THE PACIFIC Northwest region of North America isn't known as a breeding ground of champions, but in the 1930s it produced two Hall of Famers; welterweight sensation Jimmy McLarnin was one, Steele was the other. The power-punching Steele is sometimes lost in the cavalcade of 14 middleweight title claimants who reigned in that decade.
The 5-10 Tacoma, Washington native dreamed of becoming a world champion since early boyhood. He hooked up with trainer Dave Miller at a local boys club and a bond was forged that could only be broken by death. Steele turned pro as a welterweight in 1928 and streaked to a 38-0-6 record before losing his first fight, via six-round decision to Tony Portillo, December 17, 1930 in Seattle. He then went 70-2-3 with 1 no contest before meeting Eddie "Babe" Risko for the NBA / New York Middleweight title in Seattle on July 11, 1936.
After winning the title, via 15-round decision, Steele made five successful defenses. New York withdrew recognition in February 1938, when he refused to defend the crown against Fred Apostoli, who had knocked out Steele in nine rounds in January.
After a non-title win, Steele lost the title via first round kayo to Al Hostak July 28, 1938 in Seattle. He was inactive the next two years and was knocked out in his lone comeback bout in 1941.
In all, Steele fought seven past or future world champions (Ceferino Garcia, Apostoli, Vince Dundee, Risko, Gus Lesnevich, William "Gorilla" Jones, Ken Overlin and Al Hostak). Several of these champs he fought more than once, and owned wins over all but Hostak. The hard-hitting Steele retired with a record of 124-6-8 with 1 No Contest and 62 kayos.
After leaving the ring, Steele appeared in several Hollywood films, including Gentleman Jim, G.I. Joe, and Hail the Conquering Hero.
He died in Aberdeen, Washington on July 23, 1984.