Billy Papke

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Billy Papke
Billy Papke 2.jpg
Papke in 1910
Real name William H. Papke
Nickname(s) The Illinois Thunderbolt
Rated at Middleweight
Height 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)
Nationality United States
Born (1886-09-17)September 17, 1886
Spring Valley, Illinois
Died November 26, 1936(1936-11-26) (aged 50)
Boxing record
Total fights 63
Wins 40
Wins by KO 32
Losses 6
Draws 6

Billy Papke (born William Papke, and known as "The Illinois Thunderbolt") (September 17, 1886 – November 26, 1936) was an American boxer who held the World Middleweight Championship.[1][2]

Boxing career[edit]

Portrait of Papke taken in France

World middleweight champion & rivalry with Ketchel[edit]

He began his boxing career in 1906, winning 37 and drawing six times.[3] His first loss was a 10-round decision to Stanley Ketchel,[4] his first of four fights with Ketchel.[5][6] He won the second meeting, and the World Middleweight title, largely by the expedient of punching Ketchel in the face with his right hand when Ketchel stepped forward to shake hands at the beginning of the bout.[7][8] Two months later, he lost his title to Ketchel and received a terrific beating in the process;[9] Papke's own wife did not recognize him after the bout was over. Papke lost the 4th and final meeting, which was a particularly savage encounter and lasted 20 rounds.[10]

Later career[edit]

After Ketchel's murder Papke was one of several middleweights contesting the right to be called World Middleweight Champ. After an October, 1911 loss in Boston to Bob Moha, he briefly retired;[3] but by 1912 he had returned to the ring.[3][11] He travelled to Paris where he beat future champion Georges Carpentier. It became a non championship fight after Papke exceeded the middle-weight limit at the pre-fight weigh-in.[12] He was beaten by another American, Frank Klaus, when the referee disqualified Papke for breaching the rules, ending his title hopes.[13] He continued fighting until 1919, losing a four rounder to Soldier Bartfield.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Papke died in 1936; he shot and killed his wife, then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself.[14]

Billy Papke was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.[3] He is a key character in the novel, The Killings of Stanley Ketchel, (2005), by James Carlos Blake.

Notable bouts[edit]

Result Opponent Type Rd., Time Date Location Notes[15]
Loss United States Frank Klaus DQ 15 (20) 1913-03-05 France Cirque de Paris, Paris For World Middleweight Title.
Win France Georges Carpentier TKO 18 (20) 1912-10-23 France Cirque de Paris, Paris
Loss United States Leo Houck NWS 6 1912-09-27 United States Olympia A.C., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Loss United States Frank Klaus NWS 6 1909-11-11 United States Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Newspaper Decision
Loss United States Stanley Ketchel UD 20 1909-07-05 United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, California For World Middleweight Title
Loss United States Stanley Ketchel KO 11 (20) 1908-11-26 United States Mission Street Arena, Colma, California Lost World Middleweight Title
Win United States Stanley Ketchel TKO 12 (25) 1908-09-07 United States Jeffries' Arena, CoVernonlma, California Won World Middleweight Title
Loss United States Stanley Ketchel PTS 10 1908-06-04 United States Hippodrome, Milwaukee, Wisconsin For World Middleweight Title

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Lineal Middleweight Champions". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia. 
  2. ^ Mark Paloolian (2007). Brutality. Firstchoicebooks. pp. 92–95. ISBN 978-1-897518-37-3. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Roberts, James B.; Skutt, Alexander (2006). The Boxing Register: International Boxing Hall of Fame Official Record Book. McBooks Press. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-1-59013-121-3. 
  4. ^ Paloolian (2006) p.98
  5. ^ Roberts; Skutt (2007) p.153
  6. ^ Paloolian (2006) p.109
  7. ^ Kirsch, George B.; Harris, Othello; Nolte, Claire Elaine (2000). Encyclopedia of ethnicity and sports in the United States. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 272. ISBN 978-0-313-29911-7. 
  8. ^ Nicholson, Kelly Richard (2010). Hitters, Dancers and Ring Magicians: Seven Boxers of the Golden Age. McFarland. p. 164. ISBN 978-0-7864-4990-3. 
  9. ^ Paloolian (2006) pp.115-117
  10. ^ Nicholson (2010) p.166
  11. ^ Johnston, Alexander. Ten--and Out!: The Complete Story of the Prize Ring in America. I. Washburn, 1943; p. 291.
  12. ^ "Papke Wins in Seventeenth". New York Times. 1912-10-24. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  13. ^ "Billy Papke disqualified". New York Times. 1913-03-06. Retrieved 2010-12-21. 
  14. ^ "Billy Papke". Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  15. ^ Billy Papke's Professional Boxing Record. Retrieved on 2014-05-18.
Preceded by
Stanley Ketchel
World Middleweight Champion
September 7, 1908 – November 26, 1908
Succeeded by
Stanley Ketchel

External links[edit]