Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1963916-The-Bluffs-Butcher
by Hugo
Rated: E · Other · Emotional · #1963916
Heavyweight boxer gives me meaning of courage
                                                            The Bluffs Butcher

Couch potato night. Large bowl of buttered popcorn and a remote dutifly waiting my command.
I settled into my overstuffed chair and flicked through the channels looking primarily for a sporting event, if not, then maybe a good mystery movie. Channel surfing stopped abruptly once the screen displayed a boxing ring. 
I enjoy a good boxing match. When I was younger I followed boxing more closely and was knowledgeable of the champions in all weight classes.
This bout was being broadcast here in Omaha featuring local boxers. The combatants were announced and at the mention of their name each swirled a gloved hand in the air. The announcer continued, ‘The referee for this bout. . .  Ron Stander’.

From a third corner a portly man stepped forward, gave a two fingered salute then retreated.  The name, Ron Stander, brought back memories of a night from years past. Surprisingly the excitement and heart pounding thrills are still there, still charged with  electricity.

Ron Stander is a product of Council Bluffs, Iowa, a former railroad town and Omaha’s easterly neighbor across the Missouri River. 

He made a name for himself as a heavyweight boxer , knocking out all opponents except one in eight professional fights and his success attracted a large and highly vociferous fan base predominately from Council Bluffs. He became their supreme idol, their Ali.

I was not a fan. My adulation went to the talented, those expert in their sport and have proven themselves worthy through sacrifice and hard training.

I waited for the time when Ron Stander, aka The Bluffs Butcher, would reveal himself as just another bar room thug.  I surmised that if Ron would step up to a slightly higher quality of fighter his fans would soon learn how misplaced their affections were and Ron would realize he’d best stick to his day job as a machinist.

To my delight that day came when Ron signed to fight Earnie Shavers aka The Black Destroyer in an eight round bout on November fifth, 1970. The bout to be held here in Omaha.

I had read that Shavers was being groomed for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Ron Stander certainly had no reason to be in the same ring with a pugilist of this caliber.
I bought my ticket and sat where I could view the placid expressions on the faces of Ron’s followers when  Earnie knocked Ron into dreamland.

The seats that paralleled the north tunnel were completely filled an hour before fight time. The crowd is mostly male and the  younger guys express virility by cussing through a moustache in various stages of growth and most display a pack of cigarettes folded into a sleeve of their t-shirt.

This racous beer swilling crowd chomped at the bit for a glimpse of their hometown Gladiator as he stepped into view.
Soon Ron emerged from the tunnel to an exploding earsplitting cheer. The noise was like nothing I had ever experienced.
Ron burst into the ring and peppered the air with rapid punches driving the crowd clamor higher yet.

A moment later from the South tunnel came a man whose body seemed chisled from a chunk of hard, black coal. He received no applause but I smiled as Earnie Shavers and his handlers entered the ring.

Ron continued entertaining his fans providing them with his version of the Ali shuffle. Earnie observed his antics and grinned, his teeth shown brightly against his black face.

The fighters met in the center of the ring and were introduced.

Ron was 5’ 11” and 216 pounds, Earnie 6’ and 205.
Ron, broad shouldered, strong and thick chested, Earnie too had broad shoulders, abbs of rebar and an impressive reach advantage.
The fighters touched gloves and returned to their respective corners.

I had mentally written a round by round prefight script of this event.

Round one . . .Earnie and Ron jab at each other to kinda gain a sense of his opponent. Earnie lands all jabs and Ron lands none. Earnie wins round one.
Round two . . .More jabbing by both fighters. Earnie gets Ron’s attention by landing a couple of hard rights, snapping Ron’s head back.
Round three . . .Ron lumbers ahead and manages two maybe three punches to Earnie’s body. Earnie steps up his brick like jabbing and throws more hard shots to Ron’s face. Ron bleeds noticeably.

Here I worry that Ron may not return for more punnishment, instead throw in the towel and call it a night.
I hope not because I want to see more action for the price of my boxing dollar.

Round four . . .Ron courageously meets Earnie in the center of the ring knowing he is soon to absorb more leather. Earnie is aware of this and uses this round to open additional cuts to Ron’s face and practice his boxing skills without contest.
Round five . . .Earnie decides to end my entertainment with a hard body shot and two right hooks that slam Ron to the mat. I can’t cheer fearing that the humanoids at the north tunnel will identify me as a traitor.

His tribe is shocked, calls his name, begs him to rise; Not a chance!

The announcer finishes the evening, telling me and others that Earnie Shavers is the winner by a fifth round knock out. At this point my ears will atune to the sweet hush of the emptying auditorium.

Now let’s get underway in real time!

Clang! The bell rings for the first round. Both fighters dance around each other. Earnie throws jabs that reach their mark and Ron throws a short jab or two and a haymaker that misses by a yard. Ron’s clan screams mindlessly at Ron’s ineffective efforts. The bell ends the round. Earnie sits on the stool and receives instructions. Ron stands in his corner talking with his handlers.

Clang! Round two. Ron swings wildly again and misses. Earnie sends a strategic strike that flattens Ron’s nose and begins the blood letting. The fighters clinch and Ron gains points by hammering Earnie with punches to the body. Earnie uppercuts Ron jerking his head to the back of his shoulders. The round ends and the fighters return to their corners. Earnie sits and accepts water, Ron stands, his arms draping the ropes.

Clang! Round three. Earnie relaxes knowing he has the fight under control. Halfway through the round Ron hits Earnie with  thunderous punches to his body and I see Earnie wince as he absorbs each blow. Earnie lands fewer and less meaningfull punches. I cover my ears while Ron’s plebeians screech adulation in mindblowing decibles.
The round ends. Earnie goes back to his corner without that ‘another day another dollar’ look. He receives an ice bag and fury from his handlers. Ron stands in his triangle, his back to his handlers.

Clang! Round four. I expect Earnie to put into effect his handlers instructions. Get back to business, regain his dominance and use his reach advantage to pulverize Ron’s already bruised face. Not to be! Earnie’s body consumes several more of Ron’s crushing blows and he bends to the side with each whack to his ribs. He retreats as Ron plods forward. Ron is now oblivious to slugs thrown by The Black Destroyer.

The round ends and I watch as Earnie’s handlers race to meet him and help him to the corner stool. I don’t know what to think.  Earnie is collapsed on the stool, stretched out. His eyes are closed and his handlers are  fanning him with towels, and dousing him with water. Directly across the ring is Ron Stander, standing.

My feelings and emotions are in free fall and I am unable to percieve this  reversal in script
I am bewiltered and sense the unrelenting pandemonium of praise for Ron pulling me into his corner.

Clang! Round five. Earnie leaves his corner hesitantly. Ron confronts him with  thudding body shots. Earnie clinches and holds tightly. The referee breaks them apart and Ron delivers a crashing right to the jaw. The Black Destroyer’s knees buckle and he tries to clinch but Ron unleashes a flurry of blows and as he steps back Earnie tips forward and falls to the canvas flat on his face. The referee counts him out

My heart was racing as I vountarily sprang to my feet, easily beating the mob of thin moustaches. I cheered Ron heartily with a new found  respect and allegiance. Ron had conquered what I believed to be a monstrous overwhelming challenge. I was amazed at his courage and determination and realized that my negative thoughts of him and his abilities were nothing more than assumptions.

Know that Earnie Shavers was no slouch, he won his next thirty-three fights in a row, thirty-two by knockouts. He assembled an excellent record as a heavyweight fighter, seventy-four wins and fourteen losses. His opponents voted him the hardest puncher of the era and perhaps of all time.
Beating Earnie earned Ron an unheard of opportunity, a fight with Smokin’ Joe Frasier for the heavyweight championship of the world. The fight took place on May 5th, 1972 here in Omaha.

Ron held on through four brutal rounds. Then the referee mercifully stopped the fight due to Ron’s facial cuts, cuts that required thirty stitches.
After Ron’s loss to Smokin’ Joe his boxing career suffered through ups and downs, Ron finally admiting that he just didn’t have the heart for boxing anymore.

Ron has struggled financially since leaving the ring. The company where Ron worked for years as a machinist closed leaving him and others looking for work. At fifty-five finding employment became futile and Ron worked odd jobs to make ends meet. He would referee, drive a school bus, even sell autographed posters depicting him and Joe Frasier before their championship bout.

Ron has friends in and out of boxing circles that are devoted to him and they share stories of Ron’s goodness and how he is there to help when needed.

On that November night in 1970 I became a believer in Ron Stander and surely his biggest fan.

William Sikora
1110 S. 114 st.
Omaha, Ne

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