Strictly Sports

Little But Lethal Speary, Ring Champ Looks to Olympics Ignoring Pro Career

--By Cy Peterman--

The calmest fellow in the room was Billy Speary, when by rights he should have been excited. For in the babble and clamor the winner of his third straight Middle Atlantic A. A. U. and Diamond Belt championship remained characteristically cool.

This very poise may explain much of Bill Speary, the 118-capsule who operates with the deadliness of a detonation cap. While ringsiders reach toward the extravagant, calling him the "Cold Killer of the Amateurs," the "Ice-House Executioner," and other gaudy noms-de-resin, the good-looking lad from Nanticoke marches relentlessly through his rivals, not caring much what they call him.

At 20 years of age Billy, a high school graduate who since then has devoted his time to 146 amateur fights, more than half of which were won by knockouts, is an engaging kid who seemed far less taken by his triumph than the crowd in his dressing room. He had just finished off Frankie Donato in a well-planned battle that upset an equally calculated campaign by the local boy, doing it so decisively as to leave no argument. Donato, after a nice opening round, was knocked glassy-eyed and out in the second.

"He had just landed a good wallop when I got him," Speary reviewed the final moments. "I caught him with an old - fashioned, roundhouse right. Not much of a punch, but it worked. Frankie's a fine little fighter and I'm proud to have won."

There was nothing boastful about Speary, who might give that impression in the ring. However, he doesn't believe in any excessive show of sympathy, or fake friendship. With him it's no quarter when the bell rings; he plots as he goes. That, probably, is why he's the outstanding champion of the little men.

Yet his manager and trainer insists Bill wasn't in top condition. For the 31st time in the dressing room Art Thomas bawled' "He's nowhere near the fighter he could be?

This Thomas is a character too. Shrewd as they come, coach of the Golden Gloves, he's as wrapped up in Speary's welfare as a father, proud of the many accomplishments by the frail kid he first took at 98 pounds while the family doctor exploded at the suggestion.

"Do you want him to die?" the medico asked when Bill began to work in the gymnasium. But the sturdy Welsh stock of the Spearys failed to take alarm, so under the good-natured jibes of brother Wesley, also an amateur mittman of three years' standing, Bill began to learn the art of self defense and counter annihilation.

"Just the same he should train more," Mr. Thomas repeated, "but I don't insist. I always say, 'A boy learns 10 times more in one fight than he'll get from six weeks in a gym.' Bill learns to fight while he's fighting, don't you, lad?" I had to figure out Donato's left-hand style that first round," the boy affirmed, but didn't suggest that 146 fights in three years leaves little time for practice bouts.

He already contemplates the next step up in the ranks. By next year he will be a featherweight, beating a way toward his next goal--the Olympics.

"I'd like to represent the United States in 1940," he said, shower over and the hubbub subsiding. "I've no plans for a professional career; in fact, I'm not looking toward it at all. I like amateur boxing and if I can make the team the Olympics would be a suitable climax to three years' competition.

Unmarked save for a little broadening of the nose, the bushy-haired Speary admits he must improve his defense before invading the 126-pound division. A game little rooster, he beat Donato partly because he took the best Frankie, a hefty hitter, sent along, then retaliated with heavier fire.

Monday night's was not his hardest battle, however.

"There was a kid in Chicago at 112 pounds," he recalled. "Jimmy Urso, he's professional now. I got the decision but------ ." He smiled cheerfully at the memory--"Boy, what a fight!"

An uncle, Thomas E. Thomas, who came down from the coal country to see Bill perform, pushed into the circle and just stood admiring the boy. And well he might, even were the Spearys no kin, for here is the young man's record in titles alone:

Twice National A. A. U. Champion.
Twice Golden Gloves Champion in New York.
Twice Inter-City Golden Gloves Champion.
Twice Winner in International Tournaments.
Three Times Middle Atlantic A. A. U. Winner.


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