Some boxers enter the ring scowling dead-eyed at their opponents. But Stan
For Stan, boxing was
For Darrell Telisme, the sport was vicious, personal, and violent. From the moment Telisme had walked into Elite Boxing, Stan's home gym in a blue-collar corner of West Palm Beach, he hadn't stopped jawing. Never mind that Stan was the best fighter in the city or that he was on his way to a 40-6-3 amateur record, a Golden Gloves belt, and a legitimate shot at the Olympics.
As they circled inside the bright-yellow ring behind a sliding garage door that leaked humid air, the two looked like mirror images: a couple of Haitian-American teenagers with diamond-cut biceps. But closer investigation showed Darrell's features were
Once the punches began flying, the difference was even starker. Stan was a blur. Jab left, duck right. Shoulder roll. Thunderous hook to the head. Jab step. Another full-bodied blow to the gut. Darrell was a tree trunk, a slab of meat hanging from a hook. He was underwater.
Dave Lewter, the crewcut ex-pro who owned the gym, watched his star fighter pummel the shit-talking newcomer. That day in early 2010, he let the pair spar for two rounds — at least one too many, in hindsight. "I can't even call it a fight," Lewter says today. "It was head shots, body shots... Stan just took it to him."
Darrell limped off, bloody, sullen, and silent. Stan did his little shuffle step, a smile creasing his features while his friends hooted and hollered. He'd forget the fight soon enough. Darrell Telisme was just another wannabe brawler steamrolled by the "Iron Man."
But that fight was something else entirely to Darrell, according to police, prosec
The untold story of that crime is a case study in obsession and jealousy, where a sport predicated on violent domination bled from the ring onto the street and culminated in murder.
"I wish I would have known — I could have talked to Stan and warned him," says Frank Gedeon, his longtime sparring partner. "I would have said, 'Stan, just let him beat you up once so you can say, 'Look, you win, man. The beef is over, and you can live your life.' "
Gedeon smiles sadly and shakes his head. "But Stan was too competitive. He'd never do it."
If Stan was nervous during his first amateur fight, the 17-year-old gave no hint. Fifty spectators, including his parents, crammed into folding chairs around the ring. "C'mon, Stan!" someone shouted as he calmly climbed over the ropes.
For the fight's first 20 seconds, Stan circled his opponent, a quick, lanky guy clad in black. They both jabbed at the air, sliding their feet, probing.
Then, for the next ten seconds, the opponent attacked. He landed a soft right hook on Stan's headgear. A weak followup caught Stan in the stomach.
Ten seconds later, the fight was over. Stan had backed the skinny guy toward a corner and let go two left jabs as a setup. Then Stan let the hammer down: A right fist whistled through the air, blue leather landing square on a pliant jaw.
The opponent staggered. He tumbled. The crowd roared. The legend of Stan Stanisclasse was born.
"He won his first fight in 40 seconds, knocked the guy right out," Gedeon says. "That's crazy."
Adds boxer Brandon "Mighty Mouse" Desrosier: "That motherfucker hit like he was throwing rocks."
Until that moment, Stan Stanisclasse had led a life strikingly similar to Darrell Telisme's. Both grew up middle class in Palm Beach County as the sons of fathers who had fled a violent dictatorship in Haiti. And both dreamed of boxing stardom from a young age.
Only their temperaments diverged: Stan was renowned for his wit and kindness, while the withdrawn Darrell flashed a blinding temper that hinted at the violence to come.
Stan's father, Stan Stanisclasse Sr., escaped the waning days of Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier's dictatorship in 1984 in Port-de-Paix, his hometown of 250,000 on Haiti's northwestern tip. He found work in Florida as a nurse and seven years later brought his wife Canita to the States. After Stan Jr. was born in July 1992, they settled in Boynton Beach. Three siblings followed: sisters Ashley and Justina and a brother, Ben.
There were early signs the boy was unusual. For one thing, he was huge, weighing nearly ten pounds at birth. "The third day in the hospital, he grabbed a doctor so hard he hurt his hand," the elder Stan recalls with a deep laugh. "He was always strong."
Stan was a restless kid, but also athletic and bright. One day, he came home with a bright crayon drawing of red boxing gloves, which his family has saved to this day. "Since he was little, he wanted to become a boxer," Canita says. "It was always on his mind."
His parents resisted. They pushed him into football and basketball, but he didn't enjoy team sports. The family's move to rural Palm Beach finally landed him in the ring. In 2007, when Stan was a ninth-grader, his dad finished building a sprawling house on three acres along a gravel road in horse country outside West Palm. He designed it himself. Stan Jr. had to transfer to massive Palm Beach Central High School, where he struggled.
"Kids would pick on him for how he talked," his father remembers. "In private school, it's very proper. In public school, they would say he sounded white."
Driving home one day, the 16-year-old spotted Dave Lewter's boxing gym. It was his chance to finally pull on the gloves he'd long imagined.
Lewter is an unusual ringside guru. Though he moved to Palm Beach before high school, a honeyed Deep South accent still betrays his Kentucky birth. His dad is a preacher and college professor, and his mother is a teacher. He had the gift of quick hands and iron stamina, which led to a 22-4 record as a pro before he hung up his gloves in 2004. "I was a good fighter," Lewter says, "but I'm probably a better teacher."
Soon after Stan showed up the first time, Lewter left for six weeks to work with heavyweights in Europe. When he returned, his staff excitedly grabbed him. "They said, 'Dave, Dave, you gotta see this kid Stan,' " he remembers. "He's good!"
The way Lewter tells it, a kid either has boxing in his genes or he doesn't. And Stan had it. "He was that one-in-a-million kid," Lewter says.
Just a few miles away, Darrell Telisme's path to the ring echoed Stan's. Telisme's father Daniel escaped his hometown of Gonaïves in 1981 for South Florida. He worked odd jobs — cleaning houses and temping at offices — and eventually settled down with Angela Aird, a Jamaican immigrant. Darrell was born in July 1991, almost exactly a year before Stan. His mother worked as a nurse's aide, while his dad found a steady job at a DoubleTree hotel. His parents split up when he was 5, but Daniel says, "He had a good childhood. We were both very involved in his life, always."
His mother lived in suburban West Palm Beach next to a lake on the western fringes of town. Darrell was a moody kid but never a problem. He graduated from Forest Hill Community High School and "was never in any real trouble," his father says.
"He never would strike me as a negative individual, even as a kid," adds Omar Brown, a Jamaican-born barber who cut Darrell's hair most of his life and later sparred with him in boxing gyms. "He was quiet."
But there were clues that a simmering rage lay beneath the surface.
One came in October 2009, when Darrell was 18 years old. His sister called the police to their mother's house, where two cops found Darrell in the living room viciously choking his older brother. "Help! I can't breathe!" Christopher yelled, according to a police report. When police wrestled Christopher free, Darrell jumped to his feet in a "fighting stance." The cops had to taser him to subdue him.
The fight, the cops later learned, had begun when Darrell demanded some leftovers his brother was eating. When Christopher refused, an enraged Darrell called him a "pussy ass nigga," began punching him, and then choked his brother until he feared "he was going to black out or die."
Darrell was charged with felony assault, but prosecutors dropped the case when he agreed to stay away from his brother.
Like Stan's parents, Daniel Telisme tried to dissuade his son from boxing. Daniel had grown up around the sport in Haiti.
"I'd ask him, 'Why don't you go to college and learn things?' But he wants to make money," Daniel says. "I understand that, but I don't want you to make money that way even if you're good at it. I don't want my son fighting."
All Darrell ever wanted to do, though, was prove himself in the ring. When he inked that black tattoo on his cheek, it was a constant reminder: Someday he'd be a star.
It was only a matter of time before he decided knocking out the best fighter in town was his only route to get there.
In February 1964, Miami Beach burst onto the international boxing scene with the sudden fury of an uppercut to the jaw. When reigning champ Sonny Liston shockingly conceded defeat to a brash 22-year-old who'd soon change his name to Muhammad Ali, the world's fighting elite turned its attention to South Beach. The grimy Fifth Street Gym where Ali trained became a hotbed for rising young punchers and global stars alike.
South Florida's boxing scene has waxed and waned in the 60 years since, but it has never lost its status as an American boxing mecca, fed lately by a Caribbean wellspring. These days, the best are Cuban purebreds like Guillermo Rigondeaux — currently one of the top-ranked featherweights on Earth — and former IBF and WBC champion Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Relatively few of those elite boxers are Haitian, though. And as Stan and Darrell struggled to make their mark on Palm Beach's diverse hothouse scene, they each carried an extra chip on their shoulders thanks to their shared heritage. In a world where flag-draped fighters proudly carry their backgrounds into the ring, both felt the added weight of their immigrant histories.
"As a promoter, you pit the fighters' countries against one another, and fans get behind their homelands too," says Benjamin Willard, who started Island Boxing in Palm Beach to organize fights for Haitians and Jamaicans there. "The fighters really feel that too in a really personal way."
That added pressure had a very different effect on the two young fighters, though. As Stan scored upset after upset, Darrell unraveled. As his defeats piled up and his rival's star kept rising, Darrell's personal life crumbled — and the beef with Stan spiraled into something darker.
It's tough to pin down what made Stan such a terrifying boxer. He was fast, but not the fastest. He packed every punch with bruising power, but he wasn't the strongest guy in Florida. His best weapon, in truth, was his brain.
"He just dissected guys. He had answers for everything," Lewter says. "It was like playing chess to Stan, and he knew where you were going before you went there."
That ability rapidly led him from walloping opponents in amateur bouts to winning belts. First came a local Police Athletic League title in 2011 and then, in 2012, a statewide victory: the Golden Gloves championship in the 178-pound class. The win gave Stan the chance to fight for a national belt in Las Vegas, but he had already set his sights on a bigger honor: an Olympic bid.
As Stan pulled a Rocky Balboa, Darrell's dreams sputtered. Darrell's fighting career had begun inside one of the biggest gyms in town, Palm Beach Boxing, where any night of the week dozens of the area's best boxers banged fists into bags in a back room perfumed with chemical disinfectant. They were overseen by Lou Martinez, a soft-spoken, 50-year-old ex-pro with a thorny rose tattoo around his still-firm bicep and a golden glove dangling from a chain around his neck.
Darrell, though, never caught Martinez's seasoned eye. "I don't pay that much attention to the guys who just show up here and there, and he was one of those guys," the coach says. "I never really trained him."
That's not to say Darrell wasn't serious. By the time he was out of high school, he was practicing every day. "He worked very hard, and at times he was very focused," says Desrosier, a five-foot-two dynamo who sports two gold grills and earned his "Mighty Mouse" nickname thanks to his powerful punch and diminutive stature. "He was so intent on being a pro boxer."
And he wasn't without skill. "Darrell had a hell of a jab. That was his strongest move," Desrosier says. "He was quick too."
But he had a problem. On the mental level, where Stan excelled, Darrell struggled. No matter how many practice rounds he went with more seasoned fighters, his strategy didn't improve. "He was just a stiff fighter," Desrosier says. "You could freeze him real easy."
A toxic stew — created from the lethal gap between Darrell's lofty dreams and his actual ability — began brewing inside him. He became a nonstop trash-talker. Even worse, Darrell seemed unable to separate the sport from the personal. Between the ropes, boxing is a brutal contest. But it's also a brotherhood, where vicious beatdowns generally breed respect. To Darrell, though, every fight was a beef. When the bell rang, he couldn't just tap gloves and move on.
"Look, it's a competitive sport, people get hot, but with Darrell, he'd think you were the enemy," Desrosier says. "He was quiet a lot of the time, but he was emotional as fuck. You could tell with his body language. He couldn't let stuff go."
By 2012, Stan had set his sights on the Olympics. There was no chance the young fighter could make the U.S. team, but Haiti invited him to battle for a slot. "I want to be that face of boxing," Stan told WPTV News in Palm Beach. "It's not only for me now; it's for my parents' homeland."
Then his chance dissolved in a fluke series of events. Haiti flew him to Mexico to train, but his sparring partner there — after getting pummeled in their first bout — refused to fight him anymore, Lewter says. When Stan arrived in Brazil the next month for the trials, a more seasoned Haitian fighter showed up too heavy, weighing in at Stan's preferred 178 pounds. Stan agreed to lose ten pounds in a week so he could fight in a lower weight class. "Between the lack of practice and the weight loss, he was weak," Lewter says. "It just didn't work out."
After crashing out of the trials, Stan was crushed. But it didn't stall his career. His parents marveled at his steely dedication. "In the morning, we'd wake up and think he was still sleeping," his father recalls. "But it's 5 a.m. and he's already out in the garage training on the bag or running." He continued fighting amateur bouts — by 2013, he'd taken on 49 opponents. He'd lost only six times and won scores of times with straight knockouts.
Stan never fought Darrell in one of those officially sanctioned rounds, but the two sparred regularly at Elite Boxing. Every few months, Darrell would show up and promise to take Stan's belts. Each time, Stan would send Darrell home with a pounding.
"Darrell would get his butt kicked, go back to his other gym, and then come back talking big again," Lewter says.
Lewter even tried to work with Darrell. "I have a system, and he just didn't get the system," Lewter says. "He wasn't a great fighter. He was OK, but he was really just a scrapper."
Every loss irked Darrell. His amateur career was going nowhere. He won a couple of bouts but lost many more. Meanwhile, Stan couldn't stop winning.
"Darrell never beat Stan," Brown, the barber, says. "Let me put it this way: Stan was boxing; Darrell was just trying. You know what I mean?"
Mighty Mouse Desrosier leaped out of bed and grabbed his .40-caliber Glock when the pounding rattled his door. He glanced at the clock: 4 a.m. "Help me!" a frantic voice cried. "Darrell shot Stan!"
"I'm thinking it's a big fucking joke," Desrosier recalls today. "But I bust open the door, and it's Stan's roommate. I see his eyes are terrified."
Desrosier lived only a few blocks from Stan on Singer Island, a Palm Beach enclave of white-sand beaches, exclusive condo towers, and more affordable midcentury bungalows. Wearing just his boxers, his gun at his side for protection, the diminutive fighter sprinted to Stan's place, a neat blue building a block from the ocean. He ran through the back door and saw Stan sprawled face-down in the living room.
"I turned his head, and that's when I saw it. The shot hit him right in the temple," Desrosier says. "I'm like, 'Oh, man, no!' Then I see his brain coming out of his head."
Word spread like wildfire through South Florida's tight-knit boxing community: A fighter had killed his rival. The details of that deadly night were told and retold, rebroadcast in TV reports and daily news pieces. But friends and witnesses say there was much more about the leadup to Stan's murder the night before Thanksgiving than what was portrayed in the media.
"Stan was living the dream everyone else was trying to get to," Desrosier says. "And Darrell had the wrong mindset. He felt like it was someone else's fault he couldn't get there."
The ironic truth, though, was that by the time Darrell put a bullet in his rival's head, Stan's boxing career had stalled as well. In 2013, in the wake of his Olympic disappointment, Stan had gone pro. He also decided to step away from Lewter, his mentor, in favor of Pahokee-based manager Nelson Lopez.
Stan moved to the small town on the edge of Lake Okeechobee, where he lived in a spartan room with no hot water. He was trying to change his narrative before hitting the national stage. "Stan told us people wouldn't buy his story. He wanted to make it tougher," his mother recalls. "People wouldn't respect him coming from suburban Palm Beach, but Pahokee was a tough place."
By 2014, Stan had fought nine bouts in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Miami, and won every time. But he wasn't making real money and struggled to get on a big-name bill. He bristled at his impoverished lifestyle.
In the middle of that year, for the first time in almost a decade, Stan took a break. To his parents' delight, he went back to school for a computer coding certificate, found work with DirecTV, and moved into his place on Singer Island. "Stan was very happy," his father says.
Something else curious happened: Stan began hanging out with Darrell. The two weren't exactly friends, but they ran in the same circle of young boxers. Both enjoyed dancing and nightlife, and now that Stan wasn't in full-on training mode, he had more time for the social scene.
"Darrell could be cool as hell," Desrosier says. "And Stan wasn't going to hold grudges."
Stan hadn't given up on his boxing dreams altogether. A week before he died, he ran into his old sparring partner, Gedeon. Stan promised he'd soon return to Lewter's gym. "I told him: 'How do you go 9-0 as a pro and then quit? You gotta keep going!' " Gedeon remembers.
Darrell's own amateur fighting career was still basting in mediocrity, and he'd found work at Home Depot between training. By late last year, his personal life was imploding. First, he had a baby with a woman he'd met at Palm Beach Boxing; the stress of trying to provide for a kid while stoking the dying embers of his boxing dreams was intense.
"You have to be focused as a fighter. If you bring all that into the gym with you, you're going to fail," Desrosier says. "Darrell and his baby mama wasn't agreeing on shit. His mind wasn't clear."
Darrell's fragile mental state shattered when his girlfriend left him. Just after midnight on a Monday in September, a Palm Beach Gardens Police officer found Darrell lingering in the shadows behind a gym. When the cop stopped him, the boxer took a "defensive stance" and refused to answer. The officer had to point a Taser and call for backup before Darrell handed over his driver's license; he was charged with loitering and resisting arrest, though the case was soon dropped.
About a month later, Stan finally realized how unstable his rival had become. "Darrell was stepping to Stan again at some bar, saying, 'I'm better than you; I'm better than you.' But Stan would not fight him," Lewter says.
Soon after, Stan called Desrosier with a startling request: He wanted to borrow his gun. "He said, 'Darrell threatened to kill me,' " Desrosier says. "I told him: 'Stan, you are not a street man. We need to settle this in the boxing ring.' Eventually, everyone was laughing about it. We thought it was settled."
Then, the night before Thanksgiving, Stan agreed to head out to Clematis Street with Darrell and several other friends. Desrosier was invited but decided to stay home. He'd had his own falling-out with Darrell and wanted to steer clear of the temperamental boxer.
There's still disagreement about exactly what happened that evening. Here's what Darrell later told police: The group hopped into Stan's red Saturn and headed to a pizza place, where he claimed Stan began relentlessly boasting. "I'm a championship fighter," Darrell claimed Stan yelled. "I will kick your ass!"
When Darrell didn't back down, he told cops, Stan beat him up. He even provided an excuse for why he'd lost: "[Stan] had training in mixed martial arts and wrestling in addition to traditional boxing," an officer wrote.
Stan's friends say that tale is nonsense. Stan was notoriously humble and had no interest in fighting Darrell, they say. "Darrell wanted to go bare-knuckle right there on Clematis. Stan said no," Gedeon says. "But he was throwing jabs. So Stan body-slammed him. He just picked him up and dropped him, because he didn't want to hit him."
But the party didn't dissolve after that first confrontation. Instead, the group moved on to a rooftop lounge. Darrell told police that Stan "continued to make off-hand remarks... about who was the better fighter."
Desrosier doubts that claim. But he says Stan did fan the flames, perhaps by accident. Darrell was already steaming over his split from his girlfriend, and that night, Stan — the better fighter, the better-loved friend, the local boxing hero — also bested him on the dance floor.
"Darrell can't get shit, but Stan got a girl," Desrosier says. "Darrell comes in, interfering with the girl, and now it's an ego thing. A couple words got said, Darrell had a foul mouth, and it got to the best of them. Then hands got thrown."
When the dust cleared, Darrell limped away, beaten and in pain.
Hours after returning home, Stan heard a knock. He peered out and saw Darrell — and wanted nothing to do with him. "Stan wouldn't come out," Lewter says. "He's yelling out the door: 'It's squashed, it's over, it's done.' "
But Darrell insisted he simply wanted to talk it over. "Stan said, 'Let me see your waist. Darrell showed him his waist — no gun," Desrosier says.
What Stan couldn't see was the silver Colt .45 Darrell was holding in his other hand, just out of view. As soon as Stan opened the door and stuck his head out, Darrell fired a single shot through his temple.
Barely 20 minutes later, a stunned Desrosier stood staring at his friend's bloody corpse. He pulled out his cell phone and texted Darrell.
"Damn u killed Stan," he wrote.
Darrell later texted back: "Call me."
When Desrosier dialed his number, a raspy-voiced, weeping Darrell picked up. Desrosier says, "He was saying over and over, 'I'm sorry, dog. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.' "
Desrosier pressed him: Why did he do it? Why did he have to shoot Stan? But Darrell wouldn't answer. "He just kept saying, 'I'm sorry.' "
The elder Stan Stanisclasse carefully maintains a shrine to his son on a table next to the front door. The wooden surface is covered with polished trophies, gaudy championship belts, and framed photos of the sweaty young fighter. But Stan Sr.'s most prized relic is in a dark corner of the garage.
A black punching bag riddled with shallow dents — a permanent reminder of his son's daily practice — silently hangs from a chain, gently swaying in the cool winter breeze.
"This was the third one, actually," Stan's father says, caressing the leather. "He wore through two more of them in this garage."
Stan's parents have spent the past three months asking the same question Desrosier repeated into the phone that horrible night before Thanksgiving: Would another boxer really kill their son just because he couldn't beat him in the ring?
"Even the guy's family, some of them have come up to ask me why. They don't know either,"
Still, the question lingers, debated ad nauseam in boxing gyms from Palm Beach to Miami. In Stan's circle, there's little dispute about what drove Darrell to the crime.
"The entire problem here was Darrell's ego. He wanted to be better than Stan so badly," Lewter says. "That's why he was stepping up to Stan over and over, always saying, 'I'm better than you.' The only person on Earth who thought he was better than Stan was Darrell."
There's a strange balance in sports. Athletes have to believe they're the best — often irrationally and against all evidence — to find the mental strength to win. It's a feat of delusion we all celebrate in our heroes. Rocky Balboa was insane to think he could beat the best fighters in the world, but that's what made his story so compelling.
Darrell was the deranged side of that coin, Stan's friends say. His self-belief was so strong that squaring it with his mediocre skills and Stan's dominance became impossible. He had to find a way to top his rival.
"I think it started as more of a friendly rivalry, but Darrell took it to another level," says Willard, the fight promoter. "Stan would win and win, and it's no big deal to him. But Darrell took it more personally because he couldn't beat Stan. It gnawed at him for years."
Police made the same case in charging documents. The morning after the shooting, they found Darrell in his apartment. He soon confessed to killing Stan, they say, and pointed them toward a box under his bed, where they found a Colt .45 and the clothes he wore during the shooting. The motive?
"Mr. Stanisclasse held several championship titles but refused to accept a challenge from Mr. Telisme," police wrote. "Mr. Telisme felt he was missing his opportunity to advance in the boxing community."
The killing was premeditated, prosecutors say. They've charged Darrell with first-degree murder and carrying a concealed firearm without a license.
Despite confessing to police, Darrell pleaded not guilty December 21. His attorney, Scott Skier, says prosecutors have taken the death penalty off the table and he plans to "aggressively defend" Telisme. And both Darrell's father and Desrosier say they doubt he planned to kill Stan that night. "I can't believe that," Daniel Telisme says. "I think it must have been some kind of accident."
Adds Desrosier: "He didn't mean to do this shit. You could tell he didn't. It all just got the best of him. He ain't no evil guy. And I think he has fucking suffered every day since then."
But Stan's family says there's too much evidence Darrell had plotted violence for years.
"It was his jealousy of Stan," Canita says. "He didn't realize that this is something Stan worked for... He deserved to be where he is. [Darrell] didn't see how much time Stan spent and how hard he trained. He thinks Stan just walked into it, and [Darrell] wasn't willing to do all that work."
Darrell is scheduled for trial August 22. Beyond the motive, there's one other unanswered question. Witnesses spotted a black SUV driving Darrell to and from the murder scene. Someone enabled him to kill Stan, his family believes, but no other arrests have been made.
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Stan's family and friends try to remember the rising star they loved. More than 400 showed up to a wake in December at Iglesia Familiar Family Church to share memories: How a sweat-drenched Stan, with a shit-eating grin on his face, would run up to hug people in the gym; the way he'd teach young boxers to duck a punch; all the times he outfought more seasoned boxers; how he worked the crowd with that little shuffling dance move.
"This kid was going to be Floyd Mayweather in five years," says Charlie Remy, a friend from Elite Boxing. "I really believe that."
Stan's parents have left his memorabilia and punching bag untouched. They're working to start a scholarship in Stan's name to fund schools back in Haiti. "Nobody can answer why Darrell did this," Canita says. "All I can say is Stan is gone. Nothing you can tell me is gonna replace him."