GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Two extremely rare pieces of boxing memorabilia are up for auction from one of the world’s greatest fighters: Grand Rapids-native Stanley Ketchel.
The auction ends at 10 p.m. Saturday.
Ketchel won the title in 1908 — taking it from Mike Sullivan in a first-round knockout. He lost the belt to Billy Papke before winning it back in a rematch months later.
Ketchel lost the title for good in a 1910 fight with Sam Langford which ended in a controversial judge’s decision.
A rematch was in the works before Ketchel was murdered during a robbery.
The belt is made from silk and velvet with red, white and blue stripes, and 20 stars patterned over dark-blue fabric. It also includes a photo of Ketchel wearing the belt and an action photo of Ketchel and Papke’s third bout.
Jordan Gilroy, the director of acquisitions for Lelands, says both the belt and gloves are an extremely rare find for boxing fans.
“It’s slim pickings for boxing collectors because there aren’t 1,000 fight-worn trunks and gloves and belts sold everyday like cards and other sports,” Gilroy told News 8. “The last time it sold was in 2004, and god knows if it’s ever going to surface again once it sells in our auction.”
According to Gilroy, the belt was handed down several times before it landed at Lelands.
Ketchel gifted the belt to his grandmother. After his death, she gave it to Ketchel’s best friend, John R. Wirth. Before he passed, Wirth gifted it to a friend: former boxer Wesley Ramey, Sr.
Ramey’s son sold the belt in 1991. It was then auctioned by Lelands in 2004, selling for $20,000.
The gloves come from the Billy Haack collection. Haack was a referee and fight promoter in Tennessee at the turn of the century and kept mementos from his fights. The gloves have their original laces and you can still see lightly where Ketchel wrote his name on the tags.
Ketchel was 24 years old when he died, ending with an official record of 49 wins and 5 losses in 62 professional fights with 48 knockouts. He was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Grand Rapids.
An honorary plaque sits at the corner of Stocking Avenue and 3rd Street on the city’s northwest side, and a statue of Ketchel was erected in 2019 on Bridge Street.