View Full Version : Stanley Ketchel: The Irresistible Assassin
06-23-2009, 11:50 AM
By Mike Casey
There is greatness in life and then there is something beyond that. Something indefinable to which we can never assign an appropriate name or description. Willie Lewis was a great fighter. But he was never going to put a serious dent in the Michigan Assassin, Stanley Ketchel. Willie’s manager knew that even if Willie didn’t.
So Dan McKetrick, a typically shrewd and opportunistic fight manager of the age, employed a two-pronged attack in galvanising his Willie for the great confrontation at New York’s National Sporting Club, known to locals as The Coliseum. McKetrick pumped up Lewis with a heady mix of good old-fashioned wisdom and plain old-fashioned kidology, telling the kid that he would spring the great upset of the age by beating the raging lion that was Ketchel.
While Willie ruminated over all these wonderful words of encouragement, Dan McKetrick enlisted God to handle the tricky part of pulling off the unlikeliest result in boxing. Jumping into his brand new automobile and heading for the Bronx with his old pal and legendary fight manager, Dumb Dan Morgan, McKetrick stopped off at St Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church to indulge in a bout of unusually intense prayer. He even lit a candle at the Shrine of St Anthony and said a few more prayers for good measure. The job was done. McKetrick had all but appointed Willie Lewis a saint. How could God let the boy down now? Dumb Dan Morgan was confused to say the least. He had agreed to work Willie Lewis’ corner with McKetrick and was now wondering what he had let himself in for. The truth became all too sadly and brutally apparent.
The New York crowd of about three thousand was solidly behind Lewis as he confidently engaged Ketchel in the first round and showed no fear of the Assassin. Lewis, a natural welterweight, was conceding ten pounds to Stanley, who weighed in at 158lbs.
Ketchel tested Willie with a couple of stiff digs to the ribs, but then the miracle that Dan McKetrick had prayed for seemed to take shape. Gasps could be heard around the Coliseum as Lewis suddenly caught Ketchel flush on the bridge of the nose with a terrific right hand smash. When Stanley lowered his gloves, they were covered in blood. Willie had inflicted a serious wound and went full throttle to seize the great prize as he rubbed the blood into Stanley’s eyes and kept punching to the bell.
The Coliseum was in uproar. Even Dan McKetrick was stunned.
It was all too much for Dumb Dan Morgan, who knew what was coming next and left the Lewis corner for a seat in Row 4. Dumb Dan advised McKetrick that he alone would be responsible for picking up Willie’s body when Ketchel had taken his revenge. Not lightly did Dumb Dan refer to Ketchel as The Slasher.
The execution wasn’t long in coming. Poor Willie Lewis wasn’t a saint and didn’t have any miracles. As Dumb Dan Morgan later recalled, “Ketchel doubled him up with a one-two punch to the stomach. Then, as the Kid straightened up, The Slasher nailed him with one of the most terrible right hand punches to the face I have ever seen. It caught Lewis flush in the mouth and drove two of his front teeth right up through his upper lip. It was an awful sight.
“The Kid was helpless, but would not go down. The referee was on the spot too. To stop a brawl like this could cause a riot.”
Ketchel saved referee Tom O’Rourke any embarrassment by quickly finishing off Lewis.
Dumb Dan Morgan later berated Dan McKetrick for making the fight. “Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that young kid had a chance with a killer like Ketchel?”
“Yes, I did,” McKetrick replied. “I counted on the surprise element and sometimes forces are at work you don’t know about. I gambled and lost. It ain’t MY fault the saint didn’t stand up!”
For a man who had lived so hard and fought so violently, the last words of Stanley Ketchel were strangely gentle and poignant. As he lay dying at the Dickerson ranch in Conway, Missouri, his assailant’s bullet lodged in his back, Ketchel looked up at his friend Pete Dickerson and said, “Take me home to mom, Pete.”
Ketchel was just twenty-four years old. Yet how he left his mark in such a tragically short space of time! He had cultivated a reputation as one of the most feared men on earth in a straight fight. He was a natural, vicious, two-fisted fighter with a colossal punch in either hand, who had terrorised the middleweight division and even challenged the great Jack Johnson during a sensational professional career that spanned just seven years between 1903 and 1910.
Ketchel was a natural born puncher. At first sight, he looked scrawny and pallid of complexion. He frequently looked nervous and drawn when he entered the ring. But he generated his great power from wide shoulders beautifully muscled arms and a wealth of natural talent.
He was a mid-western boy from Grand Rapids, Michigan, but a Wild West man at heart, who began to carve his indelible mark on boxing with a quick succession of early knockouts in the Montana towns of Butte, Miles City, Helena, Gregson Springs and Great Falls. He quickly became known to local boxing writers as the Montana Wonder.Part 2 On Next Page...........
06-23-2009, 11:51 AM
When Stan graduated to the major league, he locked horns with fellow greats Billy Papke and Joe Thomas in some of the most thrilling fights ever seen in California.
By the time Ketchel moved back east at the tail end of his career, he was in his prime as one of the most destructive fighters the ring has ever seen. His punching power, to this day, is acknowledged in boxing circles as being truly exceptional.
Former Ring editor Nat Fleischer got to know Ketchel well and spoke often of the Assassin’s multi-faceted character. Hype Igoe, a great New York boxing writer and raconteur, was even closer to Ketchel and his ever shifting moods. There is little doubt that Stan had a psychotic nature. He once shot a friend in the foot during a raging temper, then wept uncontrollably with remorse as he picked the man up in his arms and rushed him to a doctor.
Recalling Ketchel, who was known as Steve to his close friends, Hype Igoe said, “He was a many sided individual. He could be as tame as a new born babe, as vicious as a lion trying to protect its cubs, as lovable as a mother and as treacherous as a villain.
“I never knew him to sit down to a meal without first laying his big blue six-shooter across his lap. I never could quite understand just why he went so armed. I nearly died of anxiety in Wheeling, West Virginia, one morning, when we went to breakfast in the Clark House.
“One of the waiters gave Ketchel a snippy answer about the kind of eggs and bacon they had on tap and I saw Steve reach for the gun under the table cloth.”
Ketchel was in a foul mood. He had broken his left hand in his recent fight with Frank Klaus and the pain from the swelling was driving him to despair. Igoe knew that he had to do some fast thinking to avoid a disaster. “I bit into my thin water glass and cut my mouth purposely, and with blood running from my lips I yelled for Ketchel to see me to the wash room. He stuck his gun in his waistband and hustled me off. I insisted that I was bleeding to death and he must hustle me to a doctor. Anything to get away from that waiter. The ruse worked.”
Igoe adored Ketchel and had a somewhat vague and tenuous managerial claim on him when Stanley first came to New York. That arrangement was abruptly terminated. Returning from a trip with Ketchel to Philadelphia, Hype was sitting in a Pullman drawing room when Stanley came in and threw two of his pistols on the table. “I want to talk a little business to you, Hype. I think I prefer having Wilson Mizner manage me from now on.”
“That’s fine,” said Hype calmly.
Igoe might have pulled more strings for Ketchel than Stanley ever realised. Writer Damon Runyon always insisted that the Assassin was ‘carried’ by Sam Langford in their famous six-rounds duel of 1910 and that Hype was instrumental in negotiating an easier ride for Stanley than he might otherwise have had. Well, maybe and maybe not.
On October 15 1910, Ketchel’s favourite gun could not save him from his killer. Stanley had been living a fast life since losing to Jack Johnson and had travelled to Pete Dickerson’s ranch for some much needed rest and healthy exercise. Ketchel was quickly back to his old self and fighting fit again. He talked confidently of putting on some extra weight and taking a second crack at Johnson.
Not that Stan was abstaining from the good life entirely. A renowned Don Juan of the ring, he had been flirting with ranch waitress Goldie Smith, the girlfriend of farm hand Walter Dipley.
Dipley had protested to Ketchel about his romancing of the girl. The situation between the men was already tense, as Stan had earlier riled Dipley after scolding him for beating a horse.
Relaxed and convivial, Ketchel had observed the old Western rule of never sitting with one’s back to the door when taking his meals. On the day of his death, Goldie Smith had changed his place setting. His gun across his lap, Stan was blind to Dipley’s menacing advance.
“Throw up your hands,” Dipley commanded, taking aim with a rifle. Ketchel looked over his shoulder and smiled, believing he was the victim of a prank. He got up and was in the act of turning when Dipley shot him. The .22 calibre rifle bullet ripped into Ketchel’s back, directly beneath the right shoulder blade and surged upwards to puncture a lung. His favourite six-shooter tumbled from his lap and Stan fell to the floor. Dipley left the room but then returned to snatch up Stan’s revolver. He cracked Ketchel across the head with the weapon before fleeing.
Ketchel died at six minutes past seven that evening at the Springfield hospital. Pete Dickerson had organised a special train and taken three physicians on board. They had performed an operation on Stanley earlier, but had failed to locate the bullet.
Dipley, originally announced as Walter Hurtz, was pursued by a possee of police officers, bloodhounds and local citizens. Pete Dickerson offered a reward of five thousand dollars for his capture.
Part 3 Next Page.........
06-23-2009, 11:51 AM
Among my collection of photographs of Stanley Ketchel is an old shot that perfectly reflects his character and the wild and rollicking era in which he flourished. Ketchel is flanked by Pete Dickerson and heavyweight boxer Joe Harmon. Stan is in the middle of the picture, standing beside a friend whose name still rings like a bell after all these years: Emmet Dalton. Emmet was breathing the fresh air again after a lengthy prison stint for his role in one of the most audacious and storied bank raids of the Old West.
On October 4 1892, the Dalton Gang rode into the town of Coffeyville, Kansas, with the intention of achieving a notorious first by clearing out two banks at the same time: the First National and the Condon. They were quickly rumbled by the townspeople, who armed themselves and shot down the outlaws in a furious gunfight that last for little more than fifteen minutes. Emmet Dalton took a bullet in the back but was the only gang member to survive and was sent to the Kansas State Prison.
Stanley Ketchel certainly knew some people. Rumours persist that he and his family had ties with Cole Younger of the James Gang. Ketchel’s ring battles are the stuff of legend and talked about to this day. His series of fights with the equally tough Billy Papke, the great Illinois Thunderbolt, were among the most brutal in middleweight history. Both men were imbued with a near maniacal will to win. Ketchel outpointed Papke in their first title encounter in June 1908 prompting Papke to try a new ploy in their rematch at the Jeffries Vernon Arena three months later. Stanley looked his usual nervous self as he entered the ring in a tattered dressing gown, a worn hunting cap and green gauze shorts. But he couldn’t have imagined the immediate and vicious turn of events.
Billy shunned Ketchel’s pre-fight handshake and hit the champion with a terrific blow to the head from which he never recovered. Papke tore into the attack, flooring the dazed and bleeding Ketchel three times. Stanley was struck repeatedly by full-blooded blows to the face in that opening round, as well as by a mighty blow just above the heart that might have killed or seriously wounded a lesser man.
Incredibly, Stan survived and fought on with enormous courage until Papke knocked him out in the twelfth round. Ketchel was carried back to his dressing room, his eyes blackened and shut, his lips cut and swollen to a grotesque size.
He knocked out Papke in eleven rounds to gain his revenge, but it was their final battle that proved to be the shining jewel in the incredible quartet of fights between two special men. Thunder and lightning seemed to follow Ketchel and Papke everywhere they went and it followed them quite literally to Jim Coffroth’s Mission Street Arena in Colma.
A raging thunderstorm knocked out the arena lights in the early going, but Ketchel and Papke were in a violent and detached world of their own. They never stopped ripping and tearing at each other as the rain lashed down and the lightning lit them up like stage actors under the spotlight. Both gladiators bled freely and the ring was stained crimson from the blood that oozed from Papke’s nose and mouth. Stan broke his right hand in the sixth round and his left thumb was also dislocated.
The 20-rounds decision in Ketchel’s favour was greeted with a mixture of boos and cheers, but referee Billy Roche was adamant he had rendered the correct verdict.
“Ketchel was the aggressor at all times. Furthermore, he landed cleaner and harder punches and scored the only knockdown in the tenth round, although nearly everybody seemed to think that Papke had slipped to the floor. There is absolutely no question that Ketchel earned a clear-cut decision.”
How great a middleweight was Stanley Ketchel? The answer to that question is that he was simply awesome. In the opinion of this writer, he would easily master the middleweight division of today.
Many people imagine that Stan’s punch rate would be slower than that of modern fighters because of the greater distances of his era. Not so. Ketchel couldn’t punch fast enough and his stamina was astounding. He proved in one of his classic fights with Irishman Joe Thomas that he could maintain that staggering pace for more than thirty rounds. Ketchel, like so many of his wonderful peers, shatters the myth of old-time fighters being slow and ponderous.
The Michigan Assassin had the durability of Harry Greb but was blessed with vastly superior punching power to Harry. Stan preferred to tee off his big shots from long range but was no less of a demon in the clinches. He worked constantly and viciously, keeping up a brutal tempo, and his punch resistance was exceptional.
When he clashed with Joe Thomas at the Mission Street Arena in Colma, California, on September 2 1907, the crowd could scarcely believe the pace and savagery that both boys maintained over the incredible span of thirty-two rounds.
Part 4 Next Page.......
06-23-2009, 11:52 AM
Before the fighters entered the arena, a large black pigeon flew across the crowd and perched itself on the southerly fence facing the ring. Some suggested the bird was a bad omen for Thomas.
The bout was scheduled for forty-five rounds, but Ketchel had a thunderous look in his eye and appeared to be gambling everything on a fast finish. Thomas, a teak-tough man in his own right, relished the chance of an old-fashioned war. The two fighters tore into each other with wild abandon, hooking and slashing to head and body.
Experienced writers at ringside, not given to being easily impressed, began to exchange disbelieving looks as the action speeded up with the passing rounds. Logic dictated that the combatants should have punched themselves out early, but they were still hitting each other with hard and fast blows in the sixteenth. This was when Thomas failed to see a big uppercut coming from Stan, the shattering effect of which brought a mass cry of “Oh!” from the crowd as it crashed against Joe’s chin. The mighty blow lifted Thomas off his feet and brought him down on his knees. Showing extraordinary heart, he clambered to his feet at the count of nine but was soon down again from a brutal shot to the ribs. The crowd cheered Joe as he defied the odds to get to his feet again, the bell coming to his rescue.
Ketchel was finally slowing, and perhaps even his relentlessly positive mind was being infiltrated by small seeds of doubt. Stan seemed to lose his way for a while as Thomas began to score with jolting right hooks. But Ketchel’s indomitable spirit was the foundation on which all his other great fighting qualities rested. The Assassin never quit and never backed off. In the most daunting of circumstances, he would always find another rally, another wind, another breath of fire. He drove Thomas into the ropes with a terrific attack but still couldn’t finish his opponent.
The odds shifted back in favour of Thomas in the twenty-seventh round as he suddenly found a picture perfect right hook to send Ketchel crashing to the canvas.
If ever a man was in his natural element, it was Ketchel in the hell fire of such a brutal marathon. He demonstrated his recuperative powers by calmly watching the timekeeper and nodding in time to the count before rising up and pitching himself back into the fray. But now the Assassin was in dire straits, very tired and nearly blinded by the cuts to his eyes. Joe was suffering from a damaged eye and his battered and flattened nose was barely recognisable.
Finally, in the thirty-second round, Ketchel broke Thomas as he had broken so many others. Nobody really knew how Stan managed to muster his last great charge, but he seemed renewed as he bombarded Joe with an array of jabs and hooks. As Thomas staggered wearily, he ran into a powerful left-right combination that sent him first to his knees and then onto his stomach. Once again, he attempted to rise, and he was almost upright when his body suddenly gave a jolt and sent him back down for the count.
Ketchel, whose body was still filling out at the age of twenty-one, claimed the welterweight championship of the world after this epic win, and Stan’s thoughts on his immediate future were interesting.
“I have proved to the sporting public that I am the best welterweight in the world today. I will not fight any of the middleweights at the present time. I am a welter and I claim the title in that class. When I entered the ring today I did not weigh over 145lbs. I have been fighting all classes of men from the lightweights to the middleweights, but now I am going to draw the line and stick in the welterweight division.
“Outside of this fight today, the hardest battle I ever had in my life was when I fought Maurice Thompson at lightweight. When Thomas hit me today in the twenty-seventh round, I thought that was the end for me. But luckily, like in other fights I have gone through, I quickly recuperated and had my man going from that time on.
“To show how confident I was of winning, I bet something like six hundred dollars on myself at the prevailing odds of 10 to 6. I am only twenty-one years old and that’s young enough to leave me a few years to fight in.”
One of the greatest ringmen of Ketchel’s era was the gifted Philadelphia Jack O’Brien, who clashed with Stan at the National Athletic Club in Philadelphia on June 26 1909. It was a memorable encounter between a killer of the ring and a disciple of the school of science. O’Brien was a boxer through and through, but he was also a remarkably tough and resilient man in the heat of battle.
For seven thrilling rounds, Philadelphia Jack mixed skill with hardiness as he threaded his precise punches through the violent Ketchell storm that raged around him. Stan confounded observers once again with his near inhuman stamina as he just kept ripping away at whatever part of O’Brien’s body he could hit. Many more of the Assassin’s blows were missing, however, and it was the hometown boxing master who was forging ahead. Ketchel’s face was smeared with blood as Philadelphia Jack’s unerringly accurate jabs repeatedly found the mark.
But the tireless Ketchel kept coming on and finally dropped O’Brien near the ropes in the ninth round with a crunching blow to the pit of the stomach.
A big body attack by Ketchel in the tenth culminated in a final shot that sent O’Brien down with eight seconds left on the clock. Philadelphia Jack’s head came to rest in the resin box that his handlers had forgotten to clear from the ring at the end of the previous round, knocking him unconscious. Referee Tim Hurst’s count had reached four when the bell sounded.
Confusion and arguments about who had won the fight continued through the night and into the morning. This was the unsatisfactory era of the no- decision, and most of the newspapers awarded the verdict to O’Brien by the narrowest margin. This created uproar among those who had bet their money on Ketchel. Today, most record books accord the win to Stan.
Hype Igoe, recalling the end of the battle years later, wrote: “Then came the question of who won the fight. The clock said that O’Brien had been saved, yet we writers argued the point over beer and chips for three or four hours afterwards.
“Tad Dorgan and this writer finally convinced our sports editor Bill Hicks that he couldn’t possibly give the fight to a man like a mummy on the flat of his back.”
Part 5 Next Page.........
06-23-2009, 11:53 AM
when he was finally beaten by a bullet to the back, people wondered if stanley ketchel would still find a way of regaining his feet and firing back a salvo.
But let us not end on a melancholic note. For stanley’s twenty-four years were packed with incident, glory, happiness and unintentional comedy. Jerked along in his ferocious slipstream were some marvellous characters.
His first manager willus britt famously got upset with the san francisco city council for its negligence in failing to prevent an earthquake. Wilson mizner, frighteningly accurate in his judgement of his fellow human beings, advised ketchel early on: “steve, my boy, all i can do for you is improve your mind. Your morals are the same as mine already.”
but perhaps my favourite little gem comes from boxing scribe harry d cashman, who wrote of the ‘fatal error’ of willie lewis shortly before ketchel knocked him out. As willie came out for the second round, manager dan mcketrick whispered in his ear that ketchel could not hurt him. That, argued mr cashman, was the fatal error.
“stanley woke up. Bing! Goodnight!”
end of article...................
06-23-2009, 04:34 PM
i thouroughly enjoyed reading that :D
im gonna find out a bit more about this bloke
06-23-2009, 05:11 PM
What can I say...???
Stanley Ketchel..... My favorite puncher.... The hardest punching MW AT....
Many thanks for that.....
06-23-2009, 05:44 PM
That was so long I passed out in the middle. I made it to the end tho eventually. Long day... Wished he talked more about the Langford fight.
06-24-2009, 10:40 AM
i would of liked to of seen ketchel/mugabi
06-24-2009, 12:28 PM
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06-24-2009, 12:50 PM
i would of liked to of seen ketchel/mugabi
I think Mugabe gets KTFO...
06-24-2009, 12:56 PM
Pictures Of Ketchel............
06-24-2009, 12:58 PM
06-24-2009, 01:01 PM
Here's another Ketcehl Artcile............
Stanley Ketchel (World Middleweight Champion 1908-1910), born Stanislaus Kiecel on a farm near Grand Rapids, Michigan was one of the strongest and hardest hitting middleweights of all time. Having no amateur fights Ketchel was a street fighter who, on his own from the age of 14, learned to survive with his fists in the tough hobo and mining camps of the west. He eventually settled in Montana. At 17 he came across a boxing booth at a fair and decided to try his luck when the ‘barker’ tossed him a pair of gloves with the invitation to stay three rounds for a dollar. The teenage Ketchel knocked out the star of the show with one punch, pocketed the coin and decided that fighting was the easiest way to make a living. He landed a job in Butte’s Casino Theatre taking on all comers for $20 a week. “I hit them so hard they use to fall over the footlights and land in people’s laps,” he recalled. It has been estimated that Ketchel fought in as many as 250 unsanctioned bouts before turning professional. His official record is 52-4-4- (4 ND), 49 knockouts, 19 of those knockouts came in 3 rounds or less.
Stylistically Ketchel fought somewhat like a swarmer, but he hit like a slugger. His fury of attack kept his opponents so busy they had little time to think of anything but defense. Although Ketchel had no formal training he certainly had experience as a fighter. His style was crude, but the qualities that he possessed natural strength, boundless stamina, a strong chin, and a quick and pulverizing punch that earned him the moniker of “The Michigan Assassin” made him a great fighter.
Nat Fleischer wrote that Ketchel was, “One of the greatest fighters of my time. All stone and ice concentration when he entered the ring. The moment he entered his eyes were the eyes of a killer. Ketchel scorned the word retreat. A demon of the roped square he made his opponents think that all the furies in Hades had been turned loose on them. He got his punches away from all angles. If he missed with one hand, he would nail him with the other. He was game as a bulldog and tough as a bronco.”
Heavyweight boxer Jack Root, who once fought Marvin Hart for the vacant heavyweight title in 1905, said of Ketchel, “He possessed fists of iron, had a fighting heart and his self-confidence was unmatched.”
Veteran fight manager Dan Morgan stated that, “Ketchel was an exception to the human race. He was a savage. He would pound and rip his opponent’s eyes, nose and mouth in a clinch. He couldn’t get enough blood. His nickname “Assassin”, fit him like a glove.”
The Feb. 27, 1909 Tacoma Daily Ledger stated, “Ketchel is much faster than Fitzsimmons in his prime. Ketchel isn't a clever blocker, like Fitzsimmons. He fights wide open. But his continual shifting and his swift punching make him a bad target to hit.”
Historian Mike Silver wrote, “His strategy was simple and direct: Hit the opponent as hard and as fast as you can with as many punches as possible and from every conceivable angle…His punches awed both spectators and opponents alike. He varied his attack to the head and body, as did most of the fighters of his generation. But he was more effective at long range than at close quarters because he needed to get momentum into his hardest shots.”
Ketchel fought his first 41 professional fights out of the state of Montana scoring 36 knockouts while losing only twice by decision, with 3 draws before moving on to California. It was up to the young fighter to establish himself. The Pacific state saw most of the great fighters of the time including Jim Jeffries, Bob Fitzsimmons, Joe Gans, Barbados Joe Walcott and many others. It was reasoned that just because one could score a string of knockouts in Montana that didn’t mean one could fight main events in California.
After winning his first 3 fights in California by knockout Ketchel was matched with Joe Thomas who was a claimant of the middleweight championship. They fought 20 rounds with Ketchel dominating most of the action. The decision was a draw; although the crowd booed loudly believing Ketchel deserved the decision.
The rematch between Stanley Ketchel and Joe Thomas Sept 2, 1907 in Colma, Ca. has been called one of the greatest fights of all time. Promoter Jim Coffroth at ringside described the scene, “They came racing out of their corner like madmen and never until the last blow was struck did either quit in the savage onslaught.” Harry B. Smith writer for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that, “Never was a better fight seen in California. Superlatives have their rightful place in describing the fight between this pair. From the time that the fight started until it closed there was plenty of action, plenty of blows struck, and plenty of gameness that stirs a crowd to admiration and shouting enthusiastically for its favorite.”
From the beginning Thomas was fighting an uphill battle against the whirlwind of destruction that was aimed for him. He tried to box but was unable to keep Ketchel off of him. There were two knockdowns in the fight prior to the finish. In the 16th round a series of strong lefts weakened Thomas and a powerful right by Stanley dropped the Californian to the canvas. He rolled over, beat the count then held and stalled until the bell. In the 27th round Ketchel appeared to be slowing down and a hard right hand to the jaw dropped him. He looked finished. But showing the heart and determination of a warrior born, he got up slid through Thomas attempts to finish him and came back. The exciting slugfest came to an end in the 32nd round. A terrific right to the solar plexus took the fight out of Thomas. A fusillade of left and rights put him down 3 times. Ketchel was the winner of the greatest slugfest of his era by knockout.
In his bout against highly ranked Mike “Twin” Sullivan, another title claimant, Ketchel ended the evening early. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ketchel was “too fast for Sullivan.” “It was a short left hook delivered squarely to the point of the chin,” wrote Harry B. Smith, “and Mike toppled over as cleanly as if he had been hit by a battering ram.” The result was a first round knockout.
After defeating his brother Ketchel took a crack at Jack “Twin” Sullivan yet another middleweight title claimant on May 8, 1908 in Colma, Ca. The Chronicle did not bill this fight as a championship fight, but it is clear that after afterwards Ketchel was recognized as the undisputed world middleweight champion. Harry B. Smith wrote that, “Body punches wore down the Bostonian. For the most part Ketchel contended himself with making this fight one for the body. And those were the blows that most hurt Sullivan.”
06-24-2009, 01:02 PM
sullivan was in deep trouble in the 10th and floored by a left to the body in the 11th. Sullivan was the superior ring general and not only managed to survive but to also make ketchel look foolish at times. Eventually though stanley’s superior vitality and strength wore down the more experienced veteran. Ketchel won by a knockout in the 20th round. He was 21 years old.
Ketchel was a fighting champion, defending his crown nearly every month. He beat billy papke on points, hugo kelly in 3 rounds and joe thomas in 2 in their rubber match. He was then matched again with papke.
Billy papke, known as the “illinois thunderbolt”, scored a stunning upset of ketchel by surprising him through use of an ill famed tactic. The sept. 8, 1908 san francisco chronicle reported, “when james j. Jeffries, the referee, called time and ketchel walked to the center extending his hand for the shake, papke ignored his hand and sailed into the michigan killer with the fiery tempetuosity which entitled him to be called thunderbolt.” papke's cheap shot would inspire the referee’s instructions: “shake hands and come out fighting.”
the fight was practically settled with the first punch, a strong left that caught ketchel unprepared and drove him to the ropes. He was lifted off his feet four times in the first round and knocked down by a right and a left by papke. He never fully recovered. Ketchel’s right eye was closed at the beginning of the second round. Ketchel fought on with gritty determination but took a terrible beating over the remainder of the fight and was finally stopped in the 12th round.
Ketchel was infuriated by the manner in which he had lost. He was also unhappy that papke was a 10-7 betting favorite in their championship rematch just two and a half months later. W. O. Mcgeehan wrote that, “hatred inspires every blow in fight. Papke’s stubborn courage is of no avail before the power of the assassin.” in the very first round a right hand to the heart staggered papke and he was soon in trouble against the ropes. Ketchel never let up. He told his rival, “it took you 12 rounds to stop a blind man. I’m gonna let your eyes stay open until the 11th so you can see me knock you out.”
a crunching left sent papke crashing to the mat in the fateful 11th. It was a punch that “shook his entire frame and sent his head crashing against the wooden platform”, wrote mcgeehan. “pain racked and with his heart beaten out of him by body punches in the first few rounds…it was all over in that punch.” papke barely beat the count of “ten” but was sent back for the full count by a barrage of punches by ketchel who avenged the only real defeat of his career at middleweight. It was the only time papke was ever knocked out.
After regaining the title ketchel embarked on a tour of the east coast. He met light-heavyweight champion philadelphia jack o’brien (129-6-21) twice. The first fight was so exciting that nat fleischer who sat at ringside wrote, “i could feel my heart beating in my throat from start to finish.” o’brien controlled much of the first 7 rounds schooling ketchel in the finer points of boxing and doing most of the damage. But ketchel’s pressure was intense and the tide began to turn due to ketchel’s fierce body punches. In the 10th and final round it was clear that ketchel needed a knockout. Then the bombs fell. Ketchel exploded on o’brien flooring him 3 times. At the last knockdown fleischer wrote that o’brien was as “inert as stone.” the bell rang. O’brien was dragged to his corner saved by the final gong. It was officially a no-decision, although arguments waged for years over whether it was really a knockout. In a rematch, less than 2 months later, ketchel dusted o’brien in less than 3 rounds.
Ketchel went back to california for a fourth meeting with billy papke. This fight was a bitter disappointment. The chronicle reported, “they fought like old women...ketchel seemed absolutely lost, with no punch and with no accuracy.” the fight was lackadaisical by both parties. It was a sloppy fight although ketchel claimed he broke his hand in an early hand. It went to a 20 round decision with the referee declaring ketchel the winner but the newspapers said a draw would have been a fairer verdict. It is highly unfortunate, this being perhaps ketchel's worst performance, that this fight is one of only two surviving films available of stanley ketchel, the other being the johnson fiasco.
Ketchel’s next bout was his famous tussle with heavyweight champion jack johnson. Johnson and ketchel waltzed through much of the first 10 rounds. It is no coincidence that the oct 16th, 1910 chronicle featured a large cartoon of a motion picture company cameraman saying, “i don’t know who’s going to win, and i don’t give a darn either. All i want is for the fight to go over 10 rounds” (emphasis theirs). The fighters were to receive 40 percent of the motion picture proceeds from the bout. In those days the public wouldn’t pay to see a fight that ended as soon as it began so the two agreed to carry one another for the first dozen rounds to enlarge their own pockets.
Harry b. Smith wrote, oct 17th san francisco chronicle, “that the negro could have finished the fight much earlier was apparent to those at ringside.” nevertheless both men kept to their pack until the 12th round. Ketchel unleashed a hard right that knocked down johnson for a short count. Smith stated, “to the writer and 90 percent of those who were in a position to follow closely it appeared that the punch seemed to glance around the back of johnson’s head…and there was genuine surprise when johnson went down.” however referee jack welsh “affirms that the blow struck johnson, and the colored man himself declares that he was hit behind the ear as he was coming in.” johnson embarrassed, got up and knocked out the middleweight champion out with his next punch. Two of ketchel’s teeth were embedded in johnson’s glove after the knockout.
Ketchel would engage in 5 more fights, including a 6-round no-decision against the great sam langford. It was disputed as to who was actually better in this contest by various newspapers. Both men were thought to be holding back, saving their best stuff for a proposed match for the championship at the end of the year. Alas it was not meant to be.
Stanley ketchel was shot in the back and killed by walter dipley, the common law husband of goldie smith, who had been cooking stan's breakfast. The wounded champion was transported from conway, mo where a special train had been chartered. Three physicians were on the special. They attempted to locate the slug, which had entered the boxer's body below the right shoulder and entered his lung. He died in a springfield, mo. Hospital at 7:05 p.m. Oct 15, 1910. His last words were, “i'm so tired, take me home to mother.”
because he was only 24 when he died as champion it can be argued that the world never saw the best of stanley ketchel. Not many all time great middleweights had yet hit their peak at this age. Bob fitzsimmons was 28 when he won the middleweight title, harry greb was age 27, ray robinson was 30, carlos monzon was 28, marvin hagler was also 28 when he won the title.
Nat fleischer rated stanley ketchel as the greatest middleweight of all time. The ring magazine rated ketchel the # 4 all time middleweight in their 1996 all time divisional ratings, among the 20 greatest fighters of the 20th century in 2000, and # 6 among the 100 greatest punchers of all time in 2003. The ibro (international boxing research organization) rated ketchel the # 3 all time middleweight in their 2005 member poll.
end of article..............
06-24-2009, 01:09 PM
this might be a stupid question........
but on boxrec it says most of his opponents were no bouters. is this because they dont have their records or were they actually no bouters?
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