International Boxing Hall of Fame

Billy Papke

"The Illinois Thunderbolt"

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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Billy Papke (born William Herman Papke, and known as "The Illinois Thunderbolt") (September 17, 1886 November 26, 1936) was an American boxer.

Born in Spring Valley, Illinois, he was the son of German immigrants to the USA. 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, largely by the expedient of punching Ketchel in the throat when he stepped forward to shake hands at the beginning of the bout. 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 travelled to Paris where he thrashed future champion Georges Carpentier but was beaten by another American, Frank Klaus, ending his title hopes. He continued fighting until 1919, losing a four rounder to Soldier Bartfield.

Papke's life ended tragically. He shot and killed his wife, then committed suicide by turning the gun on himself.

Billy Papke was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2001.