The chances are
that the last time you heard of the University of Oklahoma's Dan Hodge (SI,
April 1) he had just won the national intercollegiate wrestling championship,
had just confirmed his informal title of best amateur wrestler in America, and
was planning to settle down as a high school teacher and wrestling coach in
Oklahoma. Well, the Oklahoma schoolboys who looked forward to learning to
wrestle under Dan Hodge's tutelage will have to wait. Dan is a boxer now, and
it looks as if he's going to be one for a long time.
Dan's plans were
changed by a former (1937-41) University of Oklahoma wrestler named Art
Freeman, now an independent oil operator in Wichita, Kansas, who has 1) put Dan
to work for a drilling outfit he owns and 2) hired a boxing coach, with the aim
of getting Dan ready for the heavyweight division of the Golden Gloves this
going to be like the Rademacher business," Oilman Freeman says. "Danny
isn't going to go after the professional championship his first fight out. He's
going to go at his own speed and if he ever decides he's had enough, or if he
gets hurt, he can stop.... We aren't ever going to do anything that might make
So, in Convention
Hall at Hutchinson, Kansas the other night, the best wrestler in America made
his debut as an amateur boxer. It was quite an experience all around.
in Hutchinson (pop. 26,000) is a grimy brick building just north of the police
station and across the street from the bandstand where concerts are played
every Saturday night during the hot Kansas summers. It used to be the scene of
major sporting events (wrestling, Golden Gloves tournaments) but since the
building of a bigger, more modern arena the older hall is rarely used for
anything more strenuous than square dancing.
The hall seats
4,000 and was almost one-fourth full for Dan's fight. About 600 had paid the
modest (75¢ to $1.50) admission prices; the other 400 were in as guests of
Dan's management. The guests included several oilmen from Wichita and
Hutchinson, their wives, guests of Hutchinson and Wichita newspapermen, and
Dolores Hodge, a pretty girl of 23, whose hands were never still as she waited
to see her husband in his first fight. It was the first boxing of any kind she
had seen except for a few hurried glimpses of televised fights.
right with me, whatever Danny wants to do, if he likes it," she said.
"He seems to like boxing all right."
watch him when he wrestled?"
"Oh, yes. I
saw almost all his matches."
"Did you ever
see him hurt?"