Harry Greb, baptized Edward Henry Greb (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 6, 1894- Atlantic City, New Jersey, October 22, 1926), dubbed “The Pittsburgh Windmill”, (you sure guess why), was an exceptional middleweight according to experts, that is, the old boxing reporters. He always made the list among the celebrities of the ancient discipline of gloves and punches.
A single fight would suffice to earn him a relevant place in history. He is in the Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, NY since 1990, although he actually was inducted in 1954 to the museum created by Nat Fleischer, a place that disappeared or was replaced later by the one in New York.
We are referring to the duel that took place in “The Big Apple” on May 23, 1922, in which Greb faced Gene Tunney, master of the cruiserweight , who 4 years later would defeat “The Manassa Mauler”, Jack Dempsey, champion of the heavyweights, whom he subdued again in a historic rematch called “the long count”, a story that has no direct link with Greb´s performance.
Tunney, who climbed to the ring with 174 lbs, (12 more than the “Windmill”) had never been defeated in 53 combats, whereas the challenger surpassed 200 fights and already suffered vision problems due to a tear of the retina a year prior. Presumably (at least that is what´s been written and said) in order to even out his physical disadvantages the challenger resorted to illegal stunts: in the first, among other tricks he used throughout the 15 rounds, he inflicted on the champion a headbutt that broke his septum. He finally won by points, which resulted in the only frustration of the fabulous career of the ex-marine, (he left the ring with 65-1-1 -47 KO´s), an Army Officer during World War I, avid reader, classical music lover and of vast culture. He seized the cruiserweight belt of the United States.
In February of the following year, again in NY, Tunney (175 lbs, 10 over Greb), took revenge and got back the belt in 15 rounds. In March ’25, Tunney (181 lbs, his rival 167 lbs) triumphed again and later said that he had been the toughest opponent ever and that he did not know how he ended their first confrontation still standing.
The overwhelming and fast fighter moved in the ring incessantly, with foolproof bravery, he reigned in the middleweight division between 1923 and 1926. He won the title by decision against Johnny Wilson (Aug 31, 1923) and successfully defended it, all via cards, before Bryan Downey (Dec 12, 1923 in 10), Wilson (Jan 18, 1924 in 15)), Fay Kaiser (March24, 1924 in 12), Ted Moore (June 26, 1924 in 15), Mickey Walker (July 2, 1925 in 15) and Tony Marullo (Nov 11, 1925 in 15). On Feb 26, 1926 another star of the era and also a hall of famer Theodore (Tiger) Flowers, the first black world champion of the 160 lbs, stopped him in the 15th and took the throne. Flowers won over him again on August 19 of the same year in NY, a fall that led Greb to quit for good.
In 13 years, (1913-1926) he left behind no less than 290 combats (other stats give him 305) with 46 KO´s, 64 victories by points, 1 by foul, 3 draws and 5 defeats in the cards and 1 KO´s against. Other 168 appear as No Decision or without official results and 1 no contest in addition.
Almost blind, five years before his farewell to the ring, he died still in his prime at 32 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, after a surgery to his damaged eye, on October 22, 1926. Sixty five (65) days after is last climb to the ring.
An old American historian wrote “Greb combined the speed of Robinson, the consistency of James J. Jeffries, the vitality of Hank Armstrong and the lethal aggressiveness of Stanley Ketchel, in addition to having an unparalleled will to triumph in history”. Jack Dempsey, who reigned among the heavyweights between 1919-1926 said about the “Pittsburgh Windmill” that he was “the fastest boxer I have seen in my life, even faster than a lightweight”.