Young Stribling, The Champion Who Never Was
By Robert Brizel, Real Combat Media Correspondent
They called him the ‘King of the Canebrakes’, a strange nickname which would be the equivalent of ‘The Executioner’ today. Born on December 26, 1904, in Bainbridge, Georgia, William Lawrence Stribling Jr. AKA Young Stribling, was only 28 years old when he died in a motorcycle accident on October 3, 1933, meeting a fate Diego Corrales, Julio Cesar Gonzalez and other boxers would eventually fall trap to years later, but at the time nobody knew that. Neither did Paul Williams, who fortunately survived his motorcycle accident without breaking his spine, but whose long term prognosis is still unknown.
Young Stribling, a Georgia, International and World Boxing Hall of Fame heavyweight, never actually held the world heavyweight title, but hew came very close. He began boxing with his three brothers as an acrobatic act know as ‘The Four Grahams’ on the vaudeville circuit when he was only seven years old.
Also known as ‘dead shot’, Young Stribling was considered one of the best high school basketball players in the United states, but the prospect could not go pro because he was already a professional boxer, and thus ruled ineligible. He began professional boxing at age 16, and fought his first 75 professional boxing bouts while still in high school. He was also talented as a golfer, fisherman, hunter, speedboat racer, tennis player and aviator.
His brother, Herbert ‘Baby’ Stribling was a noted technical welterweight boxer who had a record of 57-17-18, who won 55 bouts by decision, between 1921 and 1934, including ten round decision wins over Wildcat Monte, Lope Tenorio, Joe Trabon,
Harry Groves, and Pat Corbett, though his brother never got a world title shot.
Young Stribling was traveling on his motorcycle at 35 miles an hour, going to the hospital to see his wife and newborn baby. Stribling waved to a friend in a passing car, but then got hit by the car behind his friend in the other lane, fracturing his pelvis, and crushing and nearly ripping off his left foot. His left foot was amputated successfully, but his temperature rose above 107 and doctors were unable to save him. In the same hospital as his wife, his concerns were for doing more roadwork and for his newborn baby, conscious to the very end.
By 1926, the 21 year old Young Stribling had already earned over a million dollars as a boxer, was a lieutenant flier in the U.S. Air Force, taught Sunday school for athletes at his Methodist Church, and was Jack Dempsey’s best friend. At 23 he had fought more documented professional rounds than any fighter in history, and had knocked out more opponents than anybody else as well. Stribling considered himself a scientific boxer who preferred to outpoint his opponents rather than knock them out, and abhorred violence in the ring of any sort, if it could be avoided.
His first documented fight weight was 128 1/2 pounds in 1921. By 1922, Young Stribling has risen to a 159 pound full fledged middleweight. In 1923, weighing 165 pounds, he fought Mike McTigue to a draw for McTigue’s World Light Heavyweight title. McTigue stated he was forced to enter the ring at gunpoint with a broken hand. Stribling had his hand raised falsely and thus was the world champion for an hour before referee Harry Ertle later cleared up the fact he did not raise Stribling’s hand amidst the chaos at the end of the ten rounder. In 1924, Stribling won a rematch by 12 round newspaper decision over McTigue.
By 1925, Young Stribling was fighting at 171 to 176 pounds. In 1926, Stribling lost a 15 round decision to Paul Berlenbach at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, New York, for the World Light Heavyweight title, who he had previously drawn with. By 1928, Stribling was fighting heavyweight at 181 to 186 pounds. He lost a ten round decision to Jack Sharkey in 1929, but defeated Primo Carnera later that year.
Young Stribling versus Jack Sharkey on YouTube 10 Minutes Silent Footage
Young Stribling versus Max Schmeling World Heavyweight Title on YouTube
Young Stribling versus British Heavyweight Champion Phil Scott on YouTube
Young Stribling in training camp, requires Realtime Player, then click ‘run’
Young Stribling Black and White Footage with Family from British Pathe
click on white arrow on film box, top of the page at
On July 3, 1931, Young Stribling was stopped in the fifteenth round by Max Schmeling in Cleveland, Ohio, in his only bid for the World Heavyweight title.
Stribling weighed 180 pounds in his last bout, a ten round decision win over Maxie Rosenbloom in Houston, Texas, on September 22, 1931.
Young Stribling’s final record was 225 wins, 13 losses, and 14 draws, with 129 knockouts. Only the world heavyweight champion stopped him. He had 1687 rounds boxed in his 291 total bouts, with a 44 percent knockout ratio. He traveled through the weight classes like a superhuman Henry Armstrong and Georges Carpentier rolled into one, the most popular fighter back in the day, a man who was not just boxing but had many athletic talents, and was pursued by Hollywood for an acting career as well, Young Stribling. Mobster Al Capone wanted to buy his contract.
He was happiest at home in his native Macon, Georgia, who stood for the virtues of good sportsmanship, honor, and doing his best. The late great Young Stribling, remembered on Real Combat Media.
For further reading, Jaclyn Weldon White’s book, The Greatest Champion That Never Was: The Life of W.L. ‘Young’ Stribling, with a forward by Bert Randolph Sugar.
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