Marcel Thil

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Marcel Thil
Marcel Thil f1.highres.jpg
Real nameMarcel Thil
Weight(s) Middleweight
Nationality Flag of France.svg French
Born29 May 1904
Saint-Dizier, France
Died14 August 1968(1968-08-14) (aged 64)
Boxing record
Total fights148
Wins by KO54
No contests0

Marcel Thil (29 May 1904 – 14 August 1968) was a French boxer and middleweight world champion. Statistical boxing website BoxRec rates Thil as the second best European boxer ever across all weight divisions, after Joe Calzaghe. [1]


Early life

Thil was born in Saint-Dizier, a commune in the Haute-Marne department in north-eastern France. He started boxing at a very young age and turned professional at the age of 16. Thil was a journeyman boxer for a number of years but as he gained experience and matured to full adult strength, he developed power in both hands and began to win regularly by knockout (KO).


Thil won the French middleweight boxing championship in 1928 and captured the Europe title the following year. After losing his European championship in 1930, Thil won his next 15 fights and then defeated Gorilla Jones by a controversial 11th-round disqualification to capture the National Boxing Association (NBA) world middleweight championship and the vacant International Boxing Union (IBU) world middleweight championship on June 11, 1932, in Paris, France. With his championship victory, Thil became the toast of Paris. He was a major celebrity and a good friend of celebrated actor Jean Gabin.

Thil successfully defended the title on July 4, 1932, with a 15-round unanimous decision against Len Harvey, but then went more than a year without a title defense. Thil was stripped by the NBA for failing to make a title defense by August 15, 1933, but he remained the IBU champion. [2]

On May 22, 1933, Thil won against German Jewish refugee Eric Seelig, former holder of the German middleweight and light heavyweight championships, at the Palais de Sports in Paris, in a twelve round points decision. By a few accounts, the bout was for the world title, but the boxers were overweight according to Le Petit Parisien. [3] On January 29, 1934, Seelig fought Marcel Thil again in Paris, losing in a twelve round points decision. [3] [3] [4]

In addition to defending the IBU middleweight championship, Thil moved up a weight class to win the European light-heavyweight title in 1934. He would successfully defend the title once.

After successfully defending the IBU middleweight championship 11 times, Thil fought Fred Apostoli in a non-title bout on September 23, 1937, in New York City. It was a non-title affair because the New York State Athletic Commission, which recognized Freddie Steele as world middleweight champion, said they would sanction the fight only if Thil agreed that his title would not be at issue. Apostoli won by a 10th-round technical knockout (TKO). The fight was stopped due to a severe cut over the right eye of Thil, who was ahead on points at the time of the stoppage. Shortly after the loss, the 33-year-old Thil retired from boxing. [5]

Later life and death

Thil remained active in boxing circles as an adviser and cornerman and was named honorary president of the Dieppe Boxing Club. He made a living with a company in Reims until retiring to a home in Cannes on the French Riviera.

Thil died at his home in Cannes on August 14, 1968, at the age of 64. Over the last couple years of his life, he was involved in two car accidents, from which he never fully recovered. Thil is buried in the Grand Jas Cemetery. [6]


Marcel Thil was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at Canastota, New York in 2005. In France, a street was named in his honor in his birthplace of Saint-Dizier, and both a street and a sports stadium carry his name in the city of Reims.

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  1. All-Time Pound-for-Pound Rankings (Europe). Retrieved on 2020-05-16.
  2. 1932-07-04 Marcel Thil w pts 15 Len Harvey, White City Stadium, Shepherds Bush, London, England - NBA/IBU. Barry Hugman's History of World Championship Boxing. Retrieved on 2014-09-27.
  3. 1 2 3 "Marcel Thil Boxing Record". BoxRec. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  4. "International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame". IJSHOF. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  5. Fred Apostoli: Boxing Bellhop. The Boxing Register. Retrieved on 2014-09-27.
  6. Death Takes Marcel Thil. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved on 2014-09-27.
Preceded by
Gorilla Jones
NBA World Middleweight Champion
11 June 1932 1932
Title next held by
Vince Dundee
Inaugural Champion IBU World Middleweight Champion
11 June 1932 23 September 1937
Succeeded by
Fred Apostoli
The Ring Middleweight Champion
1933 23 September 1937
Title next held by
Freddie Steele