Harry Greb, Middleweight Boxing Champion

Harry Greb, Middleweight Boxing Champion

Chapter 5 excerpt from Gene Tunney’s book, A Man Must Fight

harry-grebWhile training for the Greb match, which took place just four months after the Levinsky match, I had the worst possible kind of luck. My left eyebrow was opened, and both hands were sorely injured. I had a partial reappearance of the old left-elbow trouble which prevented my using a left jab. Dr. Robert J. Shea, a close friend, who took care of me during my training, thought that a hypodermic injection of adrenalin chloride over the left eye would prevent bleeding when the cut was re-opened by Greb. At my request he injected a hypodermic solution of novacaine into the knuckles of both hands as well. We locked the dressing-room door during this performance.

George Engle, Greb’s manager, wanting to watch the bandages being put on, came over to my dressing-room and found the door bolted. He shouted and banged. We could not allow him in until the doctor had finished his work. Getting in finally, he insisted that I remove all the bandages so that he could see whether I had any unlawful substance under them. I refused. He made an awful squawk, ranting in and out of the room. I became angry. Eventually I realized that Engle was only trying to protect his fighter and, if I let it get my goat, that was my hard luck. Moreover, his not being allowed into the dressing-room made the situation look suspicious. I unwound the bandages from my hands and satisfied George that all was well.

In the first exchange of the fight, I sustained a double fracture of the nose which bled continually until the finish. Toward the end of the first round, my left eyebrow was laid open four inches. I am convinced that the adrenalin solution that had been injected so softened the tissue that the first blow or butt I received cut the flesh right to the bone.

In the third round another cut over the right eye left me looking through a red film. For the better part of twelve rounds, I saw this red phantom-like form dancing before me. I had provided myself with a fifty-per-cent mixture of brandy and orange juice to take between rounds in the event I became weak from loss of blood. I had never taken anything during a fight up to that time. Nor did I ever again.

It is impossible to describe the bloodiness of this fight. My seconds were unable to stop either the bleeding from the cut over my left eye, which involved a severed artery, or the bleeding consequent to the nose fractures. Doc Bagley, who was my chief second, made futile attempts to congeal the nose-bleeding by pouring adrenalin into his hand and having me snuff it up my nose. This I did round after round. The adrenalin, instead of coming out through the nose again, ran down my throat with the blood and into my stomach.

At the end of the twelfth round, I believed it was a good time to take a swallow of the brandy and orange juice. It had hardly got to my stomach when the ring started whirling around. The bell rang for the thirteenth round; the seconds pushed me from my chair. I actually saw two red opponents. How I ever survived the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth rounds is still a mystery to me. At any rate, the only consciousness I had was to keep trying. I knew if I ever relaxed, I should either collapse or the referee would stop the brutality.

After the gong sounded, ending the fifteenth round, I shook hands with Greb and mumbled through my smashed and swollen lips, “Well, Harry, you were the better man, to-night!” and I meant that literally.

Harry missed the subtlety of the remark, for he said, “Won the championship,” and was dragged from me by one of his seconds, who placed a kiss on his unmarked countenance.

I discovered through the early part of that fight that I could lick Harry Greb. As each round went by, battered and pummelled from post to post as I was, this discovery gradually became a positive certainty in my mind. I was conscious of the handicaps under which I had entered the ring. They were not the things that led me to this conviction, however. Many boxers upon entering important matches suffer from sore hands, cut eyes, or something of that sort. There is nothing unusual about that. But I realized that a broken nose and a four-inch cut through arteries over the eye in the first round of a fifteen-round match are at least uncommon and of sufficient seriousness to change completely the current of events.

I left the ring and walked up the aisle toward my dressing-room. This was negotiated only through nervous excitement. I climbed the flight of stairs, each step getting higher and more difficult, and, as I got near the top, the reaction set in. I collapsed; the top step was impossible. I could not make it. The boys carried me into my dressing-room and set me up on the rubbing-table. Immediately the hands of support left me, I fell back with a thud, the back of my head striking the table. I lay perfectly conscious of everything that was taking place, but unable to move a muscle. Nature surrendered.

Everything but the right thing was done to stimulate me. All I needed was a stomach pump to remove the mixture of blood, adrenalin chloride, brandy, and orange juice. It was two hours before I had sufficiently revived to be led out of the old Garden.

The day following the Greb match, I went down to the office of the Boxing Commission to receive my cheque for 22,500 dollars, and placed on a file a challenge to Greb for a return fight, backed with a cheque for 2,500 dollars.

My next consideration was to get my body and face restored to normal after the pummelling and battering that I had received from Greb during those fifteen bloody rounds. I did not recover as quickly as I expected. The strain of the fight and the loss of blood left me weak and exhausted. I was compelled to remain in bed for a week when I returned to Red Bank. A blood tonic prescribed by Dr. Shea soon fixed me up. In a few weeks’ time I was again hale and hearty and ready for renewed action.

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Click here to view more information about Harry Greb on the Harry Greb website.

Pictures of Harry Greb with Gene Tunney