Billy Papke

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Billy Papke
Class of 2001
Old Timer Category
Hall of Fame bio:click

Name: Billy Papke
Alias: The Illinois Thunderbolt
Birth Name: William H. Papke
Born: 1886-09-17
Birthplace: Spring Valley, Illinois, USA
Died: 1936-11-26 (Age:50)
Hometown: USA
Height: 5′ 9″   /   175cm
Boxing Record: click

Managers: Tom Jones, Al Lippe
Billy Papke Image Gallery


Career Highlights

Born in Spring Valley, Illinois, Billy Papke was the son of German immigrants to the USA. Also known as the "Kewanee Thunderbolt" during his boxing days, Papke was the father of fellow boxer Billy Papke Jr.

Papke was an abnormally hard boxer. He began his boxing career in 1906, winning 23 and drawing four times. His first loss was a 10-round decision to Stanley Ketchel, his first of four fights with Ketchel. He won the second meeting, and the World Middleweight title. The myth that he hit Ketchel in the throat with a "sucker punch" during the referee's instructions has been disproven. Papke won fair and square. But two months later, he lost his title to Ketchel and received a terrific beating in the process. After the bout, Papke's own wife did not recognize him after it was over. Papke lost the final meeting, which the 4th was a particularly savage encounter.

After Ketchel's death Papke was one of several middleweights contesting the right to be called World Middleweight Champ. He traveled to Paris where he thrashed future champion Georges Carpentier but was beaten by another American, and Ketchel victim, Frank Klaus, ending his title hopes. He continued fighting until 1919, losing a four rounder to Soldier Bartfield.

Papke killed his ex-wife, Edna Papke (46), with a gun and committed suicide by turning the gun on himself, November 26, 1936, in Newport, California.

In 2001, he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.