Ron Stander, known as Bluffs Butcher, led a heavyweight title fight in Omaha | Local

Ron Stander, the Council Bluffs boxer best known for his 1972 world title fight against Joe Frazier in Omaha, died Tuesday at his home in Ralston.

Poster of the Joe Frazier vs. Ron Stander fight in Omaha in 1972.

Stander, known as Bluffs Butcher for his hometown and fearsome punching power, was 77. He died of complications from diabetes, said his wife, Toddy.

Retired from boxing in 1982, Stander’s fame had peaked when he fought Frazier after knocking out another legendary boxer, Earnie Shavers. But Stander was never forgotten by his friends in the boxing world and the friends he made in all walks of life. Many came to see him while he was in the hospice.

“I can’t begin to tell you how many boxers have come home,” Toddy Stander said. “They held his hand, kissed his forehead and told him they loved him: I love you, champ. You are my hero.”

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Stander grew up in Council Bluffs and graduated from Abraham Lincoln High School in 1962. He changed the sport from football to boxing, leading to a remarkable career that began in the late 1960s. He had hair like Elvis, he loved beer, and he never boxed back, always fighting his opponents no matter how favored they were.

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He delivered eye-catching quotes as well as jaw-dropping uppercuts. “I will fight any living human and most animals,” Stander used to say.

Stander would later say that his loss to Shavers, considered one of the toughest punchers of all time, was the highlight of his career. The Bluffs Butcher was ranked 8th in the world at one point. He floundered and exhausted his opponents by taking their punches and pounding them with his own, but he was prone to getting cuts to his face.

Then-heavyweight champion Smokin’ Joe Frazier came to Omaha to fight Stander on May 25, 1972, in front of nearly 10,000 people at the Civic Auditorium and a national television audience. For Frazier, it was seen as a tune-up before a fight against George Foreman. But Stander came to fight. He battled the champion for four rounds before losing by technical knockout when a medic called the fight due to multiple cuts to Stander’s face. The fight is still considered one of the greatest sporting events in Omaha history.

Stander fought for another 10 years. After retiring with a 38-21-3 record, including losses at the hands of big name fighters such as Ken Norton and Gerrie Coetzee, he returned to Omaha and worked at Vickers Hydraulics.

Toddy Stander said boxing’s hangers faded when fame faded, but Stander had good friendships in boxing and elsewhere that he nurtured throughout his life.

“We all have imperfections,” Toddy Stander said. “But Ronnie’s good things about him, his kindness, his compassion for people, his compassion for outsiders, his willingness to volunteer and all the goodness in him, and he loved his family. His family was so important .”

He loved his children and grandchildren, she said.

“His favorite saying was ‘I love you more,'” she said. “I love you more. It’s always been that way.”

Visitation is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home, 1221 N. 16th St. in Council Bluffs. The funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Holy Name Catholic Church in Omaha.

World-Herald Sports editor Sam McKewon contributed to this report.

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