Jefferson City Post – Tribune
16 February 1929
here is the first chapter ( 7 in total ) of the story of Young Stribling's life, written exclusively for the Post-Tribune and NBA Service, Inc., by Milton K. Wallace of Macon, Ga., a life-long friend of the Striblings. This series on Stribling's colorful life brings out interesting chapters never before revealed. Daily chapters will follow in this newspaper until the completion of the series
BY MILTON K. WALLACE
Regardless of whether W. L. ''Young" Stribling defeats Jack Sharkey in their Miami Beach bout on Feb. 27, and then goes on to win the heavyweight championship of the world, the young southern fighter will go down in pugilistic history as "The Hardest Working Heavyweight.".
Few men have fought as often as Stribling. Two years ago, the sports writers said he was washed out too much work and not enough play. But. today he stands on the threshold of the heavyweight championship.
William Lawrence Stribling was born in the little south Georgia town of Bainbridge Dec. 20. 1904. Contrary to popular opinion, he was not brought up under the "big tops" of a circus. His early life was much the same as that of the average American boy. He had a good home, respectable parents, went to school and attended church services regularly. "Ma" Stribling saw that her boys, Billy and Herbert, kept good company, and she applied the hair brush vigorously whenever either of them got into mischief.
Before the boys were born, Pa and Ma were vaudeville entertainers, doing an acrobatic stunt. Traveling around the country with two babies were no easy job. so they settled down for a few years until the boys were large enough to accompany them on the road. When but a few months old. Young Stribling was doing handsprings and flips, balancing himself in his father's hands, and countless other things kids three times his age could not do.
Ma Raps Pa's Plans
"I'm going to make a heavyweight champion out of Billy," Pa said just after the youngster was born. Ma objected! She didn’t want her son to become a bruiser she visioned him a doctor or lawyer who would settle down in Bainbridge or some other Georgia town where he would command the respect of the community in which he resided.
Then Herbert came along two years later. He was a frail little chap, in no way resembling his larger brother, but he, too, learned to do stunts on the trapeze, turn flips and balance himself in his father's hands. Then it was that Pa Stribling decided to return to the stage. This time there were four Striblings and they organized the "Four Novelty Grahams" touring this country and eventually Japan.
The "Grahams" traveled a great deal, but always found time for the boys to spend a few months in school somewhere. Whenever the lads -were not in school, Ma tutored them.
The lure of the footlights is a hard thing to resist, actors tell , you, but Pa saw in Billy the making of a champion and knew that the hard life of the vaudeville trouper was not the proper one for a boxer. So the stage was deserted again after Ma had reluctantly Given her permission for Billy to take up boxing as a profession . Pa a good boxer, started in at once to instruct his progeny in the science of right crosses and uppercuts.
Pa stribling saw in his son the fulfillment of his own cherished ambitions. Many years ago. He had dreamed of winning fame in the ring, but his short stature Handicapped him.
When Stribling became 16, his father decided that his boy was old enough to enter The prize ring as a professional. He and his brother Herbert had done a boxing act together on the stage for several years and all this time Pa had been instructing them.
“My boy is going to be a world’s champion some day” Pa wrote a promoter in Atlanta, “but I am willing for him to fight for you on your card next Wednesday night for nothing. This is his first professional match and I am anxious to get him started. I want the chance”.
Of course the promoter took him up on his proposition. Even preliminary boys do not box for nothing, and the novel request resulted in Young Stribling's first real fight, a four-rounder. His opponent was Kid Domb, art Atlanta bantamweight, and Stribling won the decision. It is a coincidence that Tiger Flowers who without doubt was one of the Greatest colored fighters the world has ever knew, began his career in the same ring about three years previous to Stribling’s first battle.
The Atlants promoter, well pleased with the showing of Stribling in his first bout, offered Pa Stribling $10 for another four-round preliminary. Pa, anxious to get Billy before.the public, and incidentally wanting him to have all the experience possible, agreed for his –son to meet Kid Nappie, a very tough young man, who had been spreading terror among the prelim boys in Atlanta.
Nappie's chief weapon was a wild right swing that sent his opponents into dreamland whenever it lands and usually it landed. Stribling. however, knew too much for the bad boy and easily outpointed him.
After that his services were in demand all over the south, not as a preliminary boy, but as a star attraction. The records show that he fought 21 bouts during the year 1921, which year marked his advent into the boxing business. He won eight of these fights by knockouts and outpointed in the others.
Next Chapter: Stribling attends high school in Macon, makes the basketball team and meets Clara Virginia Kinney, daughter of a Macon cotton broker, whom he later marries.
William Lawrence Stribling entered Lanier High School, at Macon, Ga., after touring in vaudeville with his parents and took up the game of basketball. Ma put her foot down, though, when he suggested that he believed he had in him the makings of a great football player.
"Football is too rough," she said. "People get killed playing that game. You can box and play basketball, but you can’t play football.
'So that was that, and all of Stribling's efforts at persuasion were to no| avail. She had finally become reconciled to a career of boxing, but she would not think of permitting her little Willie to mingle with the rough boys on the gridiron.
Although Stribling bears an outward appearance of being any easygoing fellow who never takes anything seriously, he is quite a determined young man whenever there is something that must be accomplished. He took basketball seriously made the team and developed into one of the greatest cagesters ever to represent Lanier. He was a dead shot with the basket and played a jam-up floor game in every respect
His last year in high school, Lanier won the right to represent the south in the national basketball tournament which is held annually in Chicago, and his team went into the semi-finals.
Was Kicked Off Squad
One of the greatest disappointments in his entire career was when the school board of Lanier High School ruled that he would be ineligible to play longer at the institution because he had engaged in professional fights. This disappointment hurt. him far worse than his defeats at the hands of Berlenbach and Loughran which came a few years later.
During his last year in high school, Stribling fell in love with one of his classmates, Clara Virginia Kinney, the only daughter of W. O. Kinney, wealthy Macon cotton broker. Miss Kinney's family for several generations, has played an active part in the historical and social life of the south. The romance ultimately developed into a marriage which met with the approval of both families, and they were married in the early part of 1926. Mr. and Mrs. W. L. Stribling II now have two bouncing youngsters, W. L. Stribling Ill, who is two years old, and Mary Virginia Stribling, who was born about three months ago.
Young Billy Stribling III has been taught all the tricks his acrobatic father did when only a few months old, and friends of the family are often given a jolt by seeing the youngster hanging by one hand from the chandelier. He is a chip off the old block, but Mrs. W. L. Stribling II says her son will never be a prize fighter. And it is doubtful if Stribling would want his son to follow in his footsteps.
Wife Sees Few Fights
Mrs. Stribling, while always interested in the outcome of her husband's battles, sees but few of them. She would rather be at home with her babies, listening over the radio to the result of her husband's battles.
The Striblings, ever since their marriage, have occupied a pretty little home in North Highlands, one of the most fashionable sections of Macon. Young Stribling and his father own a country home at Ochlocknee, near Thomasville, Ga. where he trains for many of his most important bouts.
Machinery always has been Stribling's chief hobby. When in high school the mechanical course received most oft his attention and today he can intelligently discuss the intricacies of mechanics with an expert. He owns several planes, a speedy automobile, a motorboat and a motorcycle.
For a long while the Striblings traveled through the country by automobile to fulfill boxing engagements. They now travel mostly by air. Stribling loves speed and there are few people in his home town who care to ride with the young pugilist. He seldom travels less than 60 miles an hour and thinks nothing of dashing around a street car on two wheels or brushing a traffic officer's coat tail.
He Can Get Angry—and How!
Stribling is really a big, good natured kid, full of practical jokes and always playing them on his friends. He seldom loses his temper when the fun is directed at him.
The Striblings motored to Augusta,Ga., recently, for a fight and carried along a Georgia newspaperman who happens to be a bad actor when under the influence of liquor. Sober, ho is a nice chap, but this trip didn't see him in his sober moments.
After the fight was over, he met Stribling in front of the hotel and challenged him. "Put up your dukes," the inebriated man said. "Come on, let's get going to Macon," Stribling told him. He doesn't tolerate drunkenness in any one, but realized the fellow was his guest. Bang! It was the writer's fist in Stribling's stomach. "Look out, you're hurting me," said Stribling, but that only brought fourth more smacks at him. He continued challenging Stribling, until there wasn't but one thing to do—and Stribling did it !
The fellow caused no more trouble.
Young Stribling, who at the age of 24, has held the southern championship of every division from the bantamweight class upward, has fought 240 battles since beginning his career in 1921, winning 114 of them by knockouts. In this number he has been defeated by only seven opponents.
The year 1923 found Stribling engaging in one of the most active periods of his ring career. He met and defeated such men as George Shade, Young Marullo, Harry Krohn, Johnny Klesch, Jimmy Darcy, Vic McLaughlin and Happy Howard, besides a score of lesser known fighters.
One of the hardest bouts of his career came at this time when he lost a close decision to Frankie Carbone, veteran middleweight. Carbone, a tough battler of the old school, had many years of experience behind him, while Stribling had been in the fight game for a little more than two years.
The newspapers of the south were alarmed and said Pa was fighting W. L. too much. The eastern and northern fight fans had not yet heard of the Macon flash. "You are burning him out," the scribes said, but Pa's reply was that he knew his son's condition better than anyone else and that although he appreciated their advice, he would continue to allow him to fight just as often as he saw fit. The senior Stribling has often been criticized for "picking set-ups" for his son.
"Boxing is a business just like the legal profession," he said in reply to this charge. "We are not in it for glory alone. Everybody wants to make money and we are not exceptions to the rule. You never hear a lawyer criticized because he takes an easy case once in a while, nor a doctor criticized because he will take cases other than fatal diseases. Look back through the records of all the world champions of the past, and you'll find a lot of unfamiliar names. "
Public opinion has never bothered Pa to any great extent. He has become callous to the squawkings of the press, and particularly the criticism heaped on him by eastern sport writers. He has his own ideas about how a fighter should train, and consequently has carried his boy to the top of his profession.
There was possibly one mistake that Pa made in training. Young Stribling — a mistake that was never mentioned by the press. In two of the most important battles Stribling ever had, the fights with Paul Berlenbach and Tommy Loughran, which he lost, Stribling was over-trained. Pa was really "burning out" his son by training him too severely, but not by permitting him to fight often, as it had been charged.
Overwork was largely responsible for both of these defeats, although there were other factors that contributed their part to the failure.
Pa thinks now that he has solved the training problem. He prescribes but very little work in the gymnasium, a mile or two jaunt in the open air and plenty of fights with second-raters to keep Young Stribling in practice- and the Stribling coffers well supplied with currency. Stribling's fame was a long while spreading beyond the confines of his own state. After he had grown into the middleweight class, Pa believed his son was ready to tackle the best, and through promoters at Columbus, Ga., a defi was hurled at Johnny Wilson, who then occupied the middleweight throne. Wilson, always a cautious individual, had heard rumors concerning this southern novice and decided that caution was the better part of valor.
The "Macon schoolboy boxer" fought many times during his brief stay in the middleweight division. Sport writers all over the south continued their cry that Pa was ruining the boy's chances by allowing him to fight so often, but the rotund ex-vaudeville actor turned deaf ears to the criticism. The money was pouring in and bigger purses were promised in the future. It took experience to make a fighter, he said, and he was going to see that Billy had lots of it.
Young Stribling's stay in the middleweight class was a brief one. He was growing steadily, his arms were becoming larger, his shoulders were getting broader and his muscles were becoming tough and wiry sinews that rippled over his body. There had been some doubt in the senior Stribling's mind whether or not Bill would ever grow in to a full-fledged heavyweight, but with this almost phenomenal development in the course of five brief years, Pa's hopes grew stronger
Stribling’s Famous Three Decision McTigue Fight
Undaunted by his defeat by Frankie Carbone, Young Stribling was bowling over middleweights and light heavyweights in rapid style when Mike McTigue, who had just won the light heavyweight title from Battling Siki, decided to tour the south and pick up some extra change.
Major John Paul Jones, Columbus, Ga., promoter, succeeded in getting McTigue's signature for a defense of his title against Young Stribling. McTigue and his manager, Joe Jacobs, arrived at Columbus several days before the fight, .They had not been there long before it was realized that the champion had underestimated the ability of his southern opponent.
Trains .brought crowds of rabid Stribling fans to Columbus. All roads brought fans by automobile. The entire state turned out, and many came from surrounding states, to see the Georgia fighter beat McTigue. They fully expected it.
On the morning of the fight, McTigue announced he had injured the metacarpal bone of his right hand. He said the injury was so serious he wouldn't be able to fight. The announcement caused a sensation in the Georgia city Everyone thought Mike was hedging, and posters were pasted on show windows announcing that McTigue had "run out" of his fight with Young Stribling. Promoter Jones engaged one of the best known surgeons in Columbus to examine McTigue. The doctor's verdict was that, so far as he cauld see, the hand was in splendid condition.
"There is an old injury there," the doctor said, "but the break has healed completely. If anything, it is stronger than his other thumb.".
This was all Major Jones wanted! He called a conference with the champion, his manager , the doctor and several prominent citizens. "This fight must go on," he told McTigue in their presence.. "We've advertised it for weeks and the crowd is here. You've signed a contract to fight Stribling and there is no excuse for you not fulfilling it. There was something in the cool drawl of the southern ex service man that sounded very business like to McTigue. He agreed to fight.
Harry Ertle, who refereed the Dempsey Carpentier fight for the Heavyweight championship was the referee. He will always be remembered for the decision in this Georgia bout.
Stribling carried the fight all the way. If the champions right hand was troubling him, he did not show it. He swung his right time after time at the dodging, weaving youth McTigue missed often. After the bell had sounded ending the tenth and last round, Ertle glanced nervously about him and pointed to both corners, signifying a draw, as he later said.
This was a new wrinkle in the refereeing business for Georgians, who were accustomed to seeing the hand of each raised in the center of the ring when the bout was a draw. Many of them did not realize that Ertle had given a decision, and crowded around the ring yelling for him to tell them who had won.
Evidently Ertle thought he was in danger of being mobbed He pale and trembling from head to foot. Captain Jones crawled between the ropes, accompanied by a half dozen or more newspaper men, and asked, "Well, Ertle, what is your decision? You've got to tell them something!"
"My God! was Ertle's reply, "give me time to think. After a few seconds more, the referee waved a limp hand toward Stribing's corner and the crowd in the ring let out a shout. the Georgia schoolboy, had won the world's title from McTigue.
But the crown remained on the Georgian's head for something less than an hour. When Ertle reached the hotel at which he was stopping he announced again to newspapermen that his first decision stood. The bout was a draw. Stribling was rematched with McTigue in 1924, in New Jersey The bout was a no-decision affair Stribling knocked down the veteran Irish boxer, but Mike's craftiness , saved the .day for him, although he, took a real lacing from the Georgia youngster.
Next Story-Stribling goes on famous barnstorming tour meeting all comers.