Heeney’s finest losing hour came on July 26, 1928, at Yankee Stadium in New York when he was beaten by champion Gene Tunney, referee Ed Forbes stopping the fight in the 11th of the 15 scheduled rounds.
Heeney lived the rest of his life in the United States, running a bar in Florida and fishing with his friend, Ernest Hemingway.
He had begun boxing in Gisborne and won his first national heavyweight title in 1921 when he beat Albert Pooley of Auckland on points.
He won the Australasian title in 1922 and in 1928 he beat Jack Sharkey, a future world champion, for the right to fight Tunney. Heeney was described by writer Damon Runyan as “The Hard Rock From Down Under”.
He had 69 fights for 37 wins, 22 losses, eight draws, one no-decision and one no-contest.