Born Gerhardt Anthony Steffen on February 13, 1891 in San Francisco, CA. Ritchie was working the corner for a friend when asked to sub for a prelim fighter who never showed. Fearing his mother would disapprove, he agreed only if his real name wasn't used. Hence, he turned pro as "Willie Ritchie" in 1907.
Boxing primarily in San Francisco and Oakland, Ritchie met top quality opposition such as Matty Baldwin (L20), Jack Britton (W4), and Frankie Burns (L6) before subbing at the last minute for an ill Ad Wolgast, the lightweight champion, in his bout with Freddie Welsh. Although Welsh out-boxed Ritchie over 20 rounds, his game performance earned him recognition in the lightweight division. Ritchie repeatedly challenged Wolgast for a title bout, be it by telegram, letter, or in person. On May 11, 1912 he met Wolgast in a 4-round no-decision bout that Wolgast controlled. However, when they met for the title on November 28, 1912, Ritchie won the title on a foul in the 16th round. Successful defenses over Joe Rivers and Harlem Tommy Murphy, and no-decision wins over Leach Cross and Wolgast followed. He lost his crown to Freddie Welsh via 20-round decision on July 7, 1914. After losing the title, Ritchie engaged in no-decision bouts with Welsh, Johnny Dundee, Ted "Kid" Lewis and two bouts with Hall of Famer Benny Leonard (ND-W, TKO by 8).
He retired from the ring in 1927 and served as chief inspector on the California State Athletic Commission from 1937 to 1961. Equipped with a knack for self-promotion, Ritchie combined fast reflexes and piercing punches to become a standout of his era. He died on March 24, 1975 in Burlingame, CA.
Born: Feb. 13, 1891
Died: Mar. 24, 1975