Tom Heeney

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Tom Heeney (May 18, 1898 - June 15, 1984) was a heavyweight boxing contender against Gene Tunney in 1928. Heeney was originally from Gisborne, New Zealand. He was described by sportswriter, Damon Runyon, as the Hard Rock from Down Under.

He worked as a plumber before becoming a professional boxer in 1920. In October, 1920, Heeney became the New Zealand heavyweight champion when he beat Albert Pooley of Auckland on points.

In 1922, Heeney fought in Australia and won the Australian heavyweight champion title, and in 1924 Heeney fought in England and South Africa. In 1926, Heeney went to the United States.

Heeney eventually ranked fourth among the world's heavyweight boxers. After fighting Jack Sharkey, the later heavyweight world champion, in 1928 for the right to fight Tunney, on July 26, 1928, Heeney fought Gene Tunney at Yankee Stadium, New York City, for the world heavyweight championship title. He lost to Tunney in the 11th round. The referee, Ed Forbes, stopped the scheduled 15 round fight in the 11th round. Heeney had entered the boxing ring wearing a Maori cloak that was given to him by the widow of Sir James Carroll.

A week after his defeat, Tom married Marion Dunn, an American. Heeney became an American citizen and boxed until 1933 accomplishing a fighting record of 69 professional bouts, 37 wins, 22 losses, 8 draws, 1 no-decision, and 1 no-contest.

Heeney owned a bar in Florida after he retired from boxing. He often fished with his friend, the famous writer, Ernest Hemingway. Heeney's wife, Marion, died in 1980, and they never had any children.

Tom Heeney was inducted into the New Zealand Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.


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