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Episode 102: "Billy Miske: Dead Man Fighting"
Airdate: April 20, 2008 - FSN

Billy MiskeWilliam Arthur "Billy" Miske was an American boxer of German descent who competed successfully as a light-heavyweight and heavyweight, defeating many well-known fighters such as Tommy Gibbons and Harry Greb. But unknown to both his competitors and his family, he was harboring a troubling secret. In the spring of 1918, Billy's doctor had diagnosed him with a debilitating kidney ailment called Bright's disease. Given only five years to live and the advice to immediately retire, Billy decided to keep his illness a secret and continue his boxing career. A prior investment into a car distributorship had given Billy almost $100,000 dollars in debt, so despite his doctor's wishes he continued to take on boxing opponents in order to pay off his debt and provide for his family.

Boasting an impressive record, that included only one knockout at the hands on none other than Jack Dempsey, Billy climbed into the ring 70 times after being told of his “death sentence”. But fights were few and far between with his purse winnings going directly to paying of his large debts. In January of 1923, after knocking Harry Foley out in one round, his health began to deteriorate even more. Forced to stay home and rest through the spring, summer, and fall, Billy's concern for his family's security continued to grow. As he strolled through the streets during the first snowfall of the year, all Billy could do was think of how little he was able to provide for his wife and children and how bleak their upcoming Christmas would be.

Feeling worse every day, Billy went directly to his manager, Jack Reddy, and begged him for a fight. He pleaded with Jack to ignore his sickly appearance and get him one more bout before Christmas, so he could give his family the Christmas they deserve. A concerned Reddy fretted for his friend's life, but knew what he had to do and managed to set up a fight with an impressive boxer named Bill Brennan. Billy was so weak that he couldn’t train for the fight and barely got out of his rocking chair until the day of the fight. But when fight night finally arrived, for those 121 minutes Billy was no longer a dying man. With thoughts of his family in his head, Billy fought Brennan valiantly, winning the fight with a knockout in the fourth round. As Billy Miske's arm was raised in the victor's salute he smiled at the crowd for the last time. Winning the fight enabled Billy to walk away with a $2400 purse.

He took the money back to his family in St. Paul, Minnesota and bought furniture to fill the rooms in his house that had been empty for so long. He bought a piano for his wife Marie and toys for the children, and even had enough money left over for Marie to put aside for the future. Billy and his family had a joyous Christmas, by far the best ever for the Miske clan. But despite the wonderful Christmas festivities, Billy began to feel extremely sick and retired to his bedroom. Waking up the day after, Billy was in agony and called Jack, his manager and friend, to come and take him to the hospital. Billy was rushed to the doctor and forced to finally come clean with his wife about his secret illness. Six days later, on the morning of the New Year, Billy Miske passed away.

Copyright © 2008 Nash Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.