An inspiring boxing story of all-time.
Billy Miske was a Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight contender out of St. Paul, Minnesota. He fought everybody who was anybody in his era including Tommy Gibbons, Young Griffo, Harry Greb, Jack Dillon, Battling Levinsky, Jack Dempsey, Jim Flynn, Kid Norfolk and many other notables; losing only twice in his career (once each to Heavyweights Dempsey and Kid Norfolk.) What is most remarkable is Miske was diagnosed with the terminal illness "Brights Disease" in 1919. The doctors advised his prompt retirement but after a brief rest Miske, whose family was going through financial troubles decided he needed to raise some money to take care of his family, and the only way he knew how to do it was in the Ring. After coming back with a 2 round knockout over Jack Moran he stepped in the ring with Jack Dempsey for the Heavyweight Championship of the World on Sept. 6th, 1920. Miske held his own for a couple of rounds before Dempsey overwhelmed him and knocked him out in the 3rd.
Everybody close to Miske thought this was the end of his ring career and he would fade away quietly away from the boxing ring. They were wrong! Miske sensing a way to get his family in a secure position for the rest of their lives (he had earned $25,000 for the Dempsey fight) worked his way back up the Heavyweight ladder like a man possessed. He started fighting just about all of the other Heavyweight contenders on a round robin basis, beating most of them and losing to none. He had 22 fights between 1921-22 with fellow contenders Bill Brennan, Jack Renault (3 times), Tommy Gibbons (2), Charley Weinert, Homer Smith, Fred Fulton and others. Finally after his Jan. 12 1923 fight with Harry Foley (a first round KO) his body could not go on any longer. He was done and he did not have much more to do but wait for his eventual death.
The months went by and Miske grew restless. He still worried about his family’s welfare and pleaded with his manager to get him one last payday against a top fighter. The fighter tabbed was Bill Brennan, a top 10 guy who had gone 12 rounds with Dempsey a couple years earlier and was known as a hard hitter. By most accounts Miske dragged himself out of his deathbed in order to make this one last stand against Brennan. Once back in the ring Miske's instincts came back to him like he never left. 4 rounds later Miske had knocked out his dangerous opponent and won another piece of a nest egg for his family. Less then 2 months later he was dead, finally claimed by his deadly disease but not before he had accomplished his goal.