Always in the shadow of big brother Jerry, but a fighter to the end
By John J. Raspanti
Recently, former welterweight contender, Randy Shields, and I were talking about the Quarry brothers, Mike and Jerry, a former heavyweight contender.
Shields knew both. He sparred with Mike Quarry. Most remember Mike as Jerry’s little brother. Or, when he was brutally knocked out by light heavyweight champion, Bob Foster, 48 years ago.
Even so, little brother could fight.
Mike Quarry engaged in over 80 professional fights. He was 35-0 when he fought Foster. As Shields said, “He was a good boxer.” Yes, he was. Better than most gave him credit for. Quarry first laced on boxing gloves when he was a little kid. Father Jack wanted all his boys to fight. Jerry had the talent, while Mike was the most determined. He’d never let anyone know he was hurt. He’d always battle.
In 1969, Quarry,17, captured the Southern California A.A.U. and Los Angeles Golden Gloves title belts. He turned pro a few months later. He debuted at the forum in Inglewood, CA Quarry scored knock-out wins in four of his first seven fights. This was something of a mirage. He’d stop ten fighters in his next 73 bouts. Boxing, not slugging, was his strength. He moved well, had fast hands and a solid jab. But he’d always prefer rumbling.
Quarry, who fought every month, and sometimes, within two weeks of his previous fight, was 25-0 when he faced tough veteran, Andy Kendall, in 1971. Kendall was all about aggression. He was old school, took a number to land one. His nose was flatter than Justin Bieber’s voice. Kendall, who entered the fight ranked number seven in the division, had faced former light heavyweight champion, Dick Tiger, and Bob Foster, the current titleholder. They fought at the Valley Music Theatre in Woodland Hills, California. Quarry boxed while Kendall chased. The fighters went toe-to-toe in the last couple of rounds. Quarry edged the match by majority decision.
In October 1971, Quarry threw hands with dangerous Jimmy Dupree. The bout went down at the Convention Center in Anaheim. Seven months earlier, Dupree had fought Vincente Rondon for the vacant WBA light heavyweight title. Dupree floored Rondon in round two, but the stanza ended seconds later. Rondon knocked him out in round six.
Dupree wanted another shot at a world title. Quarry wanted to prove he was worthy. A deep cut over Quarry’s eye, due to an unintentional headbutt, halted the fight in round five. Quarry was ahead on two of three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage. The fight was his, along with the NABF light heavyweight title.
Two more victories earned him a shot at universal light heavyweight kingpin, Bob Foster, in Las Vegas, NV. in 1972. The champion was a ferocious puncher. Forty-one of 47 opponents had been unable to go the distance. Joe Frazier, who was staggered by Foster, and Muhammad Ali, could both attest to the champ’s power.
Quarry knew this as well. He would box and tie up Foster. Counter when he could. He’d utilize the style that had worked 35 consecutive times. Problem was, Foster was better than those other guys. Way better. Hall of Fame better. Quarry tried. He used lateral movement. He snuck in some jabs. Landed some solid shots in round three. Won a round on one of the judges’ scorecards. But his Achille’s heel, lack of sustainable power, was problematical. He couldn’t hurt Foster, and the champ could hurt him.
Foster’s long jab was landing. Quarry looked a little gassed in round four. He was searching for a second wind he’d never find. Foster was in full stalk mode. A minute into the heat, Quarry stopped moving and rumbled with Foster. He landed a good left hook. Foster snapped Quarry’s head with a right cross. Quarry fired a combination and tried to move away, but seconds before the round ended, Foster unleashed a wicked left hook that dropped Quarry like an assassin drops his target. Quarry was flat on his back, and barely moving. A count was unnecessary.
Foster thought he might have killed Quarry. Thirty minutes after the fight, Quarry was still dazed.
A long break seemed necessary, but six months later he was back in the ring. He captured the USA California State light heavyweight title in 1973. Quarry dropped decisions to contenders Tom Boggs, Chris Finnegan, and Kendall. He lost to Pierre Fourie, but defeated Gary Summerhays.
In 1975, he defeated future light heavyweight champion, Mike Rossman. Quarry could still fight, but the spring in his legs was missing. He’d slug more and get hit often. He kept fighting.
The curtain should have dropped after he was knocked out by one Pete McIntyre. The fight was the 75th of his career. Quarry had turned 27 the week before. His boxing odometer was maxed out. He didn’t walk away for another four years. Quarry’s once-handsome face was gone. Pieces of it were spread over a number of boxing rings. Scar tissue lived above his left eye.
Retirement was hard. Reportedly, Quarry hit the bars and engaged in street fights. Pugilistic dementia began to affect him. His short-term memory was gone. He fought it the best he could. Enrolled in a memory class. But he’d wander away and scare his wife.
A once vibrant personality had been permanently dulled.
He’d live twenty-five years after his career ended, and die at 55 from the pounding he sustained in a boxing ring. He had boxed to make his father proud.
There was never any quit in Mike Quarry.
If I were his father, I’d be very proud.