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As It Was: Beatty Indian Loses Life in Klamath Boxing Match

The old National Guard Armory on Main Street in Klamath Falls, Ore., held hundreds of boxing matches. One claimed the life of a young Native American fighter known throughout the Northwest.

The Paiute boxer, Ralph Weiser, grew up near Beatty on the Klamath Indian Reservation.  He began boxing as a teenager and by his mid-20s was a Northwest Golden Gloves lightweight champion known as the Beatty Bomber.  He frequently faced black or Mexican opponents in an era when spectators paid close attention to race.

On a December night in 1952, Weiser entered the ring with Teddy Hall, a black fighter from Vancouver, B.C. Weiser won a technical knockout in the first round, but accepted his opponent’s claim to have mistaken the referee’s count, and the fight resumed. Hall KO’d Weiser in the ninth round, and he died a few hours later. His death at age 26 shocked the sports world.

Nationally syndicated sports columnist Jimmy Cannon wrote that Weiser’s death confirmed boxing was a “filthy trade” in which only the fighters suffer and die while everyone else benefits.

 

Ralph Weiser Dies After Klamath Armory Ring Bout." Herald and News, 11 Dec. 1954 [Klamath Falls, Oregon] , p. 1+; “Indian "Indian Welter Champ Meets Oakland Negro." Herald and News, 3 Apr. 1952 [Klamath Falls, Oregon] , p. 14. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/96267131/. Accessed 19 July 2017; Cannon, Jimmy. "Fight Racket No Glorious Adventure." Pittsburgh Press, 15 Dec. 1954, p. 48. Newspapers.com, https://www.newspapers.com/image/149138552/. Accessed 19 July 2017.

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Todd Kepple has been a Klamath Basin resident since 1990. He was a reporter and editor the for the Herald and News from 1990 to 2005, and has been manager of the Klamath County Museum since 2005. He enjoys volunteering at Crater Lake National Park, the OC&E Woods Line State Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. He is also a founding member of the Klamath Tree League.