comparison, Speary's experience makes today's crop look like rank
|By JACK COLLINS
Bethlehem Globe Times
With the Olympics in full swing, challenging the World Series for
space on sports pages throughout the country, we pause to reflect that
there scarcely is a youngster who hasn't dreamed of being proficient
enough in some sport to represent the United States in the world's
greatest amateur spectacle. As Bethlehemites, we all share in the
pride of having a local wrestler, Greg Ruth, attaining that dream.
The fact that Greg didn't win a gold medal doesn't lessen that pride one
Another Bethlehemite, while rooting for Greg to the limit,
couldn't help but recall his day in the Olympics-a day that never came.
Twenty-four years ago, this young man, then 22-years-old, was acclaimed
the nation's best amateur fighter in his class. As such, he was
invited to represent the United States in the Olympics in Helsinki,
Finland. But a poor sport, one Adolph Schickelgruber (nee Hitler),
decided to put the world at war, and cause an eight-year postponement of
Billy Speary, who now lives at 1252 Manchester Road in West
Bethlehem, rates his failure to appear in the Olympics as one of the
keenest disappointments he has suffered in a sport which is known for
its share of heart breaks.
NANTICOKE'S BILLY SPEARY CLIMBED HIGH ON THE
Among the many great fighters developed in Wyoming
Valley was Bill Speary of Nanticoke, who holds the proud distinction of
whipping two world's champions in the featherweight division and also
compiling a record in the amateur ranks that was never surpassed.
His sensational rise in the boxing game can be attributed to the skillful
handling of Art Thomas who taught Speary the fundamentals of
fighting. In the roarin' twenties, when the original Armory A.C. was
staging some of the best boxing shows in America, the Nanticoke youngster
was smitten with the fight bug and felt that he would ascend the
heights of the world's oldest and most popular sport if given the
opportunity. Art Thomas had Syd Thomas and other boys working out in
a small gym in Nanticoke and one of the interested spectators with
Speary. He was a quiet, timid kid, well supplied with intestinal
fortitude and the confidence that makes great fighters.
After "hanging up the gloves", Billy remained in
the ring for many years as a referee, licensee by the Keystone State
Athletic Commission (Pennsylvania). Although he resided in the
Allentown area at that time, his referee duties were mostly in the
Billy was also an officer and active member of the Lehigh Valley
Old-time Boxers Association.
"...If I had to do it over,
I would have done the same thing. My one regret is that I never
was able to keep that Olympic date..."
Billy Speary, 1964