Two of the best boxing technicians on the 1920s battled to a draw on this date in 1922 in Philadelphia. At the time, Gene Tunney was the top light heavyweight fighter on the planet and in a few years would outbox the ferocious Jack Dempsey, to claim the heavyweight crown. Tommy Loughran was competing in just his 13th professional bout.
Loughran is well remembered by boxing historians, but no longer anything like a household name. It’s a shame, because he was a true technical pioneer and fought many of the biggest stars of the 1920s and early 1930s, at middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.
It’s a testament to what kind of prodigy Loughran must have been that he was matched against Tunney so early in his career. And only a little over a month prior to this fight with Tunney, he had lost a tough decision against the great Harry Greb.
Loughran reigned as the world champion at light heavyweight from 1927 to 1929, before moving up to campaign at heavyweight. As a heavyweight, he beat former world champions Jack Sharkey and Max Baer. He also recorded a win over Jim Braddock at light heavyweight, giving him victories over three heavyweight champions for his career.
In 1934, Loughran challenged reigning heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. Carnera weighed in at 270 to Loughran’s 186 and had an eight-inch height advantage. But according to Loughran’s Boxrec biography, critics and fans felt he deserved the decision over Carnera. Other than perhaps Sonny Liston, no heavyweight champion’s career has been surrounded by more suspicion of corruption than Carnera’s.
Aside from Harry Greb, who also had a draw and win over Tunney, Loughran is the only opponent the Fighting Marine failed to beat after 1920. Tunney would avenge his loss to Greb twice and shock the world by beating Dempsey in back-to-back fights in 1926 and 1927.
Tunney’s defeat of Dempsey is in many ways comparable to Jim Corbett’s stoppage of John L. Sullivan over a generation before. Both Tunney and Corbett used science and technique to dethrone wildly popular champions and never achieved similar popularity themselves.