Wilhelm von Homburg

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Wilhelm von Homburg
Born Norbert Grupe
(1940-08-25)August 25, 1940
Berlin, Germany
Died March 10, 2004(2004-03-10) (aged 63)
Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Norbert Grupe (August 25, 1940 – March 10, 2004), outside Germany better known by his stage name Wilhelm von Homburg, was a German wrestler, boxer, and film actor perhaps best known for his portrayal of Vigo the Carpathian in the film Ghostbusters II (1989).

Wrestling[edit]

Homburg was born in Berlin in 1940. As Allied air raids were occurring in Berlin, his family soon chose to move into what became West Germany. Over time, Homburg developed a muscular body, and his father Richard, who was a baker by profession, introduced him to wrestling. Homburg and his family moved to the United States in the 1950s, and he and his father fought across the states on some wrestling associations. It was in the U.S. where he dropped his real name Norbert Grupe for marketing reasons, and took the name "Wilhelm von Homburg".

Boxing[edit]

He became interested in boxing after Emile Griffith's fateful third bout with Benny Paret. Homburg made his professional boxing debut on July 20, 1962, drawing (tying) over four rounds with Sam Wyatt in Los Angeles. Over the span of eight years, he had 46 bouts with 29 wins in the light heavyweight and heavy weight classes. Homburg adopted the nickname "Prinz" ("Prince"), in order to create an aura of royalty around himself in a similar manner later adopted by British boxer Prince Naseem Hamed.

Homburg's first boxing victory came on September 16, 1962, when he knocked out Bob Brown in the third round at San Diego. On October 25, he lost for the first time, being knocked out in round three by Freeman Harding in the third round at Los Angeles. Eight victories followed, including two over Clifford Gray, before he drew against Tommy Merrill, June 1, 1963, in Las Vegas. Homburg won three of his next five fights, then returned home with a record of 17-3-2. He settled in the city of Hamburg and was managed by Willi Zeller in Germany. Homburg held his German professional boxing debut on May 8, 1964, when he was held to a ten round draw by Ulli Ritter. However, he went on to win seven of his next ten bouts, being described by German press at the time as a "promising newcomer" and using his fight earnings to move to the Hamburg neighborhood of St. Pauli. During this period he and his lifelong friend, Texas heavyweight fighter Buddy Turman, shared billing on several occasions in Germany and Austria, until Turman's retirement in 1967.

Homburg got his first championship try on November 19, 1966, when he contested Piero del Papa for the EBU regional Light Heavyweight title in Berlin. Homburg was defeated by an eleventh round disqualification against Del Papa, who later lost by a first round knockout to Vicente Rondon in a challenge for the WBA World Light Heavyweight title.

For his part, Homburg returned to winning on December 9, only three weeks after his defeat against Del Papa, knocking out Archie McBride in nine rounds at Frankfurt. After winning three more fights, losing one and drawing one, he faced the well respected Gerard Zech, who sported a 33-8-3 record, in an eliminator for the German Light Heavyweight championship. That fight was held on November 8, 1968. Initially declared a loser by a ten round decision, Homburg nevertheless had his hands raised as winner of the contest when it was discovered that the referee, who also acted as official judge, had made a mathematical mistake when he tabulated his scorecard after the bout had finished, and he actually had Homburg, not Zech, as the fight's winner.

Homburg next faced Guido Rinaldi, who lost a fifteen round decision to Archie Moore for the world Light Heavyweight title, three times in 1969, beating him in their first fight by a fifth round knockout, losing a ten round decision and winning their third clash, by an eighth round knockout. The latter would turn to be his last victory.

Homburg went on boxing, but he lost his next four fights, including defeats at the hands of Oscar Bonavena and Jürgen Blin. On December 11, 1970, he held his last fight, losing by a ten round decision to Rudiger Schmidtke in Cologne. Homburg retired from boxing with a record of 29 wins, 11 losses and 6 draws in 46 bouts, with 24 wins coming by knockout.

Film career[edit]

Thinking of a future after boxing, he launched a career as an actor. He had a featured role as 'Otto' a Dutch boxer in an episode of the television series Gunsmoke entitled "The Promoter" (1964). On film he started with a small role in the World War II related film Morituri (1965) starring Marlon Brando, and around the same time a bit part in the Hitchcock political thriller Torn Curtain (1966), with Paul Newman in the lead role.

After being defeated in the boxing ring by Oscar Bonavena in 1969, Homburg made an appearance on German TV the next day. After the reporter Rainer Günzler had made some snide remarks about his boxing career and his flamboyant lifestyle, Homburg sat through the 10 minute live interview not answering any of Günzler's questions, only putting on a sarcastic smile that he later used in the film Ghostbusters II (1989).

Homburg appeared in small roles in several films such as The Wrecking Crew (1969) with Sharon Tate and Dean Martin, in which Homburg plays the character Gregor. He appeared as a villainous pimp in the Werner Herzog film Stroszek (1977).

After 1977, Homburg's career in movies was in abeyance for a decade as he was given a prison sentence of two years and three months for "physical injury" (possibly assault) and "activities in prostitution". It has been reported that Homburg spent about five years behind bars during his life. Homburg made his big screen return in the action thriller Die Hard (1988) with Alan Rickman and Andreas Wisniewski. Homburg plays James, a member of the German terrorist group that plans to rob the Nakatomi Tower, meeting his demise courtesy of a DIY bomb from John McClane (Bruce Willis). From there, Homburg appeared in the movie sequel Ghostbusters II (1989) playing Vigo the Carpathian, a 17th Century Eastern European tyrant (based loosely on Vlad Ţepeş), the role for which Homburg is possibly best known (though he was dubbed by Max von Sydow). Homburg appeared in several films over the next few years including Diggstown (1992), with James Woods, and as Simon in John Carpenter's In the Mouth of Madness (1994). The film with Woods centers around his character, Charles Diggs, who is a boxer who cannot speak owing to brain damage acquired in a fight.

Lifestyle[edit]

Homburg led a very public life. Because of this, many of his affairs became scandalous.

Homburg was at various times nicknamed "the boxer Beatle" (because of the long hair he sported during his fights) and "the German answer to Muhammad Ali" (because of his takes on 1960s issues). His smoking habit was widely known; he entered rings with a cigar in his mouth many times, and smoking is unusual for professional boxers. Many German youths began to imitate his acts.

Homburg was a rebellious person, and he moved to St. Pauli's red district, becoming involved with drugs and sex. Homburg was constantly followed by papparazzi, who documented his life hanging out with drug dealers, pimps, and a local Hells Angels chapter.

Homburg was accused of a number of crimes, such as extortion, pimping and drug dealing. Far from the German limelight, Homburg tried to remake his life, restarting his career as an actor. He enjoyed the company of dogs and horse riding at the famed Griffith Park. In Los Angeles, he lived in an apartment which he decorated with mementos from his boxing career.

Last years[edit]

In his later years Homburg reportedly toured the surrounding area of Los Angeles with his dog in an old VW camper van. On 10 March 2004, after a brief stay with retired boxer Buddy Turman in Longview, Texas, a destitute Homburg died in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, of cancer, only a few years after German moviemaker Gerd Kroske produced a prize winning documentary on Homburg's life called The Boxing Prince (Der Boxprinz) which was released in 2002.

Professional boxing record[edit]

30 Wins (24 knockouts, 6 decisions), 11 Losses (2 knockouts, 8 decisions, 1 DQ), 6 Draws [1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Loss 19-3-2 Germany Rudiger Schmidtke PTS 10 11/12/1970 Germany Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Loss 18-7-6 Germany Juergen Blin PTS 10 12/12/1969 Germany Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Loss 14-2-1 Germany Rudiger Schmidtke PTS 10 14/11/1969 Germany Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse
Loss 39-5 Argentina Oscar Bonavena TKO 3 20/06/1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 41-12-5 Italy Giulio Rinaldi TKO 7 02/04/1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Loss 40-12-5 Italy Giulio Rinaldi PTS 10 14/02/1969 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 40-11-5 Italy Giulio Rinaldi TKO 5 03/01/1969 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 33-8-3 Germany Gerhard Zech PTS 10 08/11/1968 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg Germany BDB Heavyweight Title Eliminator.
Win 1-4 Aruba Franklin Arrindel KO 3 18/09/1968 Austria Hohe Warte Stadium, Vienna
Win 28-19-11 Germany Rudolf Nehring TKO 8 30/08/1968 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Loss 15-17-3 United States David E. Bailey PTS 10 11/04/1968 Germany Sportpalast, Schoeneberg, Berlin
Win 52-14-4 France Paul Roux KO 5 15/12/1967 Germany Circus Krone Building, Munich, Bavaria
Draw 16-7-2 United States Ray Patterson PTS 10 03/05/1967 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 30-18-2 United States Archie McBride KO 9 09/12/1966 Germany Festhalle Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Hesse
Loss 30-3-3 Italy Piero Del Papa DQ 11 19/11/1966 Germany Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin EBU Light Heavyweight Title.
Draw 34-1-4 Germany Erich Schoppner PTS 10 14/05/1966 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Draw 30-17-1 United States Archie McBride PTS 10 28/05/1965 Germany Deutschlandhalle, Charlottenburg, Berlin
Win 12-5-4 Netherlands Bas van Duivenbode KO 4 29/04/1965 Germany Neue Sporthalle, Hannover, Lower Saxony
Win 30-24-13 Argentina Jose Angel Manzur TKO 8 02/04/1965 Austria Stadthalle, Vienna
Win 25-20-8 Germany Ulli Ritter TKO 6 20/02/1965 Germany Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein
Loss 23-3-3 Italy Piero Tomasoni PTS 10 16/01/1965 Germany Westfalenhallen, Dortmund, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 2-10-3 France Joseph Syoz TKO 10 05/12/1964 Germany Sporthalle, Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia
Win 10-8-4 Netherlands Paul Kraus KO 3 27/11/1964 Germany Ostseehalle, Kiel, Schleswig-Holstein
Win 13-6-4 Sweden Lars Olaf Norling TKO 9 06/11/1964 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 2-5 France Jean Huiban KO 6 29/05/1964 Germany Weser-Ems Halle, Oldenburg, Lower Saxony
Draw 24-18-7 Germany Ulli Ritter PTS 10 08/05/1964 Germany Ernst Merck Halle, Hamburg
Win 0-3 United States Roy Crear KO 5 07/04/1964 United States Stockyards Coliseum, Oklahoma City
Win 27-4-1 United States Bob McKinney TKO 9 06/01/1964 United States New York Coliseum, Bronx, New York
Win 17-21-4 United States Monroe Ratliff SD 10 18/11/1963 United States Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California 7-3, 8-1, 3-6.
Loss 17-8-1 United States Billy Stephan PTS 10 19/09/1963 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California 4-7.
Loss 5-2 United States Chuck Leslie PTS 10 23/07/1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Win 11-11-2 United States Bobby Sand TKO 9 24/06/1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California Referee stopped the bout at 1:09 of the ninth round.
Draw 24-19-2 United States Tommy Merrill PTS 6 01/06/1963 United States Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 11-10-2 United States Bobby Sand TKO 9 20/05/1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California Referee stopped the bout at 2:29 of the ninth round.
Win 0-2 United States Pete Gonzales KO 3 25/03/1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California
Win 5-3 Canada Gus Calf Robe KO 6 25/02/1963 United States Moulin Rouge, Hollywood, California
Win 2-14-2 United States Clifford Gray TKO 1 19/02/1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California Referee stopped the bout at 2:35 of the first round.
Win 0-10-2 United States Bob Mumford KO 6 15/02/1963 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 20-26-6 United States Yancy D Smith UD 8 22/01/1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California 5-2, 5-2, 6-2.
Win 20-25-6 United States Yancy D Smith PTS 8 15/01/1963 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California 6-3.
Win 2-11-1 United States Clifford Gray PTS 6 18/12/1962 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Win 1-0 United States John L Davey PTS 6 14/12/1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Loss 4-6 United States Freeman Hardin KO 3 25/10/1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 0-3 United States Al Cummings KO 3 21/09/1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win -- United States Tony Fern KO 3 24/08/1962 United States Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California
Win 0-2-1 United States Bob Brown KO 2 16/08/1962 United States San Diego Coliseum, San Diego, California
Draw 1-1 United States Sam Wyatt PTS 4 20/07/1962 United States Los Angeles Sports Arena, Los Angeles, California

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