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Re: Post your Stanley Ketchel pictures & stories here!!
Story on Ketchel by Bill Lang. Interesting he says that after McVey, Ketchel was the best friend he had made in a fellow boxer.
Tragic Story Of Stanley Ketchel
Bill Lang - 16th Jan 1936
When I heard Broadway ringing with
the shouts of newsboys, 'Middle-
weight champion murdered!' I felt as
though all the punches I ever took in
the ring had been rolled up into one
and rammed into me below the belt.
A shadow fell over my American
tour, every minute of which I had enjoyed up to then.
At the time, I told myself that the
one man I would have been prepared
to fight with bare fists or knuckle
dusters was the murderer of handsome,
genial Stanley Ketchel. But that was
in 1910 and the fellow must have just
about finished his life stretch by now.
Stan Ketchel was one of the first
men I met when I arrived in San Francisco,
and in a few months I had got
to know him through and through. His
life story reads better than a novel.
After Sam McVea he meant more
to me than any other fighter I met. so
is it any wonder I felt pretty sick when
I bought a newspaper and read how he
had been shot in cold blood, and then
beaten over the head with a rifle butt?
Although I knew his record backwards,
Stanley Ketchel was only a
name to me when I began to unpack
my trunks in a big San Francisco hotel
only a few hours after we had hit America.
The telephone rang and I answered.
'Say, Mr. Lang,' the girl at the front
office said. 'The Assassin wants to
'The what?' I yelled down the
mouthpiece, not feeling nearly so well
as I might have.
'Ah, don't you know?' she came
back. 'His name's Stanley Ketchel,
and he's middleweight champ, of the
world, but for guys like you he's just
And so Stanley was known to fight
fans all over America. 'Michigan As
sassin' was the full title, and the
newspapers coined it after he had battered
his way to the American championship
on a long series of knockouts.
I've never met a real assassin, but
if I do he's not going to look anything
like Stanley Ketchel. As he burst
into the room, I got a glimpse of the
handsomest, most smiling face I've
ever seen oh a fighter, a broad-rimmed
cowboy hat, a diamond-studded shirt
front and the best cut suit New York's
leading tailors could turn put.
I got no time to see anything else,
because The Assassin had swooped on
'So you're Bill Lang, all the way
from Australia,' he said. 'Mighty
glad to meet you, Billy boy. How is
the ole horse thief? Welcome to
America. I'm Stan Ketchel, and I
fight a bit. too. We just gotta get
acquainted. What about it?'
I told the whirlwind I was mighty
glad to meet him too that I'd like to
get acquainted and what was wrong
with that very minute?'
'It's a go Billy Boy!' said Stan. 'I
got the gas buggy outside. Let's shoot
up the town!'
In a few minutes we were snorting
through San Francisco in Stan's glaring
yellow roadster, getting waves
from all the cops, hundreds of street
urchins, and more than a few girls
promenading on the side walks.
Just the same as in all my future
meetings with Stan, our first stop was
a saloon. Everyone in it, from bar
man to glass-washer, knew Stan, and
I got my fair share of reflected glory,
which I liked a lot.
Stan put down three stiff brandies
neat, using a sip of water as a chaser
—'just to keep the game respectable,
pard,' as he put it. I stuck to English
stout, and as we drank I got a
chance to size up The Assassin.
In the fight game you meet a lot of
swell dressers, but I never saw man
looking more like a band-box than
Stanley Ketchel. His shirts and socks
were never anything but silk, his
shoes never cost less than 20 dollars
(£5) a pair, and his suits came from
the best and most expensive tailors in
New York and Boston.
Right from the jump I liked every
thing about Ketchel, even his swagger
ing and loud talk, which was not ar
rogance, but merely self-confidence
and a bit of showmanship every American
boxer must learn if he wants to get a fight.
The whole of my first afternoon in
America I spent with Stan, and probably
would have put in the night, too,
only he had arranged to take his girl
to a revue.
He was a confiding, talkative fellow,
and in a few hours I bad got the story
of his boxing career up to that point.
From my own readings of the papers
and talks with Stan's friends after
the murder, I was able to round off
the tragic sory of a great fighter.
Born of Polish parents, Stanley
Ketchel — Stanislaus Klecal was his real
name— found the ability to fight come
to him just as naturally as the ability
to talk and walk. His first job was as
a 'bouncer' ('chucker-out' is the Aus
tralian equivalent) in a saloon and,
dance hall in the town of Butte, Montana.
The way he could chuck out rowdy
miners twice his size recommended
Stan, then a lad of only 17, to Maurice
Thompson, a promising north-west
lightweight, and Thompson engaged
him as a sparring partner.
Stan soon became Butte's best
preliminary boy, and he didn't take long
to get his first big fight against a
fellow called Kid Tracey. The bout was
scheduled to last 20 rounds, but Stan
ended it in 30 seconds with a punch
like a kick from a mule.
He 'next got a fight, against Sid La
Fontise, welterweight and near champion.
Fontise was a great hitter, and
round after round he kept smashing
punches into Stan's face. Ten times
Stan went down, but he scrambled up
each time, and in the 24th round he
landed a right-hand blow that put
Fontise out for 10 minutes.
Other wins followed just as fast as
he could get fellows to stand up against
him to be knocked down, and at the
age of 19 Stan had scored 16 knock-outs.
In 1906, the year before he went to
San Francisco to try his luck, his record
was 32 knock-outs in 36 fights!
Stan's first big fight in 'Frisco has
a place all on its own in American ring
history, and even today the locals will
tell you it was the greatest piece of
mutual slaughter ever seen in California.
Ketchel's opponent was the famous
middleweight, Joe Thomas, and the
fight came off in the Mission Street
Punching in a way that later earned
him his nickname, Stan went after
Thomas from the word 'go.' Thomas,
a shrewd fighter, defended with straight
lefts, waiting until the young tornado
blew himself out. But the one trouble
about Stan was that he never blew
out, and never slackened until his victim
was stretched out nice and still.
In the fifth round Joe Thomas got
tired of waiting and sailed into Stan.
But Stan stood his ground punching
like a machine, and soon the two of
them dropped any pretence at keeping
up a guard and just stood there, slug
ging at each other's face and body.
After four or five rounds of this the
crowd got so scared they couldn't even
The slaughter went on until the 32nd
round, when both Stan and Joe looked
pretty near pulverised. Then Stan
made a supreme effort. Taking no notice
of a tattoo of blows he swung his right
to Joe's jaw with all the force he had.
When I was in San Francisco three
years later, fight fans were still talk
ing about that punch. It landed with
such force, they told me, that Stan's
glove burst open. Joe, of course,
dropped like a log. and for half an
hour or so he could have been operated
on for appendicitis without even feeling it.
In those terrible 32 rounds, Stan was
on the floor about 18 times, while Joe
Thomas was spreadeagled 29 times!
That fight gave Ketchel a world reputation,
and until he met Billy Papke,
the Illinois Thunderbolt and world
middle-weight champion, he was considered
unbeatable. But Billy smacked
him on the bridge of the nose when the
first round was only two seconds old
and Stan was blinded. For 12 rounds
he took terrific punishment until Papke
knocked him out.
Many a fighter would have been discouraged
by that hiding, but not Stan.
The following day he was telling the
world he would knock Billy out in 11
rounds the next time they met.
And that's exactly what he did!
The fight was held in San Francisco,
and after the second round Stan had
as good as won the world middle
weight championship. But to make
good his boast, he carried Papke along
to the eleventh round before putting