Former heavyweight contender Ron Stander was known as “The Bluffs Butcher”, and he knew only one way to fight, going straight ahead and throwing bombs.
This quote by Stander said it all: “I'll fight any living human and most animals, if the price is right.”
Stander took an impressive record into the ring when he met Joe Frazier in 1972 for the world title. Stander never backed down and went straight at Frazier throwing punches. Stander suffered four deep cuts on his face, however, and the fight was stopped at the end of the fourth round. This loss crushed Stander and speaking to him it was evident that it affected the rest of his career and his preparation for future fights. I found Stander to be pleasant and there was very little bitterness in him. He seemed like a guy you would want to sit down with, have a beer, and just talk some boxing. He admitted mistakes in his career and said he would do things different given a second chance. I also spoke to longtime Nebraska matchmaker and promoter, Tom Lovgren, who has been a friend of Standers for decades. I asked him to sum up Stander for me. He said he's a good person with a good heart, a guy who would be the first there if anyone needed something. He also said he thought Stander really sold himself short during his career. After the Frazier loss Stander would fight such notables as Rodney Bobick, Ken Norton, Gerrie Coetzee, Scott Frank and James “Quick” Tillis. Stander left boxing in 1982 with a final record of 37-21-3 with 28 KOs. Stander was also inducted into the Great Plains Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame in 1994. Although he was never a world champion, he made the residents of Omaha Nebraska proud, with a gallant effort against world champion Joe Frazier. I'm sure if you ask people in Omaha now, they would tell you the same thing.
(SM) Ron how are you these days?
(RS) Not too bad, but if you only interview retired fighters, why me, I have never officially retired yet? (laughs)
(SM) You want another shot at the title, huh? OK, Ron take me back to the beginning, how did you first get started in boxing?
(RS) When I was in Parsons College up in Iowa in the 1960's. I met a kid from back east and he was boxing so we put the gloves on out in the yard and I just got interested in it. I came back to Omaha and fought in the Golden Gloves in 1967. I met a guy named Orville Qualls who was a fighter and I told myself that if he could do it then so could I. I turned pro in 1969.
(SM) Now you were a good athlete in other sports, weren't you?
(RS) Yeah, in football, wrestling and track. And yes I did tackle Gale Sayers in a football game once. I missed him more than I tackled him, he scored five touchdowns that day!
(SM) Do you remember your first pro fight against Bobby Street in 1969?
(RS) Yea we met up in Milwaukee. He was a big kid, like 300 lbs. I just came out and let them fly, knocked him out in the first round.
(SM) Tell me about the Earnie Shavers fight in 1970, how hard did he punch and was he the hardest puncher you ever faced?
(RS) I think it was his thirteenth fight and my tenth. How hard did he hit? You ever been hit with a nightstick or a ball bat? His jab was like a nightstick and his right hand was like a ball bat. He was the hardest puncher ever!
After our fight I think he knocked out almost fifty straight guys, guys like Ken Norton and Jimmy Young. The first few rounds with him were pure hell! Everyone will tell you, Ali, Tex Cobb, Quarry, that he was the hardest
puncher they ever faced. If anyone was a fighter that should have been a world champion it was him. He had Ali gone in the thirteenth round, the bell saved him. Man, he was unbelievable.
(SM) What about the Manuel Ramos fight and the draw, a fair decision?
(RS) He probably won but I got a hometown decision. Maybe it could have been a draw, the judges were fair I guess. The first loss I had to Rico Brooks I got jobbed up there. I think I got jobbed in a few other fights like the Scott
LeDoux fight. I know I won that Brooks fight though. Was I upset, yeah. I bought my wife to the fight and that day her father had a heart attack. So instead of preparing for the fight, I was busy with that. A lot of things happened during my career that people didn't realize.
(SM) What were you ranked when Frazier gave you a title shot?
(RS) I really don’t remember, maybe ninth or tenth.
(SM) What kind of fight did to train for against a great fighter like Frazier?
(RS) Just to fight fire with fire. I was no boxer, I just went in and started throwing. He said he would come out smokin' and I said I would come out whalin'.
(SM) You trained in Boston for several months prior to the fight, didn’t you?
(RS) Yeah, my trainer was Johnny Dunn from the Boston area. There were good sparring partners down in Boston at that time. I ended up getting my nose broke though by a sparring partner.
(SM) Did that affect you in the fight?
(RS) What do you think? It was a nightmare.
(SM) Some say Frazier's legs buckled in the first round from a right hand, he says it was a slip. What's the story?
(RS) I'm saying he got hit, yeah.
(SM) In round three you were getting cut up pretty bad. Was it punches or head butts?
(RS) Both. A lot of head butts and he punched a little too. He picked the referee and I picked the judges, my mistake. I still wanted to go out for the fifth.
(SM) After that fight I have read that the loss literally destroyed you?
(RS) Yeah, I wasn't motivated like I should have been after that. For a few fights I trained, like the Terry Daniels fight. I trained for people I wanted to beat.
(SM) Tell me about the Ken Norton fight, stopped too soon?
(RS) He was fading fast, a couple more rounds I think I would have had him out. I had a chicken-spit three stitch cut and they stopped it.
(SM) What made you finally hang up the gloves in 1982?
(RS) The phone quit ringing. I would have liked to have kept going but I didn’t have time to train because I had bought a bar. That was probably a mistake.
(SM) Any regrets looking back?
(RS) Yeah, like everything. From Rico Brooks on. I shouldn’t have brought my wife to that fight. People just make bad decisions, you know. I should have trained harder, should have done this and that. Could have done this and a little bit of luck would have helped. I should have jumped on Frazier from the get go. He lost his next fight to George Foreman. Foreman used that big uppercut he saw me try and use on Frazier. I tell everyone I softened Joe up for George.
(SM) So after boxing what have you been doing?
(RS) Well I bought that bar. Went to work for a manufacturing company here and drove a concrete truck for awhile. I am still an active referee although I haven't done any for a little while. If they call me I would be there in a second. It seems that every time I got my head above water, someone would pull the rug out from under me.
(SM) How do you think you would fare against today's heavyweights in your prime?
(RS) I would love to find out! If we fought tonight, Ali, Frazier and Norton, they wouldn’t last one round with me.
(SM) What do you think about the heavyweight division today?
(RS) You know Klitschko is pretty good, uses his jab good and his reach too. You know I was with Cus D'Amato for about four months, before Tyson was even around. Cus was like General Patton, he was something. Guys like that knew how to train fighters.
(SM) Do people still talk about the Frazier fight around Omaha?
(RS) Yeah, thirty-five years later they still do. Give me a little bit of luck and things could have been different.
(SM) You still watch any fights?
(RS) Yeah, when there's a big one on, but the matches aren't like they used to be. When I fought there was eight world champions, we used eight ounce gloves and we went fifteen rounds. Now there is like one hundred champions. Back then anyone in the top ten had a chance to win the title any night. Now maybe two or three have a shot.
(SM) Ron, how do you want to be remembered?
(RS) As a Christian with a heart. I always gave people their money's worth and went out and threw bombs.
(SM) Ron, any final words?
(RS) Just happy to be here, looking at Tom Lovgren! Been friends about forty years. He's the Muhammad Ali of promoters around here, a real character.
(SM) Ron, thanks for speaking with me.
(RS) No problem Shawn, take care.
*Writer's note: Thank you to Tom Lovgren for arranging this interview. Tom has written a very good book about Ron's boxing career as well as one on Art Hernandez and his brothers. For more details please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please log on to my favorite organization, retiredboxers.com!