Remembering Jerry Quarry
How Would He Have Fared Against
By Bobby Franklin
Jerry Quarry would have turned 77 years old this year. Unfortunately, the ravages of too long a career in the ring led to Jerry developing severe dementia and he passed away at the early age of 53 in 1999. Though what happened to him is not uncommon, it is still tragic to think of just how badly he ended up. There are a lot of what ifs in Jerry’s life, but the biggest one is what if he had retired much earlier and followed a promising career as a boxing commentator? He excelled at the job with his keen insight, pleasant demeanor, and articulate use of language. Make no mistake, Jerry Quarry was as talented outside of the ring as he was in the squared circle.
When looking at his record you see an outstanding career. He had a total of 66 fights over 23 years against the best in the heavyweight division. He first retired in 1975 after being stopped by Ken Norton. Two years later he made a comeback but clearly was only a shell of his former self. After three wins in which he looked terrible he wisely hung up the gloves again.
In 1992, 9 years later, while showing signs of advanced dementia, he was talked into having another fight. It is sickening to watch the film of this fight in which he took on Ron Cramer, a fighter with a 3/4/1 record. It would be Jerry’s last fight and that bout tells all anyone needs to knows about the slime that infest boxing.
Out of his 66 fights Quarry lost only 9 time. The ugly loss to Cramer should not even be counted. Of the other 8 defeats, two were at the hands of Muhammad Ali and two by Joe Frazier. Ken Norton, Jimmy Ellis, George Chuvalo, and Eddie Machen were the only other men to defeat Jerry.
The Chuvalo loss was, to stay the least, odd. Machen beat him when he was on the way up and that was a story of experience over youth. I recently wrote about the Ellis fight. Jerry was at the end of his A game against Norton.
So much for the losses. His victories were exciting and outstanding. After the Machen fight he improved and beat Brian London and Alex Miteff. He then went on to fight a draw with former Champion Floyd Patterson. This is the fight that caused people to take a closer look at the young heavyweight from Bakersfield, California. The Patterson fight earned him a spot in the WBA Tournament to find a successor to Muhammad Ali. There he was matched once again against Patterson whom he defeated.
Next he stopped Thad Spencer and then had the disappointing decision loss to Jimmy Ellis. Jerry came back from that loss to score five straight wins culminating in a victory over Buster Mathis. That earned him a shot at Joe Frazier for the undisputed heavyweight title in 1969. Joe was just too much for a very courageous Quarry who was stopped in the 7th round. He would lose a rematch with Frazier in 1974.
Frazier and Muhammad Ali were two hurdles Jerry could never get over, but he did show outstanding ability when matched up against the most ferocious punchers of the era.
In 1970 he took on undefeated Mac Foster who had kayoed all 24 of his opponents. Jerry dismantled the hard punching Foster in six rounds. In 1971 he took on undefeated Ron Lyle who had knocked out 17 of his 19 opponents. And that same year he completely obliterated Earnie Shavers in one round. Shavers had kayoed all but one of the 45 men he had defeated.
Based on the Shavers, Lyle, and Foster fights it has to be asked how Jerry would have done against an up and coming George Foreman? Word was that the Foreman camp wanted nothing to do with Quarry. His outstanding chin and excellent counter punching which he used so well against the other big punchers would have proved a serious problem for George. I believe he had the movement and power to beat Foreman and I think it would have looked similar to the Mac Foster fight where Jerry methodically took his opponent apart.
It’s a shame that fight never took place. My money would have been on Quarry. Next to Frazier and Ali, he was arguably the best heavyweight of the early 1970s. When you remember Jerry Quarry remember him for the great boxer he was. He was a credit to the sport, though boxing never returned the favor to him.