Tunney Rated Braddock for Job

Damon Runyon

Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, PA)/June 11, 1935

Gene Tunney, former heavyweight champion of the world, will be an interested spectator at the battle Thursday night between Max Baer, current holder of the title, and James J. Braddock, The Cinderella Man of Fistiana.

It is a matter of seven years ago that Gene Tunney, then retired from championship cares, peered at James J. Braddock in pugilistic action and said of The Cinderella Man:

“This is just the fellow for my old job.”

Perhaps Gene Tunney has forgotten his prediction, or perhaps it was just one of a number of predictions that he made during his champion career. He once fingered out a lad named Harold Mays, one of his spar-pards at Speculator, as a likely sort of bloke for titular honors, though Harold rather let Gene Tunney down.

For that matter, so did James J. Braddock for quite a stretch of years. James J., by the way, is Gene Tunney’s official titling. He was one of three James J.’s to hold the heavyweight title. He was preceded therein by James J. Corbett and James J. Jeffries. James J. Braddock will enter the ring in the Madison Square Garden Bowl in Long Island City Thursday night with that much on Baer, anyway.

Muldoon’s Prediction

But getting back to the letting down of Gene Tunney by James J. Braddock.

A couple of years after he uttered his fateful prediction, Gene Tunney might well have wondered, if he could recall the name, what had become of that promising youth. By that time, James J. Braddock was losing with dismal regularity to gladiators of no great ability, and the promise Tunney had seen in him was sadly dimmed. But now if James J. Braddock should out-fumble Baer for the title Thursday night, Gene Tunney can turn to his neighbors at the ringside and proudly say:

“Well, I always said this was just the fellow for my old job.”

Incidentally, Gene Tunney was not the only predictor of James J. Braddock’s future heavyweight greatness back in the days when The Cinderella Man was fairly spouting with pugilistic promise. Old William Muldoon, “The Iron Duke,” who now sleeps with his fathers, called Braddock and Braddock’s manager Joe Gould, before him in 1929, and aiming a heavy digit at them, roared:

“I think this fighter is the next heavyweight champion of the world. And, Gould, I hold you responsible for him.”

Braddock Doesn’t Drink

Mr. Gould, a smallish man, not so volatile now as in those days, was slightly alarmed. He had responsibilities enough, without being held responsible for James J. Braddock becoming heavyweight champion of the world. He felt that just getting a remunerative match now and then was doing pretty good.

But he accepted the charge and did his best, did Joe Gould, and if the shade of the Old Roman is hanging around the Bowl Thursday night, Joseph can point to James J. Braddock’s presence in the ring as proof that he has done his part. Muldoon, who liked making predictions on pugilistic futures, would have been greatly pleased to see Braddock in there.

The Jerseyman satisfied Muldoon’s idea of a heavyweight in several details that Muldoon regarded as very important. First, Braddock was Irish; second, he could punch, and third, he didn’t drink or run around with loose characters. Muldoon liked moral and spiritual qualities in his fighters along with the physical.

Better Than Heeney

The Cinderella Man has lost a lot of decisions in the ring. but he has been knocked down just twice in some 82 battles, which indicates his durability. A technical knockout in his record by Lou Scozza, the Buffalo light heavy, was due to a cut eye.

We think James J. Braddock is a better fighter than a lot of those who have crawled through the ropes in pursuit of the heavyweight title. Certainly he is better than Tom Heeney, when the old Rock from Down Under fought Gene Tunney, it is doubtful if Baer is any Tunney.

Indeed. Braddock may be as good as Max Schmeling, or Jack Sharkey, or Primo Camera, or the late Young Stribling, who have all figured as contenders the past ten years. We will know more about that Thursday night. We are not trying to “build up” Braddock in print for the purpose of the gate; we are merely stating what seems to be truthful and fair.

The Cinderella Man is no pugilistic bum. He has always fought hard and earnestly, and his victory over as good a man as Art Lasky proves he still has some of his old ability. We place rather a high estimate on Lasky.

Can Take Punishment

We are not saying Braddock will beat Baer, but we do say that be will put up a better fight than the experts think. He is no set-up for the Californian, and Baer cannot afford to do any clowning around with Braddock.

If he fails to tag Braddock out inside of eight rounds, Max will have plenty of trouble. Braddock is so strong, and can take punches so well, that he may go the distance of 15 rounds—and then what? Maxie does not often out-box his opponents.

It looks to us as if Fate is setting the stage for one of those Forlorn Hope things. The amazing comeback out of fistic oblivion of Braddock, the odds, the expertorial guesses, all furnish the atmosphere. The form says Baer should walk out and knock Braddock over with a few gestures, but what has Fate, staunch ally of The Cinderella Man, lately got to say about that?

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