Later changing his name to Gene Tunney, James Joseph Tunney was born in New York City on May 25, 1898. While working as a clerk for the Ocean Steamship Co., Tunney took up boxing in 1915. Tunney joined the Marine Corps and served in World War I. In Paris, he clenched the light heavyweight title of the United States Expeditionary Force. Upon his return to the United States, he continued to pursue boxing, winning the 1922 light heavyweight championship.
After his defeat of Georges Carpentier in 1924, Tunney fought as a heavyweight. In 10 rounds, Tunney bested Jack Dempsey in the 1926 world championship match. During a controversial rematch the following year, Tunney defended his title, as well as in 1928 against Tom Heeney. Tunney retired in 1928, having won 65 out of 77 bouts during his 13 year career. He passed away in 1978.