March 7th, 2014 By Pedro Fernandez
WHITE HOPE OR JUST WHITE HYPE?
San Francisco, CA-When I was a wee lad, my old man used to read the twice-weekly San Francisco Chronicle column of the departed Hall of Fame writer Jack Fiske. One Tuesday column stated that heavyweight prospect Jerry Quarry would be sparring at the world renowned Herman-Newman’s Gym at 312 Leavenworth St. When we arrived a little after 4:30 PM, there was a guy at the front door, collecting 50 cents for adults, and a quarter for kids. This preceded a walk down a 40-foot darkened hallway, five steps into which you are instantly hit by the aroma of Newman’s Gym.
LIKE THOSE OLD FIGHT SCENES!
With old guys still smoking cigars, people had filled the bleachers, and the best description I can give you is that the smell of the gym was a putrid combination of body odor, liniments, and oh yeah, those cheap stinky cigars of taxi baron and fight manager Phil Rancatorre and a few others. From the first time I ever set foot in the joint, until it closed some 20 years later, that stale smell never changed.
GEORGE FOREMAN KO’D THREE GUYS IN THREE ROUNDS!
After watching George Foreman all but behead a trio of sparring partners in the smaller 15-square foot ring, one of three at Newman’s, my father had to explain to me that at the time George was an amateur and that Jerry was a contender. Circa 1967, Foreman, even though he was just a teenager, I came to the conclusion after watching them both spar, that George might kill Quarry were they to ever fight. George murdered his smaller than he spar mates because he didn’t like Quarry getting the attention. Heavyweight contender or not, Jerry was no match for George even at 18 years old!
FIRST TEACHER MACHEN FIRST BEAT QUARRY!
What I noticed most about Team Quarry was that none of them, not Jerry or his younger brother Mike ever wore headgear while sparring. With San Francisco heavyweight contender Eddie Machen on his last professional leg and having beaten Jerry a year prior for his lone loss, Eddie was being feted in the stands by the locals.
BIG GEORGE WAS A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW!
Quarry did little to excite the hundred or so spectators as he just went through the motions for the most part. After five rounds of sparring he faced San Francisco’s #1 boxing writer at the time Eddie Muller of the San Francisco Examiner. A boxing writer five days of every week, Eddie was first in line for Quarry. San Francisco Chronicle writer Jack Fiske disliked Muller as he had to bide his time until Eddie was done. Believe it or not, Fiske, now a Hall of Fame inductee on both coasts, Jack would live locally in Eddie’s shadow until Muller died in late 1982.
QUARRY KO’D KING OF PUNCHERS!
With the exception of drawing and then out pointing an aged Floyd Patterson, Jerry never really improved from the fighter that sparred in 1967. In fact, Quarry lost to every big name he faced post Patterson II. The only exception being a December 1973 first round knockout of Earnie Shavers.
JERRY SAID HE WAS DRINKING JUST COKE!
In 1990, I caught Quarry in the bar at what was then the Los Angeles Forum. Talking of an impending cruiserweight (190 lbs. at time) comeback, then 44 or 45 years old, Jerry reeked from the aroma of alcoholic beverages. When I challenged him on-air regarding what he was drinking, Quarry reacted in total denial.
LAST FIGHT SHOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED!
Within a year Quarry weighed in at 205 lbs. for a Denver, CO fight with Ron Cramer. So far gone were his reflexes, that Jerry couldn’t put two punches together. Staggering about, a man with the heart of ten men Jerry Quarry would take a ten round pummeling. Needless to say, not only was he never to fight again, but the damage inflicted by Cramer’s unabated fists pushed Jerry closer to the cliff of death. .
MADE SOME MONEY DOING EXPERT COMMENTARY
The man that could do the New York Times crossword puzzle in some say 15 minutes was no longer the good, concise color commentator that Quarry once was, as Jerry now had problems speaking!
BROKE STORY QUARRY WAS CLOSE TO DEATH!
When Jerry’s ex-wife called me in 1998 just two months before he died, she told a sad story. Quarry, now 53 and confined to a bed was completely scrambled mind-wise. In addition, his organs were shutting down. “He’ll be dead soon,” she said from her waitress job in Las Vegas. When I ran with this exclusive story, representatives of Quarry’s immediate family contacted me and said that the ex-wife was crazy. That Quarry was in good health, and that my reports were totally erroneous!
NEVER SAW HIS 54TH BIRTHDAY!
Three months later, Quarry, who went 53-9-4 (32 KOs) as a professional during a run that really ran from his debut in 1965 to 1975 when he was KO’d in five by Kenny Norton. After that he was lunch meat! Jerry fought once in 1977, twice in 1983, all three being wins, and was off nine years before he had his head figuratively handed to him in 1993 by Cramer.
QUARRY JUST NOT GOOD ENOUGH
Some will tell that Quarry’s problem was that he came along during the same era as George Foreman, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Norton, the last three knocked him out. I say it was because Quarry was tougher more than he was talented. He might be more heavyweight myth that wouldn’t have excelled any further in any era prior to and/or subsequently to the 1970s. Who does he beat in the way of lineal champions if you were to drop Quarry into any era? None! All in all, Jerry was a good guy to be around.