Claude Rentfro: The Kansas Battler
By Robert Carson
He used to attend all the fights in and around the Kansas City area. A familiar figure with two cauliflower ears, and a nose bent from the ring wars, Claude Rentfro probably knew as much about prize fights as anyone. Fighting under the name of Kid Baxter, Claude fought well over 257 times between 1928 and 1940. He won 187 of his fights, losing 22, and drawing 18 times.
His weight did not exceed 152, but he fought light heavies, and when need be, heavyweights.
Born July 10, 1910, in the small town of Elk City, Kansas, Claude and his family moved to Pittsburg. Kansas not long after. Being a mischievous youngster, Claude spent a few years with his grandparents, then went back to live with his father. This didn’t last too long, and after a time young Rantfro was sent to the Boys Industrial School in Topeka, Kansas for a 2-1/2 year stint. It was here that Claude learned to use his fists. There was no coach, so any mistakes were dearly paid for. After leaving the institution, Claude bummed around, fighting in carnivals for “coffee and cake” money.
From 1928 to 1930 Rentfro piled up a commendable amateur record, then decided to turn pro in 1930.
His first fight was a four-rounder against the welterweight champ of South Dakota. From here it was to be a career that saw Claude Rentfro fight some of the toughest welter, middle and light heavyweights in the Midwest. Some of the boys he faced were Billy Atkinson, a fighter that gave Ace Hudkins a hard time; rugged Luther Ashford, and Clyde Chastain, who was a middleweight contender in 1932 and 1933.
By this time Claude had acquired a manager in old-time lightweight Art McGirt, a tough one in his day also. Along with McGirt, Rentfro barnstormed through the Midwest, taking on all comers.
He scored a technical knockout over ringwise “Soldier” Gault, then beat Kansas fighter Frank Kelly to a pulp. A young, rangy fighter out of Wichita by the name of Young Gideon was making quite a reputation for himself until he met Kid Baxter. It was a hard life with Claude fighting two, three or four times a week.
The immortal Barney Ross was impressed with the Kansas brawler and wanted Rentfro to join him in his training camp, but Claude refused, realizing that his timing wasn’t what it used to be.
After 12 years of tough campaigning, Kid Baxter hung the gloves up for good, and retired to do landscaping work in Pittsburg, Kansas. A most kind and generous man, Claude worked with kids for years in the amateur clubs, and personally sponsored many boxing clubs in the Midwest.
A true gentleman, and you can believe, a real credit to the sport.