Inducted on November 10, 2011
HONOREE BILLY KETCHELL – POSTHUMOUSLY
Billy Ketchell began fighting and when it was clear that he could help save the family farm by doing so, he started fighting for prize money, starting at the young age of 14. By the age of 16, one article noted his record at 19 bouts, 16 wins (11 KOs), 2 draws, and 1 loss, labeling his as the coming “New Knockout King.” A later article notes 26 straight wins, and still another notes that Billy Ketchell had won 54 of 57 bouts, which is consistent with an earlier article, including the loss and draws. We may never really know the accurate record; but it’s better than what the record shows. Somewhere in there is a sports writer’s reference for 248 fights, and also “close to 300” fights. I wish I had ’em all; but it was clearly more than previously recorded.
And then finally, after the Walcott victory, Billy claimed the NJ State Title. There is a newspaper story that supports the claim strongly.
But back in the day, seems there wasn’t much respect for anything coming out of South Jersey. Some of the close fights and so close fights that Billy lost, smell a little fishy to say the least. But one thing I can say about Billy, he never whined about those fights.
His son Mike says, back when he was a kid, about 10 years old, his dad came home from getting a part for his car. He could tell he was mad, and his lip had a small cut in the corner. Young Mike asked him what had happened and he finally gave in. He’d headed over to Likanchuk’s Garage & Junk Yard along the old Bridgeton Pike. Likanchuk was a big Pole, always loud, but this time drunk as well. 4 of his pals were there. Drunk as well. As my dad came in, words started flying, and next thing you know, all five surround my dad. About ten minutes later, he left them all unconscious…but he was mad because “one of ‘em got a lucky punch in.”
Dad never spoke about boxing much, but I remember when he was managing a few fighters, going to that smelly upstairs gym in Hammonton, and loving it. Once we were at a local Golden Gloves boxing tournament. It was nice to see the promoters ask dad to step into the ring and wave to the crowd.
When I once asked him, “Dad, what advice could you give me about boxing?” He stopped, thought a moment, and said, “Never step into the ring thinking you’re gonna lose.” Reading the press on Billy Ketchell, my dad, has made me prouder than ever. I have no doubt he never gave anything less than his all.
His son stated, aside from Billy Ketchell being my dad, he was an icon in South Jersey and in Millville (The Punch Bowl was where he started), being called the best boxer to ever emerge from the Millville area. With the contents of this scrapbook, plus his impact on the early South Jersey and Delaware alley boxing scene, I do believe, for these reasons, Billy Ketchell merits inclusion in the HOF. I know it means a lot to our family.
Regarding his name, he took “Billy Ketchell” as his fighting name but his birth-given name was William Basil Kluchka. It was unfortunately butchered by nearly every sports writer of the day. But “Kluchka is the actual family name. I had my named changed officially to Ketchell, dropping the second “l” off the end. My dad was one-hell-of-a-boxer, and a hell-of-a-guy.
Billy fought in the welterweight to the heavyweight divisions from 1931 to 1938. He fought and beat such standouts as Billy Angelo (twice), Wally Sears (twice), Buddy Ryan, George Forrester, George Courtney, former World Welterweight Champion Pete Latzo and future heavyweight champion Jersey Joe Walcott, whom he also fought two other times to a draw.
Billy also fought future world middleweight champion Ken Overlin, Henry Firpo, Al Gainer, Red Burman, Al Delaney, Gus Dorazio, Steve Dudas, and Bob Pastor.
He settled back in the Millville area after WWII, raised his family and passed away in ’74, his tough life taking a toll in later years.
Boxing Record: click