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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Ancestry: https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/167254175:60525?tid=&pid=&queryId=e243661c47333d89b8545631db5cc0b1&_phsrc=HEg15208&_phstart=successSource

Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen

BECHEN, Francis J. "Fran". (Dubuque, IA, 1935--Dubuque, IA, Aug. 23, 2019). Bechen's involvement in BOXING led him to opportunities to meet such greats in the sport as Oscar De La Hoya; Sugar Ray Leonard; Roy Jones, Jr.; Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins; and Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero.

Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen

Bechen began boxing in November, 1955 when the training facilities were located in the old American Legion building at the corner of Fourth and Locust, the later site of SHOT TOWER INN (THE). At the time, he was an employee of FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY. Overcoming a handicap caused by polio as a child, Bechen developed a widely respected left hook and an intense drive to succeed.

Masters belts. Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen

In 1956 Fran Bechen won the Cedar Rapids Golden Gloves open title. He went on to establish the following record:

     1956  Cedar Rapids Golden Gloves Champion
     1959  Rockford Golden Gloves Champion
     1960  Rockford Golden Gloves Runner-Up
     1961  Cedar Rapids Golden Gloves Champion
     1962  Rockford Golden Gloves Champion
     1963  Rockford Golden Gloves Champion
     1964  Rockford Golden Gloves Champion
     1976  Iowa A.A.U. Champion
     1978  Iowa A.A.U. Runner-Up
     2004  Ringside World Masters Champion
     2005  Ringside World Masters Champion
     2006  Ringside World Masters Champion
     2007  Desert Showdown Masters Champion
     2008  Ringside World Masters Champion
     2009  Ringside World Masters Champion
     2012  Ringside World Masters Champion

Bechen held a record for being the only boxer ever to quality six times for the Chicago Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. When the World Masters program began around 2002, Bechen entered. Competitions in this program featured boxers 35 years or older competing in categories determined by age and weight. (See picture of Bechen's championship belts.)

Skydiving equipment. Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen
Upper left-George Foreman; Upper right-Kenny Norton; Middle-left-Thomas "Hit Man" Hearns, Middle right-Roberto Duran; Lower left-Leon Spinks; Lower right-Larry Holmes. Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen
When Bechen was fighting at 118 pounds, Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) was at the same tournament at 175 pounds. Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen

Bechen continued in boxing as an official in amateur and then professional competitions beginning in 1970. With only one year's experience as an AAU official, he was chosen as one of the top four officials at the National AAU tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada where in four days, including seven sessions, he refereed 11 bouts and judged 38 others. A meticulous record-keeper, Bechen in 2011 could show evidence of refereeing 4,350 bouts, judging 5,677, and being a time/clock keeper in 173. He had offered 37 clinics and been involved in 138 tournaments and 615 events.

Photo courtesy: Fran Bechen

In addition to boxing, Bechen taught in the DUBUQUE COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT. He graduated from LORAS COLLEGE in 1968 and taught Level 1 and 2 Spanish at DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL (1968-1983) and STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL (1983-1997) when he retired. He earned his Master's degree in guidance and counseling from Loras in 1975. He also earned his green belt in judo, a pilot's license, and completed forty-one skydiving experiences. He began judging mixed martial arts bouts in 2008. In 2012 he completed the Association of Boxing Commission Training Seminars for Boxing and Mixed Martial Arts Judges. He was inducted into the National Golden Gloves Officials Hall of Fame and received the Outstanding Judge Award.



Interview, Oct. 16, 2012