Ideal Weight For 5 Month Old Baby Boy In Kg Fighting for His Family: The Billy Miske Story

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Fighting for His Family: The Billy Miske Story

Billy Miske, middleweight from St. Paul, Minnesota, has arrived in town. He issued a challenge to any boy of his weight.” (Milwaukee Free-Press, September 14, 1913)

One of the largest and bravest men in history was only six feet tall and weighed around 160 pounds. Pasty white, bumpy knees and fists that flew faster than even his nickname suggested: St. Paul Thunderbolt.

Billy Miske was a boxer, a man smeared with grit and determination. Born in 1894, his glory years were destined to fall in decades full of pennies and hungry mouths. He got married, had kids, and was broke. Dead broken.

But Miske used his God-given abilities to come away with the money: roaring with his fists and beating opponent after opponent in the ring. His style was orthodox; not sexy, not flamboyant, but quick and decisive. Every punch, every hook, every jab was thrown with purpose, whether they landed or not. While preparing for each fight, Miske literally punched his own jaw 10 times a day.

Miske went toe-to-toe with some of the greatest boxers of the era: Jack Dempsey, Harry Greb and Bittling Lavinsky, among others. In his illustrious career, Miske amassed somewhere around 45 wins, 34 of which were by knockout. The early 20th century is known as the “no decision” era, meaning that in some states a fight not decided by knockout was considered a draw and thus did not count towards a boxer’s overall record. Miske could easily have nearly 100 career wins if not for the era in which he fought.

But Miske didn’t care about knockouts. His family does. He would do whatever it took to take care of them, and if grinding through 15 dizzying shots did it, he was all for it. But his time in the ring ended in 1919.

At the ripe old age of 24, Miske told his coach Jack Reddy that he felt more tired than usual. Naturally, he attributed it to boxing. However, after several visits to the doctors, Miske learned some serious news: he was battling Bright’s disease, a serious kidney disease for which there was no cure. Doctors gave Miske about 5 years before he died. But worse than that, Miske was told he couldn’t fight anymore.

Telling a man like Miske that he is no longer fit to fight is like telling a tiger to let a herd of antelope pass by without pouncing on one. In the last years of his life, Miske went crazy to do one thing: provide financial stability for his family. If it meant boxing through immense pain and fatigue? So be it.

Miske chose not to tell any family members about his condition. There was no need for Marie and his children to worry, and the last thing he wanted was to be told he shouldn’t fight. Miske tried other ways to make money. He used his life savings to start a car dealership. Unfortunately for Billy, as good as he was at boxing, he was just as bad at running the business. He had to struggle just to cover the losses from the dealership.

Miske’s options were limited. The thing that made him money, the one thing in this world that he was really good at, the doctors told him that it would damage his health and shorten his limited life span. But Miske believed that if he could fight enough fights, even if he didn’t win, he could get the money to keep putting food on the table. Billy Miske continued to fight as if nothing had happened. He continued his regular training routines with trainer Jack Reddy. In the years following his fatal diagnosis, he fought (and won) a number of bouts.

In this day and age, when it is rare for us to see a boxer fight more than one or two bouts, Miske participated in dozens of bouts. In 1922 alone, he entered the ring 15 times. If his kidneys were failing, the outside world certainly didn’t know about it. But as the insides began to shut down, so did Billy. There were few matches. Miske felt too ill to fight. He ate nothing but boiled fish and could barely move because of the pain, let alone dance and throw punches in the boxing ring.

In 1923, Miske felt the end. The light at the end of his life tunnel was getting closer. But he knew he couldn’t leave this Earth until he was sure his family was safe. As the crunch of fall descended on the Midwest, Billy called his coach, his good friend Jack Reddy, and told him that death was knocking harder than ever. He needed to fight.

Reddy immediately rejected the idea. There was no way he was going to let Billy, a man 29 years young but with the broken and frail body of an older man, step into the ring and get beaten up. Reddy was preparing to give Miska money to help with the bills and vacation expenses Billy faced in the coming months. This is what Billy Miske told him: “I never did and I’m not going to start now. Jack, I’m dead broke and just want to give Maria and the kids a decent Christmas before I sign off.” You gotta give me a payday, for old times’ sake.”

Reddy reluctantly agreed, knowing that nothing had changed St. Paul Thunderbolt. He faced “KO” Bill Brennan, a man Miske’s equal even at the height of his career. Miske had no chance. He wasn’t even in good enough health to train for a fight. How could he even enter the ring with Brennan?

That was Miska’s thing. You couldn’t judge him by his looks alone. He may have looked more like a minimum wage factory grunt than a world prize fighter, but Miske had the heart of a lion. This lion heart knocked out “KO” Bill Brennan in the 4th round, earning him a nice $2,400 payday.

The Christmas of 1923 will be special in the Miske household. Billy knew it was probably his last, but he had long since come to terms with it. Watching his kids open presents at Christmas that he couldn’t get before was worth it. And watching his lovely wife Marie tickle the ivory on the baby grand piano he bought for her brought more than sweet music to his heart.

On December 26, the day after Christmas, Miske called his good friend Jack Reddy and told him he was dying. Jack came and picked him up to go to the hospital where he finally revealed his dying condition to Maria. 5 days later, at the age of 29, Billy Miske’s kidneys did what Miske never did: they gave up the fight. Miske died on January 1, 1924.

Miske’s story quickly traveled through the community, the state and the world of boxing. Tommy Gibbons, a giant in the boxing world at the time and a man who fought Misk several times, had this to say about Billy:

“Billy Miske was one of the best guys to ever put on gloves. He was always a gentleman in the ring; he always fought within the rules and never took advantage of a helpless opponent or resorted to rough tactics.”

Billy Miske is truly a hero. A man who fought with passion and loved with passion. Billy Miske left a legacy that every man can aspire to. The moments of happiness with family far outweigh any mortal fears we may have about each other. Billy Miske lived a selfless life, a life that showed no matter the odds that family is always worth fighting for.

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