harry greb

Remembering one of boxing’s greats, Harry Greb

Published On September 2, 2015 | By Gavin O'Connor | Boxing News

The history of boxing is full of characters. Some are loved, hated, idolized and ridiculed in equal measure. Last week marked the anniversary of a special night for one such character, when on August 31st 1938, a certain Harry Greb defeated Johnny Wilson for the middleweight title. 77 years on, we wanted to pay homage to this great personality and champion.

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Old School

Some boxers stand the test of time in the eyes of history and some fade away consigned to the sidelines. Boxers have but a short time to leave their mark in reality, to stamp their legend on the sport and set their name in stone along side the giants of the sport.

How long is long enough to leave a legacy? Well, in the case of Edward Henry “Harry” Greb – 13 years is the answer.

Edward Henry “Harry” Greb would enter the professional ranks of boxing at the age of 19 making his professional debut against Battling Murphy, then going on to record an unbelievable record of 261-17-19-1 (48KO) in remarkably, 13 short years.

His list of boxing achievements was quite breathtaking, and all the more remarkable considering towards the end of his career Greb was actually fighting blind in one eye.

A Resume Filled With Great Fighters

In 1919 Greb fought professionally 45 times alone, the man also known as the “Smoke City Wildcat” would face 16 Hall of Fame fighters in his career.

With a list of who’s who of boxers faced during his era, his resume boasted boxing titans of their time like; Tiger Flowers, Micky Walker, Tommy Loughran and the under rated Jeff Smith, a fighter who faced the greats of the 1910 through the 1920’s including Gene Tunney, Mike Gibbons, Georges Carpentier, Les Darcy and and Tommy Loughran.

Greb, was probably best remembered for his classic fights against the great Gene Tunney – the first of which was in 1922 when Tunney was American light-heavyweight champion.

The Tunney Encounters

Greb would leave such an impression on Tunney, Gene who would later say of his 1st encounter with Greb:

“In the first exchange in the first round, 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 adrenaline 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 best 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.”

(A quick look back on video of the life and times of Greb)


After receiving such high praise from the great Tunney, that would in turn solicit Greb to later respond in kind saying:

“I declined a job as Jack Dempsey’s sparring partner in preparation for Dempsey-Tunney.

I’d feel like a burglar taking Jack’s money. Nobody can get him in good enough condition to whip Gene”.

Greb for my money, truly ranks among the greats in the sport for the sheer quantity and quality of opposition faced during his time, in a remarkable output that saw him fight almost 300 times professionally – in just 13 years.

It’s just not something you see anymore. His boxing legacy will always be assured in the history of the sweet science.

(Image credit: Boxing.com and video credit: Steve Compton YouTube)

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About The Author

Gavin O'Connor
My name is Gavin O'Connor and I am a father of two boys, I live and work in London. I'm a freelance writer, boxing analyst and a card carrying boxing enthusiast. I am passionate about all aspects of the sweet science - it has been my passion for over 30 years.

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