Bill Whipkey was one of the finest amateur boxers to come out of the four-state region. Raised in northeastern Oklahoma, Whipkey was known as the “Picher Puncher”. Although he lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Picher High School, his real claim to fame occurred in the ring.
At a slender 106 pounds, Whipkey won his first of many Joplin Golden Gloves titles in 1947. He would later win four more Joplin Golden glove championships in the 135 pound, 147 pound, 160 pound weight divisions as well as the heavyweight class.
In 1955, serving with the United States Air Force in England, Whipkey won the heavyweight championship of the English Boxing Association of Brighton. Seven years later he won the United States National AAU heavyweight championship. During his illustrious boxing career, Whipkey compiled an amateur record of 118 wins with only 7 defeats.
However, his greatest satisfaction came from teaching young boys the art of boxing. He began his career mentoring boys at the Seneca Boxing Club, and later coached in Longview, Texas at the boys Club. Whipkey returned to Joplin and became the executive director of the Joplin Boys Club in 1961.
It was at the Joplin Boys Club where he developed and worked with several outstanding amateur boxers, including national tournament participants Donnie Spencer, Johnny Copeland, Gregg Potter and Clarence McMinn. In 1967 four members of Whipkey’s Joplin Boys Club team won championships in the Regional Golden Gloves in Kansas City. Some of his protégées would later fight professionally.
In an interview with The Joplin Globe Whipkey revealed his love for the sport. “Boxing is an art and science. It is one of the most developmental of all sports. The individual character of boxing makes victory or defeat a personal responsibility. A contact sport that takes strength and endurance, conditioning and headwork, perseverance and the coordination of a ballerina. It is a game of strategy, continuous movement, constant action and various combinations of attack and counterattack. The fighter has to have the strength of a fullback, the skills of a baseball pitcher, the reflexes of a shortstop, the mental alertness of a professional quarterback, and the heart of a distant runner. For in this world, there is no place for the gutless to hide.”
Whipkey married the former Carolyn Dooley of Seneca in 1952. They have a daughter, Dedre and a son Scott. Bill and Carolyn are also blessed to have two grandsons Tyler and Trevor.