thing to a perfect fighter boxing has ever seen. He combined the boxing ingenuity of Young Griffo, the masterful technique of James J. Corbert, the pinpoint accuracy of Joe Gans, the punching power of Jack Dempsey, the alertness of Gene Tunney, and the speed of Mike Gibbons.
(Bert Randolph Sugar, supra, at 17.)
Mike Gibbons was Jim’s biggest inspiration in the prize ring, and Jim wasn’t alone. Gene Tunney called Mike Gibbons his “model.” A boxer in the United States Marines during World War I, Tunney believed that if he could become “a big Mike Gibbons,” he could beat Jack Dempsey and become the world heavyweight champ. (George Kimball and John Schulian, At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing (Library of America 2011), which includes the writing of Gene Tunney: My Fights with Jack Dempsey, Kindle Edition.) Tunney also learned ring strategy from his good pal Benny Leonard.
On the famous Dempsey-Tunney fights of 1926 and 1927, see Round 2, entitled Dignity and Sportsmanship.
Gene Tunney’s parents, Mike Gibbons’ parents, and Jim’s maternal grandparents all came to the United States from Ireland’s County Mayo. See Round 4, entitled The O’Hara Name & St. Paul.
Copyright 2012-2015 by Steven T. O’Hara. All rights reserved.