Dick Murphy gained notoriety in the boxing ring. However, when
the 1951 national champion first donned a pair of gloves, he sought

“I worked out every night — my mother thought I was going to
play basketball at the YMCA,” Murphy said.

Taking a friend’s name as an alias, Murphy began to cut his
teeth at local Milwaukee gyms unbeknownst to his mother, who
disapproved of boxing. Despite his best efforts though, Murphy’s
clandestine sparring would not last forever.

“The summer before I had run a track meet in the one-half mile,”
Murphy said. “A guy by the name of Peter Murphy was the chairman of
the AAU and he passed out the medals. I had at that time, at 16
years old, a lock of gray hair. He went down to the first fight of
the Golden Gloves and said, ‘That kid’s name isn’t O’Reilly, that
kid’s name is Murphy!’ So, the jig was up and I got caught.”

As a high-school senior, Murphy captured the Wisconsin and Upper
Michigan Golden Gloves title at 147 pounds. Upon his graduation
from Milwaukee’s Pius IX High School in 1946, he received an offer
from Wisconsin boxing coach John Walsh.

“When I graduated from high school, I truthfully didn’t have any
intention of going to college,” Murphy said. “I came up here that
spring, John had seen me box in the Golden Gloves. So, my mother
and father brought me up here. I didn’t have any intentions of
going to college, so instead, I graduated and went into the

Murphy enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Japan
immediately following the conclusion of World War II. A paratrooper
with the 11th Airbourne Division, Murphy once again found himself
in the ring.

“As soon as I finished my jump school, they put me on this
boxing team, and that’s all I did that whole time I was over
there,” Murphy said. “I traveled all over the northern island of
Honshu. I was stationed in Sendai and we used to go to Sapporo, and
Yokohama and Tokyo. We traveled all over because every big division
had a boxing team.”

Other than a mandatory jump once per three months, Murphy’s tour
of duty was spent with the 11th Division’s boxing squad.

“A lot of kids were boxing in the army just because they wanted
to get away from company duty, so they got on the boxing team and
didn’t know anything,” he said. “On the other hand, there were a
lot of them who had been semi-pro, pro or had a lot of amateur
fights. So, I fought some really good guys in the service.”

When he returned from Japan, Murphy discovered that Walsh and
the Wisconsin boxing program were still interested in his

“After I got out of the service, I went down to the Golden
Gloves late in December — must have been ’47 — and I ran into
(Wisconsin assistant coach) Vern Woodward, who had seen me fight a
couple years ago,” Murphy said. “So he said, ‘Why don’t you come
look at the program? Look at the gym, I’ll help you work out.’ I
said, ‘What do I have to lose?’ I got in the car and drove. I went
in the training room, and that was the beginning. I quit my job —
I had just gotten a job at Wisconsin Telephone Company — and came
up here. Good thing I did.”

That decision proved beneficial to both Murphy and Wisconsin. He
enrolled at UW in January of 1948 and began to make his mark on the
program. Despite a chest injury suffered in a car accident as a
sophomore, Murphy compiled a 69-5-2 career record. In his three
years of competition, he never lost an intercollegiate fight at his
156-pound light middleweight class.

“He was a boxer-puncher, a classic boxer-puncher style,” friend
and teammate Bob Morgan said. “He didn’t just wade in and slug it
out. He picked his punches and hit pretty hard. He only lost fights
when he moved up in weight divisions, which was at the request of

Meeting Murphy in the ring was a daunting task for opposing
fighters. He added to the intimidation with his traditional
introductory greeting.

“I always used to say, ‘I’m not going to wish you any good luck,
but I won’t wish you any bad luck,'” Murphy said. “I liked to meet
them before the match and see if I could scare them. Some guys you
could and some guys you couldn’t.”

As a junior, Murphy served as team captain for the 1951

“It worked out good for me because I was a little bit older than
the other guys,” Murphy said. “I was married and had two kids
before I graduated from college. I think there was just kind of a
natural thing: that I stepped in because I was married, I was a
little older, because I had a lot of experience.”

“[Murphy] was a true leader in that you just wanted to follow
him, wanted to do what he said,” Morgan said. “I mean if Coach
(Walsh) told you something and ‘Murph’ told you the same thing, it
really registered.”

Murphy’s 1951 season culminated in a national championship at
the 156-pound division. He then co-captained the 1952 team with Bob
Ranck. That ’52 campaign ended in disappointing fashion for Murphy,
as he lost his final contest at Wisconsin, losing in the first
round of the NCAA tournament held in Madison.

“In the first fight I fought a guy by the name of Bill Miller
from Syracuse who I had already beaten three times,” Murphy said.
“I lost. I was thinking for the next night, which was a big

Boxing at Wisconsin meant success in the ring, and massive fan
support. Murphy and the Badgers consistently fought in front of
crowds of over 13,000.

“It was just the most amazing thing,” Murphy said. “You’d get in
the ring, in the corner, you’d look around and the same people were
in the same seats for every match. They passed on tickets like
Green Bay Packers tickets to get the good seats. I’d wave at my
wife, who didn’t like it very much and who was usually

The large and raucous Field House crowds served as a formidable
ally for Murphy and his Badger teammates. They also posed an
intimidating challenge for the visiting fighters.

“Some of those guys were used to fighting in front of 300, 400
people,” Murphy said. “I had a big advantage when they came here
with 15,000. They were scared to death. There was no comparison; no
other college came even close. Of course, that’s why everybody
hated us. Everybody sharpened their blades just to beat us. It
didn’t do them much good, though.”

Murphy graduated from UW in June of 1952. He moved on to Miller
Brewing, where he worked in marketing for 23 years. His work took
him away from Wisconsin, and he moved to Toledo, Ohio, with his
wife. It was there Murphy learned of the boxing program’s demise
May 9, 1960.

“They had a meeting for the purpose of discussing what to do
with the boxing program,” Murphy said. “Nobody was there
representing the boxing program and they voted it out. Nobody had a
chance to say anything; they voted it out and it was gone.”

Even though his days of boxing in the Field House were behind
him, Murphy was still active in the sport while residing in

“They had a Pan-American games tournament there and I was a
referee,” Murphy said. “I judged four matches by a little
17-year-old kid — a 175-pounder. His name was Cassius Clay. I
called John Walsh because they were going to have another match
here (in Madison). I said, ‘John, you should go and watch this guy.
I think he could be heavyweight champion of the world.’ Cassius
came here and one of the few fights he ever lost, he lost right
here in Madison. John called me and said, ‘I thought you said this
guy was going to be a world champ.'”

Murphy returned to Madison in 1976, and the University of
Wisconsin has been an integral part of his life ever since. Even
while living in Ohio, he would attend Badger sporting events.

“Other than my family, the most important thing in the world to
me is this university,” Murphy said. “I said to my wife, ‘Did you
ever stop and think how different my life would be if I hadn’t had
boxing? I can’t even imagine. But, they took it out because they
didn’t think it was any good for anyone. Look at all the successful
guys that graduated from that program. I truthfully don’t know
anyone of them that are losers. I can’t think of any. You’ve got
doctors, engineers, politicians. It was a great program.”

The bonds Murphy and his teammates formed remain to this day. He
still communicates with Morgan, Ranck, Tommy Zamzow and others on a
weekly basis.

“I walked into the gym that (first) night and the first person I
laid my eyes on happened to be Bob Ranck,” Murphy said. “We’ve been
friends ever since. There probably isn’t a week that I don’t talk
to him. He calls me, or I call him. We take trips out there. The
friends that you’ve made, we’ve had a get together — a reunion —
for probably the past 20 or 25 years where they come in from all
over the country. Elroy Hirsch used to tell me the biggest
camaraderie he ever saw from any group of athletes was the
Wisconsin boxers.”

When it came time to select the Badger Boxing Elite in 1974,
Murphy’s inclusion was a must. His selection distinguished him as
one of the two greatest boxers at his weight in Wisconsin

In 2001, Murphy received one of his greatest accolades when he
was elected to the University of Wisconsin Athletic Department Hall
of Fame.

“That was just a tremendous feeling,” Murphy said of his
induction. “It’s such a great honor, everybody wants it, but you
never think it’s going to happen to you. When Pat Richter called me
and said, ‘You have been inducted,’ I almost fell off my chair.
It’s a great feeling.”

A Badger through and through, Murphy adamantly opposes the use
of the color black on UW uniforms alongside the school’s official
colors of cardinal and white.

“I’m losing, but I’m going to fight it until I die,” he said
with a grin.

While Dick Murphy may have left his imprint on Wisconsin boxing,
the storied program had an even greater impact on him.

“All I can say in summation is I thought it was a great program
from all standpoints: the coaching, the training facilities,
camaraderie, competition, I could go on and on and on,” he said. “I
feel very fortunate that No. 1, I was able to attend Wisconsin, and
No. 2, to be a part of that program.”