Book Review

09 November 2008 – By Thomas Myler

From Poverty Bay To Broadway: The Story of Tom Heeney

by Lydia Monin

Tom Heeney is one of those forgotten heavyweights of the past and one who has had precious little written about him, which is a great pity.

His contemporaries such as Jack Dempsey, Gene Tunney and Georges Carpentier have been the subjects of several books, particularly Dempsey but this is the first one Ive come across on Heeney, though my information is that there have been a few done over the years.

As most boxing fans know, Heeney came from New Zealand and was known as The Hard Rock From Down Under. His chief claim to fame was, as it happens, a losing fight when he was stopped in 11 rounds by Tunney at the Yankee Stadium in New York on July 26, 1928. It was Tunneys last fight before retiring as undefeated world heavyweight champion, having twice beaten Dempsey.

This is a well-researched biography with 285 pages, plus 16 with glossy photographs. The fights are well detailed, with good descriptions and if there is any fault that can be found, it is the lack of Heeneys record, a necessary requirement in any boxing book of this kind. Most boxing fans like to glance through records, just to get the full results or see a list of opponents if nothing else.

Besides Tunney, Heeney mixed it with the likes of Max Baer, Johnny Risko, Stanley Poreda, Phil Scott, Jimmy Slattery, Jack Delaney, Paulino Uzcudun, Bartley Madden, James Cook and many others.

Despite this omission, however, I enjoyed the book, with all the big boxing figures of the 1920s and 30s coming in. Interesting to read too that the famous American sportswriter Grantland Rice thought Heeney was a better boxer and harder to hit than Dempsey, adding, however, that without Dempseys punch, he would not have become champion. Quite true.

The Irish angle was strong with Heeney too. His father was a Derryman and his mother was from Cork. They both emigrated in the late 1870s to New Zealand, though his mother spent a few years in Australia first, before they met and married. Heeney was born in 1895 and had a 13-year career, with 37 wins, 23 losses and eight draws. He was not a heavy puncher, as his record of 15 inside the distance shows but he was a gritty performer. Interestingly, as part of a British and Irish tour, he boxed in Croke Park on August 9, 1926 when he outpointed Bartley Madden, a veteran New Yorker, over 20 rounds. It was a deserved decision and a crowd of 12,000 watched the fight.

As I say, I enjoyed this book, with its easy-flowing style, telling the full story of a man who has been sadly neglected by historians down the years. From Poverty Bay To Broadway is most definitely a good read and a welcome addition to any fans boxing library. It comes highly recommended. Lets have another one, Lydia. Information about the book can be had at

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