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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Kenny Keene

Posted on February 5, 2016                                              Bookmark and Share
By: Clive Baum



Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.

In the Champions Of The Past Series we take a closer look at some of the boxers who held WBF titles in years gone by, from lesser known champions to world renowned fighters, legends of the sport and current or future Hall of Famers.


"The Emmet Eliminator" is a fitting ring-moniker for former WBF World Cruiserweight Champion Kenny Keene. It pays tribute to his hometown, a small sawmill town not far from Idaho state-capital Boise, and to his no-nonsense, crowd-pleasing fighting-style.

Keene was born on July 21, 1968 and started boxing at fourteen. While his father Jim encouraged him to box, he did not push him into the sport. It was more due to the fact that one of his older brothers was a boxer, and Kenny wanted to win trophies too.

He went on to win much more than trophies, but boxing initially wasn’t easy for Kenny. In fact, he lost nine of his first ten amateur bouts, and the Idaho amateur boxing commission informed him that unless he improved significantly he would not be allowed to fight.

So Kenny worked hard, fueled by his fathers undying support and motivating mantra that it takes a special individual to succeed in boxing, and he improved so much that he compiled a win-loss amateur record of 86-21, won the National Junior Olympics, represented his country in various tournaments, and eventually turned professional.

Fighting at the Hawks Memorial Stadium in Boise, home of the Boise Hawks Minor League Baseball team, a 22-year-old Kenny Keene beat Ray Pacheco (1-1-1) from Albuquerque in his first paid outing, scoring a four-round unanimous decision on August 11, 1990.

By the end of 1992, Keene had compiled an impressive 19-0 (13) record, and with fifteen of those fights taking place in Idaho, his entertaining style had attracted a large local fan-base. But, while he had graduated to ten-round level, he had yet to fight someone who could seriously threaten him.

Opponents such as Jerome Hill (9-3-1), Ivan Rukavina (8-2), Willie Jake (7-1-2), and Grover Robinson (22-19), were decent enough tests at the given time, but when he was matched with former WBF and IBF World Champion Rickey Parkey (22-14) in February of 1993, it was a step up to the next level.

Parkey was two years removed from his last world championship victory, and his career had seen better days. But, having shared a ring with the likes of Dwight Muhammad Qawi and Evander Holyfield, he was still a cagey and experienced operator, and expected to at least give the young prospect some problems.

However, topping the bill at the O´Conner Fieldhouse in Caldwell, Keene passed the test with flying colors and won almost every round for a unanimous decision. Parkey had enough in the tank to show glimpses of what he was once capable of, but Keene was too strong and aggressive, and largely out-worked the former champ.

Five more victories followed in 1993, including a fourth round stoppage of former WBC Light Heavyweight world champion J.B. Williamson (26-10) and a decision over teak-tough former contender James Pritchard (28-10-2). With twenty-five victories against no defeats, he was deemed ready to challenge for the vacant WBF World title.

On March 5, 1994, back at the O´Conner Fieldhouse, Keene took on experienced veteran Bobby Crabtree (48-27-1) in his first world championship contest. With his loud fans cheering him on, “The Emmet Eliminator” left no doubt and steamrolled Crabtree to score a fourth round stoppage.

While waiting for his first title-defense, the new WBF kingpin kept busy with a non-title decision victory over quality operator John McClain (17-2-1) in May. His first challenger, on August 11 in Boise, would be perennial contender Vincent Boulware (27-7-1) from Philadelphia.

Boulware had unsuccessfully challenged for IBF world titles at Super Middleweight, Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight, but won the lightly regarded IBC Cruiserweight crown in 1993. After trading punches with some of the best in the world, and coming off a decent victory, he wasn’t exactly a lay-up for Keene.

But, with his continuously increasing throng of fans making things lively and spurring him on, Keene fought like a true world champion that night, and thoroughly dominated his opponent. He came out strong from the first second, and knocked Boulware down in the first round, bringing the crowd to a frenzy.

Boulware showed great heart in continuing to fight his chance, but halfway through it was clear that he would probably need a knockout to take the WBF world title. The champion had no problems taking his punches, and when Keene scored another knock-down in round ten, referee Vic Drakulich stopped the fight.

Not sleeping on his laurels, Keene agreed to make a quick return for a second defense of his world title less than two months later, on October 8. And this time he ventured outside of Idaho, as he traveled to the back-yard of challenger Terry Ray (25-1) in Terre Haute, Indiana.

And what a fight it was!

With a packed arena going bananas as the action unfolded, and viewers of CBS Sports glued to their television screens, both boxers showed tremendous heart and determination as they went to war. Taking turns hitting each other with massive shots, it often appeared as if the fight was just one clean punch away from being over.

As legendary Angelo Dundee gave Ray instructions between rounds, the local hero was without a doubt proving to be the toughest fight of Keene´s career at that point. When the bell sounded for the twelfth and final round, it was anybody’s guess who would come out victorious.

The twelfth was just as wild as the previous eleven stanzas, and with the crowd on their feet both men somehow found enough strength to have their share of success. But in the end, after one of that years best fights, Keene retained his world championship by majority decision.

Amazingly, after such a grueling affair, Keene returned to the ring only five weeks later, stopping journeyman Martin Lopez (4-6) in the third round of a non-title bout. The win took his ledger to 30-0, and he was a clear favorite as he again went into enemy territory to defend his WBF belt in a rematch with Bobby Craptree (50-29-1).

On February 10, 1995, at the Ft. Smith Civic Center in Arkansas, Keene didn’t look himself as he struggled to take control of the fight. As it went to the scorecards, many felt he had still done enough to remain champion, but two of the judges scored it for Craptree and the upset was a reality.

Kenny would eventually set the record straight, stopping Craptree in nine rounds in 1996 without the WBF world title on the line. Before that he had also beaten Terry Ray again, and when he retired in 2006 his record stood at a very impressive 51-4 (28).

Besides Craptree, his only other losses came at the hands of former WBA world champion Robert Daniels (34-3-1) by split decision, Mexican danger-man Saul Montana (29-6) by close decision, and former IBF world champion Arthur Williams (42-14-1), who, although he was still on his feet, was the only man able to stop Keene.

Inducted into the Idaho Hall Of Fame in 2010, Kenny Keene became an institution in that part of the United States, and it was not uncommon to see crowds of 7000 or more at his fights in Boise. He was a TV favorite on platforms such as CBS Sports, the USA Network and ESPN, and he rarely disappointed.

Kenny Keene is the best boxer Idaho has ever had,” promoter Dave Elsberry told Brian D´Ambrosio of in 20013.

The interest in boxing in Idaho started with Kenny, peaked with Kenny, and vanished after Kenny retired. He had so many offers and opportunities to leave the state, but he always chose to stay close to home”.


He was a great fighter and he was always proud to exhibit the sport in Idaho.”

Since hanging up his gloves for good, following the loss to Arthur Williams, Keene has worked as a bails-bondsman in Emmet. Still in great physical condition, he enjoys family life but admits that the adrenaline rush he got from fighting is something that he still misses.

  Part 25: Yvan Mendy
  Part 24: Ronnie Magramo
  Part 23: Randall Yonker
  Part 22: Holly Holm
  Part 21: Vinnie Curto
  Part 20: Robin Reid
  Part 19: Lionel Butler
  Part 18: Mads Larsen
  Part 17: Ken Sigurani
  Part 16: Orlando Fernandez
  Part 15: Roger Turner
  Part 14: Roy Jones Jr.
  Part 13: Fitz Vanderpool
  Part 12: Steve Roberts
  Part 11: Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga
  Part 10: Junior Witter
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson
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