History | Oct 03 2019

On This Day: Heavyweight contender Young Stribling dies aged 28

Nick Bond tells the tragic story of Young Stribling, a fighter cruelly cut down in his prime
Young Stribling
Young Stribling

WILLIAM LAWRENCE “YOUNG” STRIBLING JNR had a tragically short life – died aged 28 in a motorcycle accident in his native Georgia – but he contested more fights than any heavyweight in history (289).

Stribling was on his way to hospital to visit his convalescing wife and new born baby when he was struck by a car travelling in the opposite direction.

The car hit Stribling on his motorcycle and the damage to his left leg was so bad that his foot had to be amputated in Macon Hospital a half hour after the accident. His pelvis was also crushed in the collision.

Stribling was taken to the same hospital, where, coincidentally, his wife and newborn baby were.

The brave “King of the Canebrakes” sadly succumbed to his injuries after clinging to life for two days. He lapsed into unconsciousness following a dogged battle which his physicians noted was only made possible by a person of tremendous physicality.

At first the doctors held out hope, after they had amputated his left foot. But his vitality began to wane. Physicians were amazed at his ability to cling to life when his temperature hit 107 1/2 degrees and his pulse 175. His wife was wheeled into his room.
“W.L.?,” she said.
“Sugar,” was his barely audible reply.
“Hello, baby,” were his last words to her, the papers reported.
His father walked grimly from the room and tearfully said, “He’s gone.”

The next day, his body was placed in the Municipal Auditorium of Macon, to lie in state from 10 in the morning until six that evening.

Stribling in Miami, Florida ahead of his 1929 fight with Jack Sharkey. Jack Dempsey (co-Promoter) greeted Stribling upon his arrival in the city to start training

Twenty-five thousand mourners walked past his coffin in the town’s auditorium and another 10,000 attended the service at Riverside Cemetery.

He was still going strong at the time of the accident, beating light-heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom a month previously in Texas. Stribling, who turned professional at 17 years old, had amassed an amazing 129 knockouts in his career – a feat bettered only by “Ageless” Archie Moore.

Young Stribling in his prime

Managed, promoted and trained by his parents “Ma” and “Pa” Stribling, he came up short in his biggest battles – notably to Max Schmeling in his heavyweight title tilt.

His younger brother Herbert ‘Baby’ Stribling was also a fighter.