January 9, 1911 – August 1, 1982
6’1” / 191 1/2 – 208lbs
56-30-1-0(28) from 9/13/1934 to 4/3/1948 (13y7m)
2-11-0-0(0) against the top ten
0-0-0-0(0) against linear champions
0-1-0-0(0) against hall-of-famers
no fights for the linear championship
Top Ten Opponents:
W-UD-10 Alberto Santiago Lovell, W-UD-12 Buddy Scott, L-UD-10 Nathan Mann, L-TKO-7 Lou Nova, L-UD-10 Roscoe Toles, L-UD-10 Abe Simon, L-TKO-8 Billy Conn, L-TKO-8, L-TKO-2 Tami Mauriello, L-UD-10 Gus Dorazio, L-UD-10, L-UD-10 Buddy Scott, L-TKO-10 Joe Baksi
-5 total score (2 + -9 + 0 + 2)
Gunnar Barlund was an extremely accomplished amateur fighter, competing in the 1932 Olympics, and winning the 1933 Finnish Heavyweight Championship, as well as the 1934 European Heavyweight Championship.
He turned professional in September 1934, and despite a disqualification loss in his second fight, started strong with an 18-1(11) record. He took that record into his first fight against a ranked contender, Nathan Mann, in February 1937. He lost that fight by 10 round decision, and would lose two more immediately after, another decision, and a DQ.
Barlund would keep fighting, however, and followed the three losses up with 2 straight wins leading up to his December 1937 matchup with his 2nd top contender, old amateur nemesis Alberto Santiago Lovell. Barlund won a decision, gaining a measure of revenge against the man who knocked him out of the 1932 Olympics. Barlund followed this win with arguably the most impressive win of his career, a 7 round drubbing of future contender Buddy Baer. Baer had 5 inches and 42 pounds on Barlund, but the gulf in size made no difference as Barlund dominated throughout, before dropping Baer with a body shot in the 7th, forcing the referee to waive the fight off.
A questionable win over Otis Thomas, and a solid win over Tony Musto led to an 8th round TKO loss against Jack Roper. A bad cut over his eye ruined what had been a winning performance. Barlund rebounded with 11 wins out of his next 12 (only dropping a decision to previous victim Nathan Mann).
Barlund’s fortunes became shakier after that, as he fought increasingly better competition. Over the next three and a half years, he would drop decisions to Melio Bettina, Abe Simon, Harry Bobo, Gus Dorazio, and Buddy Scott, as well as suffering stoppages against Billy Conn and Tami Mauriello. Nonetheless, Barlund remained a competitive gatekeeper in the division, and managed another top ten win in May 1944, winning a rematch decision over Buddy Scott.
This success would mark the last top ten win of his career. After that, Barlund would provide good tests in losing efforts to fighters like Joe Baksi, Tami Mauriello (for the 3rd time), Lou Nova, and Phil Muscato.
“GeeBee” was undoubtedly the greatest heavyweight to come out of Finland, and was a mainstay of the division for multiple years in the ’30s and ’40s. He managed a #3 ranking by the Ring in 1936, and also held a top ten spot in 1939 and 1940.
Barlund had decent power, and solid skills. While a hero in his native Finland, he is relatively unknown to modern American boxing fans. Nevertheless, he was a good fighter, and deserving of this ranking.