Fighters & Families features Tunney, Conn, Dave Anderson at South Street Museum

Fighting Irishmen: A Celebration of the Celtic Prizefigher and event sponsor Union State Bank will present "Fighters and Families," a symposium discussing boxing families on Tuesday night, November 20, at the South Street Seaport Museum..

The panel will include: New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Dave Anderson; author Jay R. Tunney, the son of former heavyweight champion Gene Tunney; Tim Conn, the son of boxing Hall of Fame champion Billy Conn; Doug Graham, the son of perennial welterweight contender and uncrowned champion Billy Graham; and Charlie Sharkey, the great, grand nephew of legendary Irish champion "Sailor" Tom Sharkey, whose two fights with James J. Jeffries have become legend, especially the 25 round Coney Island championship fight in 1899; exhibit curator Jim Houlihan will serve as the moderator.

This event will begin at 6:00 PM with light refreshments and an opportunity to tour the exhibit and the panel discussion gets underway at 7:00 PM. Tickets are priced at $50 for V.I.P. seating and $35 for general admission. To purchase tickets, email, or order on line at, or call 212-748-8786. South Street Seaport Museum is located at 12 Fulton Street, New York, NY 10038.

Jay Tunney offered these recollections of his heavyweight champion dad: "The first time it came home to me that my Dad was a celebrity, that is someone different from other dads, was when we went to Madison Square Garden to see Roy Rogers during the World War II," says Tunney. "I was about seven years old and Roy was my hero. Roy rode into the arena and I was in awe.

"Suddenly there was a big spotlight on us sitting in the stands and Roy was pointing in our direction, introducing my Dad," he continued. "Dad stood up in his Navy commander's uniform and waved, and the Garden broke into a thunderous applause. People in nearby seats waved and shouted at him, cheering. Even Roy clapped. Dad smiled, tipped his hat and sat down. I couldn't imagine why, with all the people in the Garden, Roy singled out my dad?"

Recollections from Jay Tunney on his father's relationship with Jack Dempsey

"My father, with a scientific style, beat slugger Jack Dempsey twice in battles for the heavyweight boxing championship of the world which was the biggest honor for an athlete of the Roaring Twenties. Yet dad, who retired undefeated, always said Dempsey was the greatest fighter and champion of all time, and the two of them remained lifelong friends despite post-boxing careers that took them in totally different directions."

"As a teenager, I first met Jack Dempsey in his restaurant. I was nervous. "Gene's boy," he called me, playfully swinging his left fist which stopped just short of my jaw, then wrapping his big arms around me and introducing me to his friends who included Willie Pep, Rocky Graziano and Jersey Joe Walcott. Growing up, we Tunneys had always heard our father say that in the Chicago Long Count fight controversy he could have gotten up off the deck in time even if he had not been given the extra five seconds by Dempsey."

The widely popular Fighting Irishmen: Celebrating Celtic Prizefighters 1820-Present exhibit is a collaborative effort between the South Street Seaport Museum and the Irish Arts Center.

The eclectic collection of boxing photography and artifacts which will continue through December 31 is once again open to the public, also enjoyed a four month run at the Irish Arts Center last year. It is a veritable stroll down memory lane for fight fans and historians alike. Of course, certainly the most unique item in the exhibit the late, great Irish fighter Dan Donnelly's mummified right arm is on display thanks to Josephine Byrne. Among the artifacts and pictures on display will be the legendary John L. Sullivan's fur coat; a blazer specially made for Jack Dempsey ; photographs from the archives of Sports Illustrated and MSG photographer George Kalinsky; Charlie Nash's Olympic jersey when he was fighting for Ireland; photographs of the classic Micky Ward vs. Arturo Gatti trilogy; and historic photos of such memorable Irish fighters as John L. Sullivan, James J. Braddock, Billy Conn, Jerry Quarry, Gerry Cooney, Barry McGuigan and Bobby Cassidy, just to name a few.

The expanded exhibit will also include: a heavy bag from Gene Tunney's training camp; equipment from current female fighter Maureen Shea, used for training actress Hilary Swank for the acclaimed film Million Dollar Baby, and three original oil painting's from the Tunney collection by the artist Mahonri Young, Brigham Young's grandson. In addition, visitors will be able to view video of historic fights during their tours of the exhibit.

Winter hours, beginning November 1, for the South Street Seaport Museum are Fridays through Mondays from 10 AM to 5 PM.

By subway: 2,3,4,5,J,Z or M to Fulton Street; A or C to Broadway-Nassau.
By bus: M15 down Second Ave. to Fulton Street
By car: from West Side: take West St. southbound past WTC site. Follow signs to FDR Dr. Take underpass, keep right, use Exit 1 at end of underpass. Turn right on South St., drive six blocks to Seaport. Public parking is available on the right. From East Side: Take FDR Dr. south to Exit 3 onto South St. Continue south, passing under the Brooklyn Bridge. Public parking is available on the left.

Article posted on 29.10.2007

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