If Raging Bull, the story of Middleweight Boxing Champion Jake LaMotta - or even if you have not - it may interest you to know that the Marshals Service had a boxing champion of its own.
Long before New Jersey Deputy William Ramoth was fighting for law and order with the Marshals Service, he was fighting under the name Billy Kilroy in the boxing ring. His boxing achievements have earned him many tributes, not the least of which was induction into the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame on November 5, 1978.
Kilroy first stepped into the ring when he was a youngster in Paterson, New Jersey, and had fought seven amateur bouts by the time he was 15 years old. In 1944, when he was 17, he boxed his first serious fight while in the U.S. Navy. His mother's maiden name was Kilroy, and as the fight began to go his way, the crowd started shouting "Kilroy was here!" The name stuck. He fought under that name and used it during his later movie appearances.
By the mid-1940's, Kilroy had boxed his way to Golden Gloves Champion in the amateur ranks. He continued boxing throughout his military career and in 1945 became All-Service Middleweight Champ. Upon discharge from the service in 1946, he turned professional, scoring 24 straight victories at the start of his career. He won 35 of his 42 professional fights, knocking out 21 of his opponents. Among the many he defeated were Sal Belloise, Rocky Castellani, and Gene Boland. At a relatively young age, Kilroy was ranked 13th best middleweight in the world.
But, when he was only 22, one of his knock-out punches resulted in an opponent's permanent paralysis. Kilroy retired from professional boxing and began walking the beat as a Clifton, New Jersey policeman.
A few years later, he heard that former heavyweight contender Anthony "Two Ton Tony" Galento was in Hoboken for the filming of a movie called On the Waterfront. Kilroy decided to stop by while off duty. Wearing a leather jacket, he was enjoying a beer in a Hoboken tavern when the director of the picture, Elia Kazan, spotted him.
"He asked me if I was an ex-fighter and told me my facial features resembled Marlon Brando's," Ramoth recalls. A natural for the part, Kilroy was hired to double for the star in the movie's fight scenes. Kilroy went on to do fight scenes and serve as a technical adviser in 12 more films, acting as Paul Newman's double in The Hustler and Somebody Up There Likes Me. He also made guest appearances on several television shows, including To Tell the Truth and I've Got a Secret.
After joining the Marshals Service in 1962, he curtailed his involvement in the entertainment world. However, in 1979, Billy Kilroy entered the celebrity ring once again, when the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame honored him before a crowd of 800 that included many popular boxing figures. At the same time, the mayor and town council of his hometown of Clifton drafted a resolution recognizing his outstanding boxing achievements and congratulating him for his induction into the Hall of Fame.
Ramoth did charity work for Fairleigh Dickinson College, and helped coach young boys in nearby New Jersey towns, including Paterson, where he got his start.
Ramoth claimed that he has used his boxing experience "all of the time" during his eighteen year tenure as a Deputy. "It's a mental problem to establish rapport with the prisoners - in a physical type of atmosphere, many of them identify with a boxer, a fighter."
If his prisoners identified with him, it is just as fair to say that Ramoth related well to them. Many of his childhood acquaintances in East Rutherford, where he learned to box, got into trouble with the law. As Ramoth sees it, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
So, he frequently jotted down ideas while performing the general duties of a Deputy, and later would try to capture the prisoners' feelings in verse. The author of more than 50 poems, Ramoth agreed, in a Marshals Service publication, to share the following, one of his favorites: