Al Hostak

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Al Hostak
Real name Albert Paul Hostak
Nickname(s) The Savage Slav
Rated at Middleweight
Height 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m)
Nationality American United States
Born (1916-01-07)January 7, 1916
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Died August 13, 2006(2006-08-13) (aged 90)
Kirkland, Washington
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 84
Wins 64
Wins by KO 41
Losses 9
Draws 11

Albert (Al) Paul Hostak (January 7, 1916 – August 13, 2006), nicknamed "the Savage Slav," was an American middleweight boxer who fought from 1932-1949. Hostak twice held the National Boxing Association Middleweight title between 1938 and 1940. He was known as a hard puncher and had a record of 64 wins (41 knockouts), 9 losses (3 knockouts), and 11 draws.[1]

Early career and life[edit]

Hostak was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota to Czech immigrants who eventually moved to Seattle, Washington, settling in South Seattle's Georgetown District. A stutterer in his youth, Hostak was drawn to boxing after fighting many of his tormentors, and discovering he had a knack for fighting. He would begin his boxing career as a 16-year-old in 1932, fighting many of his bouts in nearby White Center. Hostak would go unbeaten for his first 27 bouts, all four and six-rounders, before losing a decision to Jimmy Best. He would continue to fight preliminary matches through the end of 1936, while he worked as a sparring partner for 1936 middleweight title holder Freddie Steele of Tacoma, Washington.

Rise to prominence[edit]

As 1937 began, middleweight champion Freddie Steele's handlers decided to show him on the East Coast away from his home in the Pacific Northwest. With Steele, Seattle's top boxing draw leaving town, Nate Druxman needed to develop another box office attraction, a role Hostak would fulfill in 1937.

Hostak began the year by knocking out Newark middleweight contender Tony Fisher, in two rounds on January 12. A month later he knocked out Leonard Bennett, who had broken Steele's jaw in their first bout. In March and April, Hostak scored second-round knockouts of Johnny Sikes and Young Terry. This set up a bout with Eddie (Babe) Risko on July 13, 1937. Risko lost the middleweight title a year before to Steele, and had lost a rematch as well. Hostak gained national recognition when he knocked out Risko in the 7th round in Seattle. In August, knocked out Allen Matthews in nine rounds. With three more knockouts in 1937, he stretching his streak to eleven. At the end of 1937, Ring Magazine ranked Hostak the #3 Middleweight in the world.

A match with Steele in Seattle appeared likely for the summer of 1938. Steele suffered a setback in January, when Fred Apostoli stopped him in a non-title bout at Madison Square Garden. In the process, New York recognized Apostoli, not Steele as middleweight champion. Seattle promoter Nate Druxman continued with plans to pit Steele against Hostak that summer.

Championship reigns[edit]

Hostak's bout with Steele was scheduled for July 26, 1938, at Seattle's Civic Stadium. It would be the largest attendance in Seattle's boxing history, with over 35,000 fans.

Hostak used his own jab to parry Hostak's. Feinting with his jab to entice Steele to drop his right hand, he connected with a left hook that knocked Steele down. Though Steele was up quickly from the initial knockdown, Hostak would send him back to the canvas four times. Steele was counted out by referee Jack Dempsey at 1:43 of the 1st round.

Hostak fought again in September 1938, stopping Young Stuhley in three rounds. He made his first title defense against Brooklyn's Solly Krieger on November 1, 1938 in Seattle. Hostak broke both of his hands early in the bout. Krieger fought inside against Hostak, pounding his body. In the 14th round, Krieger sealed a majority decision victory, when he knocked down a tired Hostak for the first time in his career.

After his hands had healed, Hostak returned with a third-round knockout of Johnny Erjavec in Seattle, before facing Krieger in a rematch in Seattle on June 27, 1939. In the seven and a half months between their two bouts, Krieger boxed as a light heavyweight having a very difficult time making the 160-pound middleweight limit. Krieger was a shadow of his former self in the rematch, as Hostak knocked him down four times. With the fourth round TKO, Hostak became the first boxer to regain the middleweight title since Stanley Ketchel in 1908.

After an October 1939 non-title knockout over Charley Coates, Hostak signed for his first bout ever outside of the state of Washington, facing German-Jewish refugee Erich Seelig in Cleveland on December 11, 1939. Seelig was no match for Hostak, who knocked him out in 1:21 of the first round. In January 1940, Hostak had a non-title match in Chicago against middleweight contender Tony Zale at Chicago Stadium. Hostak knocked Zale down in the 1st round, breaking his hand in the 5th round. As a result, Zale swept the last five rounds to take a unanimous decision.

Nate Druxman rematched Hostak and Zale for the middleweight title on July 19, 1940 at Civic Stadium in Seattle. Once again Hostak broke his hands in the bout, while Zale wore him down with a devastating body attack. With both of his eyes swollen, Hostak was dropped in the 12th and 13th rounds, before the bout was stopped.

Post-championship boxing career[edit]

After taking time for his hands to heal, Hostak returned in February 1941 with a knockout win in Chicago, followed up by two more knockouts in April and May in Seattle. He returned to Chicago to face Zale in a third fight on May 28, 1941. Hostak knocked down Zale early, but he was up before a count could be administered. In the 2nd round, Zale pounded Hostak to the body, dropping him eight times, before he was finally counted out. In November, Hostak would make his first and only appearance at Madison Square Garden, against former middleweight champion Ken Overlin. Overlin easily outboxed a befuddled Hostak, who threw very few punches before losing a lopsided decision.

In Hostak's absence from Seattle, another middleweight attraction had been developed by Druxman, Harry (Kid) Matthews of Emmett, Idaho. The two would face of on September 29, 1942, in Seattle, with Hostak knocking Matthews down twice, but again being outboxed as he was against Ken Overlin, losing a majority decision. The two would fight to a draw in a November rematch in Seattle. This time both boxers performed much poorer than their first bout, particularly Matthews, who spent much of the bout in retreat. Hostak's career ended along with Druxman's after the bout, as both did service in World War II.

Hostak had two bouts in 1944 while stationed in Houston, Texas, scoring a pair of knockouts. He made his post-war return in June 1946, with four more knockouts against modest opposition. He took on , middleweight contender Steve Belloise in Houston in January 1947. He sent Belloise to the mat in the 1st, but was knocked out in the 4th. After a 5th-round TKO over Anton Raadik in August 1947 in Chicago, Hostak avenged his loss to Belloise by winning a decision in Seattle. With the win, the 31-year-old Hostak again earned a rating and wide recognition as a middleweight contender.

Hostak's resurgence would be short-lived, as he was held to a draw in October 1947 by George Duke. He then lost a split decision in Portland, Oregon to Jack Snapp, followed by a draw to Paul Perkins. In December 1948, Hostak decisioned Perkins in a rematch, before finishing his career on his 33rd birthday by stopping Snapp in nine rounds in Seattle.

After boxing, Hostak held jobs as a bartender, a King County Jail guard, and a security guard at the Longacres Race Track. He even taught school-age kids how to defend themselves in fights. He was widowed in 1981, and lived south of Seattle in White Center, where he spent much of his time visiting local flea markets. He converted eight-track of music he enjoyed tapes to cassette.

Hostak died on August 13, 2006, in Kirkland, Washington of complications from a stroke that he suffered ten days earlier.

Miscellaneous information[edit]

In 2003, Hostak made Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Freddie Steele
NBA Middleweight Champion
26 Jul 1938– 1 Nov 1938
Succeeded by
Solly Krieger
Preceded by
Solly Krieger
NBA Middleweight Champion
27 Jun 1939– 19 Jul 1940
Succeeded by
Tony Zale


  1. ^ "Al Hostak". BoxRec. Retrieved 6 July 2015.