Obituary: Jerry Quarry

JERRY QUARRY lived for the moment, in the boxing ring and out. Sadly, his life style aged him before his time, and his demise was drawn out. Before his decline set in with horrible finality in the 1990s, he wrote what should be his epitaph: "I've been in the ring with the best of all men / Some say the best of all time / I gave my all, round after round / And the world knows I tried / I fought with heart / But needed much more / A bridesmaid but never a bride . . ."

At his peak, as a top-class heavyweight in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Quarry fought Muhammad Ali twice and fought for two versions of the world championship against Jimmy Ellis and Joe Frazier.

He boxed in Britain twice, knocking out the British heavyweight champion Jack Bodell in 64 seconds at Wembley in November 1971, and the following year outpointing his fellow American Larry Middleton.

When he fought Bodell, the notoriously unorthodox Derbyshire southpaw, pre-fight speculation hinged on how long it would take Quarry to solve the style of a man who had just trounced Joe Bugner over 15 rounds. "Did you find him awkward?" said an eager journalist in the dressing room inquest. "Well," said Quarry. "He sure fell awkward . . ." He also twice defeated the British heavyweight Brian London in California, in 1967 and 1969.

After a 200-fight amateur career in California, Quarry turned professional just before his 20th birthday, in 1965. He was unbeaten in his opening 21 contests, and the former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano went to see his 22nd, at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, with a view to taking over as his manager. Marciano was disappointed, however, and left before the end as Quarry was outbeaten by Eddie Machen, a veteran contender known as "The Old Professor".

When Muhammad Ali had his boxing licence withdrawn in 1967 for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War, the World Boxing Association organised an elimination tournament to decide a new champion. Quarry reached the final, by outpointing Floyd Patterson and then stopping the respected and hard-hitting Thad Spencer in the 12th round. However, he reserved one of his worst performances for the final, a dreary 15-rounder won on points by the negative, counter-punching Jimmy Ellis from Ali's home city of Louisville, Kentucky.

By 1969, Quarry's hard left hooking had brought him back into contention and he was matched with Joe Frazier, who was recognised as champion in New York and several other American states. Quarry was pulled out on the advice of the doctor at the end of round seven. "They never thought I had a heart till that fight," he remembered. "Damned shame I had to show 'em that way."

His most famous night was in Atlanta, Georgia, in October 1970, when he was the "fall-guy" for Ali's comeback from his three- year exile. Quarry was stopped because of a badly cut eye in the third round. It brought him his biggest payday, $338,000.

A rematch with Ali two years later ended in seven rounds, with Quarry admitting afterwards his concentration was deeply affected by a chilling knockout suffered by his younger brother Mike in the previous bout. Mike was knocked unconscious for 10 minutes by the world light-heavyweight champion Bob Foster, and there were, initially at least, serious fears for his health. "I watched it on the monitor in the dressing room and it totally destroyed everything I wanted to do. I thought he had killed my brother."

Quarry enjoyed a revival in 1973 when he outpointed Ron Lyle, a former long-term convict from Denver, and knocked out the thunderous punching Earnie Shavers in one round. He was close to a shot at the winner of the Ali-George Foreman fight in Zaire, but instead fought Frazier again in Madison Square Garden in New York, and was beaten in five rounds. The old champ Joe Louis refereed - and many felt he let it go on too long.

Quarry retired in 1975, following a defeat by Ken Norton, and worked as a bodyguard for the pop group Three Dog Night, returned with a win in 1977 and retired again for six years. The first fears for his health were voiced at this time by Californian doctors, who felt he showed the initial signs of brain damage. After his second fight of 1983, he needed 62 stitches in a gruesome network of cuts, yet he won. "It was fun, but that's enough," he said. The Californian Commission agreed.

He took to selling mobile homes and beer. He once looked back at his tough upbringing and said: "I've led a Grapes of Wrath life . . ." He had been articulate and fresh-faced in his youth, with a passion for poetry, and had said he wanted to move into boxing commentating when he retired from the ring. Instead, he lost the estimated $2.1m he had earned from boxing as his life hit a downward spiral of divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, and a sad refusal to accept that his youth had gone.

"Would I do it all over again?" he said in 1990. "When I started in 1965, I was changing Greyhound Bus tyres for a living, bringing home $99.50 a week. You damned well know I'd go back into boxing. Yes, sir!"

He was surely declining mentally when he fought for the last time, in a six-round club fight in Colorado in 1992, when he could no longer get a licence in California. He absorbed a pounding from a novice named Ron Cranmer. His purse was a fraction above $1,000, but the legacy was terrible.

By 1995 he was in the care of his elder brother James and was officially suffering from severe pugilistic dementia. James set up the Jerry Quarry Foundation, a non-profit charity to assist disabled former boxers who need more help than is provided by the social services. Quarry was frequently confused and had difficulties carrying out simple tasks like shaving or tying shoe laces. "Jerry has 60 per cent short-term memory loss and the temperament of a 12-year-old," said his brother.

Quarry was taken into hospital with pneumonia last week in Templeton, California, and died following a heart attack.

Jerry Quarry, boxer: born 15 May 1945; three times married (three children); died Templeton, California 3 January 1999.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone