Heavyweight From Cut And Shoot Texas
Challenged For Heavyweight Title
By Bobby Franklin
Roy Harris, who in 1958 fought for the Heavyweight Title, passed away on August 8th. He was 90 years old. He died peacefully at his home in Cut and Shoot, Texas surrounded by his children and large family. Mr. Harris was born in Cut and Shoot on June 29, 1933, and he lived his entire life there.
When Roy was eight years old, his bother Tobe traded a couple of wild ducks for a pair of boxing gloves. Their father gave the boys boxing lessons. This was the start of the long road that led to Roy getting a shot at the Heavyweight Championship of the World.
Roy and his brothers would spend their free time sparring in a makeshift ring. Eventually, Harris would move on to an amateur boxing career where he won four consecutive Texas State Golden Glove Championships. He then turned pro in order to earn money for college tuition.
In the professional ring, Harris reeled off 23 consecutive wins. With victories over Charley Norkus, Bob Baker, Willie Pastrano, and Willi Besmanoff, Roy was deemed worthy of a shot at champion Floyd Patterson. The fight took place on August 18, 1958 at Wrigley Field in Los Angeles, California.
The gate of 21,680 fans set an attendance record at the time for the state of California. In addition to the live gate, another 200,000 people watched the fight on closed circuit television. The fight also put the town of Cut and Shoot in the spotlight as reporters descended on the challenger’s hometown.
The fight didn’t disappoint when it came to action. Though the people in Roy’s hometown were disappointed he wasn’t able to bring the title belt home, they were and remain proud of the battle he put up.
In the second round Harris landed a solid uppercut on the Champion’s chin that dropped Patterson. When Floyd got up he was hit with a left hook that he later admitted “dizzied” him.
As the fight entered the seventh round, Patterson began to hit his stride and dropped Harris. In the eight round he floored the challenger two more times, and in the twelfth round floored the very game Harris one more time.
Roy was willing to come out for the next round, but his trainer Bill Gore stopped the fight before the bell rang. It was the right thing to do. The man from Cut and Shoot had given it his all but Patterson was just too much for him.
Harris would continue fighting hoping to earn another shot at the crown. He added some impressive wins to his record including victories over Charlie Powell, Joe Bygraves, and Alejandro Lavorante. While not getting another title bout, he was matched with the number one contender. Unfortunately, that meant stepping in the ring with Sonny Liston. Liston was at his deadly prime at this point. Patterson was avoiding him and the future champ was mowing down the top contenders.
Outweighed by eighteen pounds, Harris took the fight to Sonny. He just did not have the fire power to hang in there with the ferocious Liston, and was dropped three times in the first round. The fight was stopped because of the three knockdown rule which automatically meant the bout was over.
Roy had three more fights before retiring in 1961. His professional record is 30 wins and 5 losses. Most importantly, he quit boxing with his faculties fully intact.
While his boxing career may have been over, he was just beginning his life’s work which included becoming a school teacher and then a lawyer. While in college Harris also was in the ROTC and earned the rank of Captain in the Army.
On top of his teaching, military, and law careers, Roy was also elected Montgomery County Clerk, a position he served in for twenty-eight years. He was always there for his friends and family. Anyone in need knew they could count on Cut and Shoot Roy.
On September 24, 1955 Roy married the love of his life, Gloria Jean Groce. Together they raised six children. He never completely recovered from the loss of Gloria Jean who passed away in 2008. He loved her deeply. His family has always remained close and have lived by the values Roy instilled in them.
He remained active in the community for the rest of his life. Helping neighbors, supporting family members, and even taking time to give boxing lessons at the local gym.
Also known as “The Battler From The Backwoods”, Roy Harris was the epitome of what a real man is. He was a soft spoken Southern Gentleman, handsome and physically imposing. While all business in the ring, he was a kind and gentle man when not wearing the gloves. He devoted his life to helping others, never left where he came from both physically and in the values he lived by.
Boxing fans mostly know Roy Harris by his losses to Patterson and Liston. He should also be remembered for his many victories in the ring, but mostly for the exemplary life he lived. His family and the people of Cut and Shoot, Texas will never forget his grace and goodness. He may not have won the Heavyweight Title, but the Championship he possessed was much bigger than that. Roy Harris was a true Champion and the best of role models in the way he lived his life. The world would be a better place if there were more people like him in it.