Jack Johnson Vs Stanley Ketchel
October 16, 1909
Venue: Mission Street Arena
Imagine the recently departed Marvelous Marvin Hagler fighting Larry Holmes during their respective primes. While intriguing to the general public at that time, hardcore boxing fans would consider this a complete joke as Holmes would have a five inch height and 55-pound weight advantage. Well, America was so desperate to find a White fighter to dethrone the heavyweight champion of the world in 1909 that the middleweight champion of the world Stanley Ketchel was given an opportunity to be their savior. This, despite the fact that Ketchel was six inches shorter and 45 pounds lighter than the Galveston Giant.
Ketchel was an incredible power punching brawler from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Going into the fight with Johnson, The Michigan Assassin had knocked out 43 of the 46 men he had defeated and at the time was considered the biggest puncher in the sport. Despite his punching prowess, there was no way in the world Ketchel had a shot at beating America’s boogeyman Johnson.
I will go more into detail about Johnson’s entire career in a future article. At the time of his fight with Ketchel, Johnson had held the heavyweight crown only nine months after destroying Tommy Burns in 14 rounds the day after Christmas in 1908. Burns had suffered such a brutal beating that the Sydney, Australia police stepped in and stopped the massacre. This was the second defense of his title and Johnson didn’t feel threatened at all by the miniature Ketchel, as seen by the way he fought that night.
Right away, Johnson showed both his mastery and size advantage as he knocked down Ketchel once both in rounds two and three. Johnson appeared to carry Ketchel for the next seven rounds as he played to the crowd and continually tied up the Grand Rapids brawler. Then, all of a sudden, in round 12, Ketchel landed a right cross to an already ducking Johnson, which caused the punch to land on his ear and knock the Galveston champion down. The over 10,000 and overwhelming White fans in attendance broke out in a deafening roar as they sensed a huge upset about to be pulled off. Johnson got up at the count of eight and rushed across the ring with murderous intent as he landed a right cross, left hook, right cross combination that splattered Ketchel’s body across the canvas. The force of these punches were so violently landed that Johnson himself fell after dropping Ketchel. Johnson got up and watched in total glee as referee Jack Welsh counted Ketchel out. Ketchel had to be carried out of the ring by his handlers as he was still unconscious after being dropped like a bag of potatoes. Johnson had a pair of Ketchel’s teeth that were embedded in his glove. The crowd, which had exploded when Johnson went down, were now in total silence, seemingly in shock.
Almost a year later, on October 15, 1910, Ketchel was set up and murdered by a couple who were working for him in his Conway, Missouri training camp. His cook, Goldie Smith served him breakfast while her paramour Walter Dipley shot him and smashed his face in with the gun. The couple were both convicted of murder, although Smith got her conviction overturned and only served 17 months for robbery as she robbed Ketchel while he was dying from the assault. Ketchel was only 24 years old at the time of his murder.