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When Muhammad Ali had his boxing licence withdrawn in 1967 for refusing to be drafted into the Vietnam War, the World Boxing Association organised an elimination tournament to decide a new champion.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.

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls


The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence