By Lynn Saternow
Herald Sports Editor
BILLY SOOSE is one of the most famous athletes ever to come out of the Shenango Valley. Yet many people today — unless you are an “oldtimer” like me — wouldn’t recognize the name.
In fact, a book of his life was entitled “The Champion Time Forgot,” written by Rusty Rubin and Tom Donelson.
Soose’s name cropped up again recently when Keith Galano, a former Brookfield High wrestler, found a ticket stub (above) while working in a vacant house. The stub was from a fight involving Soose against somebody named Charlie Weise on Sept. 13, 1938, in the Farrell High stadium.
Boxing was big in this area during the 1930s and ’40s and many fights were conducted locally.
As you can see the stub had a photo of Soose and I believe his Penn State coach. Boxing at one time was actually an intercollegiate sport. According to Soose’s brother Gene Sebastian, Soose won every Golden Glove competition he ever entered and in 1937 won the Eastern Collegiate Championship for Penn State.
Reportedly, because of Soose’s success, the NCAA banned Golden Gloves winners from competing collegiately, which then launched Soose’s pro career in 1938.
Soose fought 8 bouts that year before taking on Weise. He won them all then knocked out Weise in the second round, thrilling the hometown crowd.
He had a brilliant career, winning the World Middleweight Championship in 1941 with a decision over Ken Overlin in New York City.
In his pro career, Soose posted a record of 34 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw. He posted 14 KOs.
I met Soose once when he visited then Herald sports editor Johnny Pepe. He was an interesting guy and at that time owned a very popular resort in the Poconos. He and Pepe were both inducted into the Mercer County Hall of Fame in 1969.
Sebastian lobbied for years to get his brother inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He finally accomplished the feat after 10 years of lobbying and Soose was inducted in 2009. Sebastian accepted the award for Soose, who died in 1998.
Gene Smith of Grove City showed me a copy of the book “The Champion Time Forget” on Soose shortly after the boxer was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It was an interesting read about a great fighter.
And it’s good to know that when things like a ticket stub are found, Soose is a champion who time didn’t forget! At least not in this area!
Lynn Saternow is sports editor of The Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org