Tuesday, December 06, 2022  |


The best of all time A to Z: Ketchel


This is the 11th in a 26-part series in which RingTV.com endeavors to name the best boxers of all time based on last name – A to Z. We’ll post one letter each day for 26 days. Our criteria in making the selections were fairly simple: Accomplishments in the ring, with heavy emphasis on strength of opposition, as well as impact on the sport. This wasn’t easy, as our first installment — the letter “A” (Armstrong vs. Ali) — demonstrates. However, we’re confident that our choices are arguably the best. We also are including five more fighters for each letter to indicate others that were considered. Also, noted author and boxing historian Bert Sugar — who provided input — tells us where he ranks our choices among the greatest fighters pound-for-pound and gives us a thought on each selection. And, finally, we’d love to get your thoughts on the project. Here goes ÔǪ today’s letter: “K.”

Lifespan: 1886-1910
Hometown: Butte, Mont. (born in Grand Rapids, Mich.)
Record: 51-4-4 (48 KOs)
Active: 1903-10
Weight class: Middleweight
Titles: World middleweight (twice)
Sugar’s ranking: No. 19
The thought process: Ketchel is one of boxing’s great legends. “The Michigan Assassion” was a teen-aged hobo who landed in Montana, where street fights turned into a Hall of Fame boxing career. He never had formal training but was a born fighter who overwhelmed his opponents with fierce tenacity and exceptional power. He might’ve had the biggest punch in middleweight history, as his knockout ratio indicates. Ketchel was virtually unbeatable in an even fight. He lost only four times, twice as a young teen, once to Hall of Famer Billy Papke after Papke cracked him while they were receiving instructions and once to a much-bigger Jack Johnson. Otherwise, Ketchel destroyed everything in his path – including some of the best fighters of his day and several bigger men, including Hall of Famer Philadelphia Jack O’Brien. He is the first two-time middleweight champion, having regained the title in 1909 in the second of three fights with Papke, avenging his dubious defeat. Ketchel was perhaps the most-popular fighter in the United States when in 1909 he faced Johnson in his most-famous fight. The two apparently agreed to engage in an exhibition, as the story goes, but the smaller man – perhaps sensing a chance to make history — put the champ down with a mean-spirited right. An angry Johnson sprang to his fight and immediately rendered Ketchel unconscious. Legend has it that some of the challenger’s teeth were embedded in Johnson’s glove after the fight. Little did anyone know but Ketchel would fight only five more times. He was living on a ranch in Conway, Mo., when he was shot and killed by a ranch hand who either planned to rob the fighter or was convinced Ketchel was trying to steal his girlfriend. Either way, boxing lost one of its greatest warriors at the tender age of 24. One of those who attended his funeral famously uttered, “Start counting over the dear boy. He'll get up.” There could be no better tribute to his fighting spirit.
Five more (alphabetical order):Peter Kane, Louis “Kid” Kaplan, Johnny Kilbane, Pone Kingpetch and Frank Klaus.
Sugar quote: “Ketchel was a menacing fighter. He fought with a trespassers-will-be-prosecuted mentality. He didn’t give a sÔÇöt what he did. He had a habit of knocking a guy down and was so sure he would win, he would vault the ropes and be on his way to the dressing room before the count ended. John Lardner had a great line in Ketchel’s obit: ‘Stanley Ketchel was 24 years old when he was fatally shot in the back by the common-law husband of the lady who was cooking his breakfast.'”

A: Armstrong: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2203/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_armstrong/

B: Burley: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2204/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_burley/

C: Charles: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2205/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_charles/

D: Duran: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2219/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_duran/

E: Elorde: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2223/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_elorde/

F: Foreman: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2227/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_foreman/

G: Greb: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2228/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_greb/

H: Hagler: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2231/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_hagler/

I: Ibeabuchi: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2238/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_ibeabuchi/

J: Johnson: https://www.ringtv.com/blog/2244/the_best_of_all_time_a_to_z_jack_johnson/