Stanley Ketchel

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Stanley Ketchel
Stanley Ketchel American boxer loc-crop.jpg
c. 1910
Real nameStanisław Kiecal
Nickname(s)Michigan Assassin
Rated atMiddleweight
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Reach70 in (180 cm)
Born(1886-09-14)September 14, 1886
Grand Rapids, Michigan
DiedOctober 15, 1910(1910-10-15) (aged 24)
Springfield, Missouri
Boxing record
Total fights64
Wins by KO48
No contests1
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Stanley Ketchel
Stanley Ketchel American boxer loc-crop.jpg
c. 1910
Real nameStanisław Kiecal
Nickname(s)Michigan Assassin
Rated atMiddleweight
Height5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)
Reach70 in (180 cm)
Born(1886-09-14)September 14, 1886
Grand Rapids, Michigan
DiedOctober 15, 1910(1910-10-15) (aged 24)
Springfield, Missouri
Boxing record
Total fights64
Wins by KO48
No contests1

Stanisław Kiecal (September 14, 1886 – October 15, 1910), better known in the boxing world as Stanley Ketchel, was a Polish American professional boxer who became one of the greatest World Middleweight Champions in history. He was nicknamed "The Michigan Assassin." He was murdered at a ranch in Missouri at the age of 24.


Ketchel in fighting pose

He was born in 1886 in Grand Rapids, Michigan to Tomasz Kiecal and Julia Kiecal (née Olbinska), whose family immigrated from the village of Sulmierzyce in Piotrków Trybunalski Guberniya in modern day central Poland.[1]

He avoided school, instead falling in with a gang of street kids and often getting into fist fights. At twelve years old, he ran away from home, becoming a child hobo. As a teenager he lived in Butte, Montana, where he found employment first as a hotel bellhop and then as a bouncer. This profession obviously led to many scraps that established his reputation as the best fist fighter in town. Soon enough sixteen-year-old Stanley was performing in backroom boxing matches with older locals for twenty dollars a week. He began traveling throughout Montana, offering to take on any man brave enough to face him. Between 1903 and 1906, he lost just twice in thirty-nine contests and, in 1907, moved to California, where he knew most of boxing's big names and big fights waited for him.[2]

Professional boxing career[edit]

Only a middleweight, Ketchel was also known for taking on heavyweights, who sometimes outweighed him by more than 30 pounds (14 kg). Ketchel used a very unusual method in his fights. He had a very close and loving relationship with his mother. It is rumored that before each of his fights, he would imagine that his opponent had insulted his mother; thus, he would be fighting with almost insane fury.

He started boxing professionally in 1904 in Butte, Montana. In his first fight, Ketchel knocked out Kid Tracy in one round. In his second fight, he was beaten by decision in six rounds by Maurice Thompson. He boxed his first 41 bouts in Montana, and had a record of 36 wins, two losses and three draws during that span. He lost once more to Thompson in their rematch and then controversially drew with him in their rubber match, in a bout that many people thought Ketchel had won. Afterwards, he would then go onto beat Tom Kingsley, among others, before moving his campaign on to California in 1907.

There, he won three fights that year, and drew one in Marysville against the man many considered the World Middleweight Champion, Joe Thomas. In his next bout, he and Thomas had a rematch and Ketchel won, by knockout in 32 rounds. Ketchel was then recognized by many as the World Middleweight Champion. He finished the year by beating Thomas again, this time by decision.

Middleweight Champion[edit]

Ketchel standing over a downed Billy Papke during their third fight

On February 8, 1908, Ketchel met the man who was generally recognized as the World Middleweight Champion and one of the leading welterweights and middleweights of the era, "Mike Twin Sullivan," knocking him out in the first round and winning general recognition as World Middleweight Champion. Whether he became world champion against Thomas or against Mike Sullivan has always been up to debate, but the fact remains that it is Mike Sullivan and not Thomas who is historically remembered as a world champion.

He proceeded to retain the title against Mike's twin brother, "Jack Twin Sullivan", also a former world champion, by a knockout in 20 rounds, against future world champion Billy Papke by decision in 10, against Hugo Kelly by a knockout in three and against Thomas, by a knockout in two.

Then, he lost the belt to Papke by a knockout in twelve, but he and Papke had an immediate rematch and Ketchel regained the title when he beat Papke by a knockout in eleven in their third match.

Ketchel began 1909 by fighting reigning Light Heavyweight Champion Philadelphia Jack O'Brien. Ketchel survived a terrible beating at the hand of the slick, quick O'Brien in the early rounds only to mount a terrific comeback and score four knockdowns in the ninth and tenth rounds. When the final bell rang at the end of the tenth round, O'Brien was lying unconscious on the mat, his head in a resin box in his corner. Under New York rules at the time, though, O'Brien had been saved by the bell and because official decisions were outlawed in New York boxing the fight was declared a "No Decision." A few weeks later, Ketchel had a rematch with O' Brien, knocking out Philadelphia Jack in three rounds.[3]

A fourth fight with Billy Papke followed. Ketchel again won in a tumultuous slugfest to defend his championship and end their series of fights with a record of 3-1 in their four encounters. This (fourth) fight took place in the outdoor Mission Street Arena in Colma, California, during a terrible thunderstorm, yet neither fighter relented in his pursuit of victory until Stanley took the twenty-round decision.[4]

Ketchel fought Sam Langford on April 27, 1910. It was a hard pressed fight by both men, each displaying terrific hitting power for all six rounds of the short bout. No knock downs were scored and both had plenty of energy in the end. Langford won by decision. A longer rematch bout was rumored, but never fell through. Some disputed the decision, although a majority of people felt that Langford had won the bout, which following a decision-appealing vote, it was decided (in a non-controversial manner) that it would stand as a decision win for Langford.

Ketchel vs. Johnson[edit]

Ketchel's battle with Jack Johnson has been called by many a modern day "David and Goliath."[citation needed]

In the 12th round Ketchel floored Johnson with a right hand. Johnson got up and knocked out Ketchel with a right uppercut.[citation needed]

Ketchel showed no fear against his larger and stronger foe.[citation needed] He was knocked down several times in the fight and was punished yet kept coming back.[citation needed] Johnson said to his trainer seconds between rounds "That man isn't human."[citation needed] In round twelve of that fight, Ketchel reached Johnson with a right to the chin that sent Johnson to the canvas.[5] The punch shocked Johnson on two levels.[citation needed] One, it came from a much smaller Ketchel. Two, it was rumored that Ketchel and Johnson, when they agreed to the fight, agreed to take the fight to the full 20 rounds and Ketchel would allow Johnson to win in the 20th. The reason for this was each man was interested in making as much money off the fight as possible.[citation needed] A 20 round fight would guarantee boxing fans would pay to go to local theatres to watch the replay of the fight.[citation needed] When Johnson deviated from the alleged plan of "no blood should be drawn," Ketchel, already bloodied, knocked Johnson down, then, in the 12th, Ketchel faced the alleged wrath of Jack Johnson.[5]

Upon regaining his feet, Jack Johnson knocked out Ketchel with a blow full in the mouth.[citation needed] Ketchel did not wake up for many minutes and some of his teeth were knocked out by the blow, some imbedded in Johnson's glove.[6]

Professional boxing record[edit]

51 Wins (48 Knockouts), 2 Defeats (2 Decisions), 5 Draws, 1 No Contest[7]
Res.RecordOpponentTypeRd., TimeDateLocationNotes
Win51-4-4United States Jim SmithKO5 (10)1910-06-10United States National S.C., New York, New York
Win50-4-4United States Willie LewisKO2 (10)1910-05-27United States National S.C., New York, New York
Win49-4-4United States Porky FlynnKO3 (12)1910-05-17United States Armory A.A., Boston, Massachusetts
N/ADrawN/ACanada Sam LangfordNWS61910-04-27United States National A.C., Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaNewspaper Decision
DrawN/AUnited States Frank KlausNWS61910-03-23United States Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaNewspaper Decision
Loss48-4-4United States Jack JohnsonKO12 (20)1909-10-16United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, CaliforniaFor World Heavyweight Title
Win48-3-4United States Billy PapkeUD201909-07-05United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, CaliforniaRetained World Middleweight Title
Win47-3-4United States Philadelphia Jack O'BrienTKO3 (6)1909-06-09United States National A.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Win46-3-4United States Tony CaponiKO4 (10)1909-06-02United States American A.C., Schenectady, New York
WinN/AUnited States Hugh McGannNWS61909-05-18United States Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh, PennsylvaniaNewspaper Decision
WinN/AUnited States Philadelphia Jack O'BrienNWS101909-03-26United States National A.C., New York, New YorkNewspaper Decision
Win45-3-4United States Billy PapkeKO11 (20)1908-11-26United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, CaliforniaWon World Middleweight Title
Loss44-3-4United States Billy PapkeTKO12 (25)1908-09-07United States Jeffries' Arena, CoVernonlma, CaliforniaLost World Middleweight Title
Win44-2-4United States Joe ThomasTKO2 (20)1908-08-18United States San Francisco Coliseum, San Francisco, CaliforniaRetained World Middleweight Title
Win43-2-4Italy Hugo KellyKO3 (20)1908-07-31United States San Francisco Coliseum, San Francisco, CaliforniaRetained World Middleweight Title
Win42-2-4United States Billy PapkePTS101908-06-04United States Hippodrome, Milwaukee, WisconsinRetained World Middleweight Title
Win41-2-4United States Jack Twin SullivanKO20 (35)1908-05-09United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, CaliforniaRetained World Middleweight Title
Win40-2-4United States Mike Twin SullivanKO1 (25)1908-02-22United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, CaliforniaRetained World Middleweight Title
Win39-2-4United States Joe ThomasPTS201907-12-12United States Recreation Park, San Francisco, CaliforniaWon World Middleweight Title
Win38-2-4United States Joe ThomasKO32 (45)1907-09-02United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, California
Draw37-2-4United States Joe ThomasPTS201907-07-04United States Marysville, California
Win37-2-3United States George BrownKO2 (20)1907-05-23United States Sacramento, California
Win36-2-3United States Benny HartKO81907-05-03United States Marysville, California
Win35-2-3United States Mike McClureKO71907-03-23United States Redding, California
Win34-2-3Canada Kid FoleyKO111906-09-10United States Miles City, Montana
Win33-2-3United States Kid FredericksKO71906-08-29United States Butte, Montana
Win32-2-3United States Kid LeeKO171906-06-16United States Helena, Montana
Win31-2-3 Mike TierneyKO71906-05-18United States Butte, Montana
Win30-2-3 Paddy HallKO11906-05-11United States Gregson Hot Springs, Montana
NC-United States Warren ZurbrickND2 (20)1906-03-19United States Grand Opera House, Great Falls, Montana
Draw29-2-3United States Montana Jack SullivanPTS201906-02-12United States Butte, Montana
Win29-2-2Canada Kid FoleyKO41905-12-24United States Butte, Montana
Win28-2-2United States Jerry McCarthyKO111905-12-19United States Great Falls, Montana
Win27-2-2 Jack BennettKO51905-12-16United States Butte, Montana
Win26-2-2United States Marysville KidKO31905-12-02United States Butte, Montana
Win25-2-2United States Jerry McCarthyTKO12 (20)1905-12-01United States Great Falls, Montana
Win24-2-2 Bob SennateKO111905-09-14United States Miles City, Montana
Win23-2-2 Roy HartKO11905-07-19United States Opera House, Miles City, Montana
Win22-2-2 Bob SennateKO171905-07-15United States Miles City, Montana
Win21-2-2United States Peter KellyKO81905-07-04United States Miles City, Montana
Win20-2-2United States Kid LeeTKO17 (20)1905-06-16United States Helena, Montana
Win19-2-2 Kid PecorKO51905-06-13United States Butte, Montana
Win18-2-2 Curley RueKO111905-06-04United States Gregson Springs, Montana
Win17-2-2United States Sid LaFontiseKO71905-05-18United States Butte, Montana
Draw16-2-2 Rudolph HinzPTS201905-04-19United States Miles City, Montana
Win16-2-1United States Sid LaFontiseKO241905-03-25United States Butte, Montana
Win15-2-1 Jack BennettKO51905-01-20United States Butte, Montana
Win14-2-1United States Kid ThomasKO1 (10)1905-01-04United States Butte, Montana
Draw13-2-1United States Maurice ThompsonPTS101904-12-29United States Miles City, Montana
Win13-2 Jack GrimesTKO10 (20)1904-12-16United States Union Hall, Butte, Montana
Win12-2United States Kid HerrickKO71904-12-08United States Butte, Montana
Win11-2 Joe MudroKO41904-11-10United States Butte, Montana
Win10-2United States Kid LeeKO81904-11-08United States Lewistown, Montana
Win9-2United States Jimmy KellyKO11904-10-29United States Miles City, Montana
Loss8-2United States Maurice ThompsonPTS101904-10-21United States Butte, Montana
Win8-1United States Bob MerrywellKO31904-10-15United States Butte, Montana
Win7-1United States Jimmy MurrayKO31904-09-15United States Butte, Montana
Win6-1United States Bob MerrywellKO41904-09-05United States Montana A.C., Butte, Montana
Win5-1United States Johnny GilseyKO41904-07-17United States Butte, Montana
Win4-1 Kid LeroyKO11904-07-15United States Butte, Montana
Win3-1United States Jim Kid McGuireKO11904-07-07United States Butte, Montana
Win2-1United States Jimmy QuinnKO31904-06-20United States Butte, Montana
Loss1-1United States Maurice ThompsonPTS61904-05-11United States Broadway Theater, Butte, Montana
Win1-0United States Kid TracyKO11903-05-02United States Butte, Montana


Ketchel's Gravestone

The following year, 1910, Ketchel fought six times (including one exhibition), but his fast living had worn him down.

Hoping for a rematch with Jack Johnson, Ketchel moved to the ranch of his friend, R.P. Dickerson, near (on what is now referred to as Dickerson Ranch Road) Conway, Missouri, where he had hoped to regain his strength. Dickerson had just hired a cook, Goldie Smith, and a ranch hand, who Smith said was her husband, Walter Kurtz.

Walter Kurtz turned out to be Walter Dipley. Walter Dipley and Goldie Smith were not married and, in fact, had just met each other a month before Dickerson had hired them.

After being upbraided by the "Michigan Assassin" for beating a horse on the morning of October 14, Dipley decided to get even with Ketchel by robbing him. The following morning, Smith seated Ketchel at the breakfast table with his back to the door and Dipley, armed with a .22 caliber rifle, came up behind him and shouted, "Get your hands up!" Ketchel stood up and as he turned around, Dipley shot him. The bullet traveled from his shoulder into his lung and Ketchel fell to the floor mortally wounded. Dipley then took Ketchel's handgun and smashed Ketchel in the face with it. At the same time, Smith rifled Ketchel's pockets for his money.

After promising to meet Goldie Smith later that night, Dipley ran from the ranch.

Unaware that, as he lay dying, Ketchel told the former ranch foreman, C.E. Bailey, that Goldie Smith had robbed him, she told police officers that Ketchel had raped her and that that was the reason Dipley shot him. Her story fell apart and she admitted her complicity in the robbery but stated she did not know Dipley was going to kill the former champion.

In an effort to save the young fighter's life, R.P. Dickerson chartered a special train to take Stanley Ketchel to a hospital in Springfield, Missouri. But Ketchel died at approximately 7 o'clock that night His last words were: "I'm so tired. Take me home to mother."

Dickerson also offered a $5,000 dead or alive reward (preferably dead) for Dipley, who was captured at a neighboring farmhouse the next day.

Aftermath of Murder[edit]

Both Walter Dipley and Goldie Smith were found guilty of murder and robbery at a jury trial in January 1911 and both were given a life sentence. Goldie Smith had her murder conviction overturned and she served 17 months for the robbery. Walter Dipley served 23 years before he was paroled. He died in 1956, 22 years after his release from prison.


Ketchel was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery at Grand Rapids, Michigan. His funeral was the most attended until the Ford family surpassed him during the 20th century. There is a plaque in his honor at the corner of Stocking Ave and 3rd St.

Ketchel is now enshrined in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame.

The Ring Magazine in 2004 ranked Ketchel as the eighth greatest middleweight of all time, behind Harry Greb, Sugar Ray Robinson, Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler, Jake LaMotta, Charley Burley and Tiger Flowers.[8]

In 2004, Ring magazine named Ketchel #6 on their list, 100 Best Punchers of All Time.[9]

Nat Fleischer, the late ring historian and founding editor of The Ring magazine, considered Stanley to be the greatest middleweight in history.[10]

He had a record of 51 wins, four losses, four draws, 1 no contest and four no decisions (Newspaper Decisions: 2-1-1), with 48 wins by knockout. He was the first Middleweight Champion to regain the world title after losing it.

Subject of The Killings of Stanley Ketchel, a novel by James Carlos Blake.

Subject of the short story "The Light of the World" by Ernest Hemingway.

Biography Stanley Ketchel: A Life of Triumph and Prophecy, by Manuel A. Mora.

Biography The Michigan Assassin: The Saga of Stanley Ketchel, by Nat Fleischer, RING Editor 1946

Stanley Ketchel: A Life of Triumph and Prophecy


  1. ^ Some sources list his year of birth as 1887, but 1886 is generally accepted.
  2. ^ "Stanley Ketchel - Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  3. ^ Johnson, Alva (1953). The Legendary Mizners. New York: Farrar, Straus. p. 148. 
  4. ^ "Stanley Ketchel - Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 2014-04-26. 
  5. ^ a b Video on YouTube
  6. ^ Lardner, John. The World of John Lardner, Simon and Schuster, 1961, p. 62. Originally in True: The Men's Magazine, "Down Great Purple Valleys", 1954.
  7. ^ Stanley Ketchel's Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2014-05-03.
  8. ^ BoxRec, Division-By-Division - The Greatest Fighters of All-Time, As selected by The Ring magazine in various years, Middleweights, 2004 Ring Yearbook
  9. ^ 100 greatest punchers of all time!
  10. ^ "Stanley Ketchel - Boxrec Boxing Encyclopaedia". Retrieved 2014-04-26. 

External links[edit]

Title last held by
Tommy Ryan
World Middleweight Champion
February 22, 1908 – September 7, 1908
Succeeded by
Billy Papke
Preceded by
Billy Papke
World Middleweight Champion
November 26, 1908 – October 15, 1910
Succeeded by
Frank Klaus