Dick Murphy, an NCAA champion boxer for the University of Wisconsin in 1951 and a member of the school’s athletics hall of fame, died Wednesday in Madison. He was 90.
Murphy won the national championship at the 155-pound weight class as a junior, then helped the Badgers win the team title as a senior in 1952. He was a team captain both seasons.
He compiled a lifetime boxing record of 69-5-2, according to UW, and also played three seasons of semi-pro football with the Wausau Muskies.
Murphy was inducted into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame in 1999 and Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001.
Born Oct. 21, 1928, in Milwaukee, Murphy was a Wisconsin and Upper Michigan Golden Gloves champion as a high school senior in 1946 before serving as an Army Paratrooper in the Korean War.
He joined the Badgers in 1948 and never lost a dual meet college bout at his weight class over three years of competition.
“He was a boxer-puncher, a classic boxer-puncher style,” teammate Bob Morgan told the Badger Herald for a 2004 story. “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 Coach.”
In the 155-pound title match in 1951, Murphy defeated two-time NCAA champion Leonard Walker of Idaho in a majority decision. Reports from the meet in East Lansing, Michigan, said Murphy stayed away from Walker’s damaging right hand and countered with left hooks.
Murphy reveled in the atmosphere of Badgers boxing under coach John Walsh at the UW Field House, where crowds reached as high as 15,200 for one meet in 1949.
“There was a story that one night there was a heavyweight championship match in Madison Square Garden in New York and there was a match in Madison. We had more people at the match in Madison,” Murphy told the State Journal for a 1997 story. “Boxing was really, really a big event. People passed on tickets from generation to generation. When you were boxing in the ring, you’d look out and see the same people in the same seats for four years. It was really quite an event.”
Murphy’s wife, Janet, died last August. He is survived by a sister and five children.
A visitation is scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, 401 S. Owen Drive, with a funeral to follow at 11 a.m.