A Dark Place

By Ted Sares on March 20, 2013
A Dark Place
It was sad to see Jerry Quarry on television brain-damaged and barely able to speak.

Here, there is neither denial nor hope. No more triumphs. No romanticizing. The bulb flickers, dims, and dies away. All becomes dark…

A 30ish man named Nigel stood at the bar of the Deluxe Bar & Grill on Capitol Hill. He spoke with an English accent and said he used to be a boxer. He had the build of one. “I was pretty good,” the former light heavyweight said. “Went 12-6. Eight knockouts…I didn’t have great balance. I’m white and from England. But I was persistent and I could hit hard.” It was noted to him that he got out of the game in time—that it was sad to see former heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry on television brain-damaged and barely able to speak. “Yeah,” he nodded. “But at least people know the name Jerry Quarry. You see a lot of people like that at the gym. They’re in the same shape, but nobody knows their name. People give them jobs to carry water around and stuff. (Kerry Murakami, “Reflecting at the bar” January 9, 2006)

“There is something so bitterly cruel and ironic about a fighting man not being able to remember the one glorious and exceptional quality that set him apart from the rest.”—Mike Casey

“He’s living over there, but really he’s dead…And nobody cares. Frankly, nobody ever will care. But I care.”—Denny Moyer’s wife Sandy Moyer

This is not a particularly unpleasant place. There might even be a garden outside with benches, upon which the sun shines warmly. The sound of birds singing may be heard by those who can still hear. Polite and helpful attendants with white uniforms move about, while visitors sit quietly with the patients. However, meaningful conversations are not commonplace. If you look closely and at the right time, you might have seen the Moyer brothers (Denny and Phil) walking down a pathway holding hands and wearing plastic helmets.

There is a sense of temporary, of “just passing through” that is unmistakable. Most here are locked in a clouded emotional prison punctuated with stares that see very little. They hear voices no one else hears, and they often scream at night. Some sit in wheelchairs, semi-paralyzed; others lie in bed unable to see, having to be fed and otherwise cared for. Some shuffle around without knowing their destination. Occasionally, a flash of glory is recalled. But soon the flashes cruelly evanescence, leaving the inhabitants to resume their blank stares with eyes glazed over. Often confused, childlike, and uttering unintelligible sounds delivered by thick tongues, some have friends or relatives to help out. Eventually, they will need to be cared for like babies, for this terrible thing they have is degenerative and unforgiving, and its symptoms often emerge once the victim is in his later years, long after retiring from the career that gave rise to the condition.

Some who have not yet arrived are huddled in lonely doorways or in subway stations on a frigid Chicago night; some are looking for aluminum cans to turn in for some extra change in alleyways in West Hollywood or in junkyards in Philadelphia. Still others shuffle from one flea-bitten hotel to another in New York City. Their world is one of irreversible sameness. They all seem to talk alike, slurring their words with a nasal monotone, and sometimes engaging in self-directed temper tantrums.

The symptoms are similar to that of alcohol intoxication, but the malady is far worse. They have speech difficulty, dizziness, and unusual and involuntary muscular movements like hand tremors. Their balance is unsteady, and their short-term memory is rapidly deteriorating, as is their cognitive ability. They have an unsteady, shuffling gait and a problem engaging in the most simple of daily activities or in working menial jobs; and they also have a tendency to wander. Once the conditions exist, there is no other choice but to deal with it and make the most out of what limited treatments are available. Soon, they might become eligible for admittance, but until then, these unfortunates must exist from day to day as best they can. They have no pension; in fact, most walk away with less than nothing, “because they leave boxing with less than what they had going in.” (Steve Buffery)

These men are all victims of the legalized violence of boxing, where the risk-reward equation was never in their favor. Most are unknown. Hopefully, the memories of those who are known will be kept alive through their fans long after they have left this world.

People with this kind of mental damage are sometimes described as being punch-drunk or punchy. Those words are demeaning and terribly misleading. A better way to describe it is to use diagnostic terms such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy or pugilistic Parkinson’s syndrome. For the politically correct, the condition, which occurs in people who have suffered multiple concussions, commonly manifests itself as dementia or declining mental ability. It also can result in Parkinson’s tremors and lack of coordination (which is not as deadly). But, plainly stated, it is dementia pugilistica (aka boxer’s syndrome), nothing more and nothing less. It’s a condition caused by being on the receiving end of too many blows to the head, and it’s classically seen in boxers. It is horrific.

Chronic traumatic brain injury is the most serious health concern in boxing today. While other injuries such as cuts and fractures can be repaired, brain tissue, once damaged, remains damaged. The boxer can recover from the broken nose; severe brain damage is permanent. A single blow or knockout punch, while sometimes fatal, rarely causes the kind of long-term damage that results in this condition. Rather, it is the accumulation of blows, endured over a period of time both in actual fights and during the many rounds of gym training that is more likely to be the cause.

Now it’s not pleasant to say where this dark place is. Some refer to it colloquially as Palookaville, but it’s far worse than that. Oh no, this place is at the end of a one-way, irreversible descent, ending where cerebral atrophy occurs and where the brain rapidly shrinks with dead cells dissolving into liquid. Finally and mercifully, the all-but-dead brain eventually begins to shut down, and a decision must be made to remove life support, which in turn will result in cardiac arrest. And that is where it all finally ends.

No bell tolls with the final ten-count for these fallen warriors. Here, the thousands of rounds in the gym during which the blows landed upon their skull offset any possible lingering feeling of invincibility. Here, there is neither denial nor hope. No more triumphs. No romanticizing. The bulb flickers, dims, and dies away. All becomes dark.

Postscript: Denny Moyer (97-38-4) died of complications from dementia pugilistica on June 30, 2010. He is featured in the stunning documentary, “After the Last Round.” Phil Moyer (28-9-1), who once beat Sugar Ray Robinson, is 75 and is totally incapacitated with the malady and remains in the same nursing home enshrouded in a fog of living death.

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After the Last Round Trailer

Ray Robinson vs Denny Moyer II

'Irish' Jerry Quarry

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  1. the thresher 07:47am, 03/27/2013

    nicolas, I truly believe the activity factor is true for everyone. At least I practice it as if it were so. I think an active mind can possibly have a positive impact on the onset of some forms of dementia. Crossward puzzles work for some. Multi-tasking works for others. I think writing combined with other activities like golf and investing can be a great tonic.

    Too many retired boxers don’t have a second life to fall back on. True for other pro athletes as well. That’s why transition experts are so important for pro athletes, but you will never see them in boxing because the boxers must want them first.

    Angel Manfredy is a great example of this as he is struggling with being away from boxing. He is no exception. Going into training fighters is ok, but it’s no solution. Boxers need to get into other activities while they are still boxing. Easier said than done. The operative word is “transition.”

  2. nicolas 08:00pm, 03/26/2013

    Ted, Sugar Ray Leonard did once say he thought that the blows that one took in sparing had a great effect on fighters, in that they wanted to get hit so that they would be better prepared for the actual fight, even if it wasn’t so hard. I was just so surprised by Mr. Silver’s desire for head gear in professional boxing. What has always surprised me was that the five heavyweight champs from Jess Willard to Jack Sharkey all lived to or past 80, but the only other one has been Jersey Joe Walcott. I sometimes think that what these men do after their careers are over has something to do with it, by keeping active. I think LaMotta may be a testament of that, as the film of his life in 1980, & then Raging Bull being named best film of the 80’s, and the DVD, with a fascinating audio commentary by Jake on the Special Ed. DVD.

  3. the thresher 04:38am, 03/26/2013

    On the other hand, the older guys had fewer amateur bouts and possible fewer rounds of sparring.

  4. nicolas 09:57pm, 03/25/2013

    Ted, in the case of many of these fighters, they had way too many fights. Even in Denny Moyers last year, he had something like 10 fights. When he had his first 10 round fight, for the next eight years or so, from 58 to 65 he had over 50 fights. Many of these fights from what I remember went over 10 rounds The toll that these so many fights are what led to what happened to him. Look at Tavoris Clouds record, in some nine years of boxing about 25 fights. While I think Cloud has not fought enough, and should have over 40 fights, Moyer during the 58 through 65 era, had probably some 25 fights too many.

  5. the thresher 04:07pm, 03/25/2013

    I talked with Emile in Graziano’s iin Canastota well prior to the beating he receivd in NYC, and he seemed pretty good at that point. I do know that the beating was a vicious one. Either way, he has it and it’s a downhill journey from here. Very sad. Ron LIipton was very close to Emile and I believe he probably knows when he first started showing the symptoms.

  6. the thresher 04:04pm, 03/25/2013

    nicolas, a very thought provoking post. Thank you. IMO, there s no doubt whatsoever that the Quarry brothers suffered from the result of what happened to them in boxing. As for the Moyer brothers, the same is true. It, of course, raises the issue of whether there is some hereditary issue involved with dementia and the jury is out on that one..

  7. nicolas 02:03pm, 03/25/2013

    I am kind of shocked that Mr. Silver wants the boxers today to wear some kind of head gear. I would also point out to Mr. Casey that Emile Griffith was severely beaten back I think in the early 90’s when he came out of a gay bar. It is very likely that the condition that he is in today is because of that beating he received. I think he was knocked unconscious, and even beaten afterwards. I agree with Eric on Gil Clancy. A few years ago, he said either about Quarry or Ali, that it could happen to anyone not just a boxer, and he seemed to equate that it did not happen to Quarry or Ali because of boxing, which appeared to me to be ludicrous. As far as head gear goes, I think even the Olympics are now going to stop head gear in their fights, because they say it really may be more dangerous because a fighter can absorb more blows, which will further cause problems for the fighters. Ring magazine even had an article many years ago, where it was suggested that during the bare knuckle era, it might have actually been safer because fighters were concerned about breaking their hands, and did not always go full force as they could do with gloves. What I would like to see in boxing, is fights while they are being scored, that the cards be checked after so many rounds. If one fighter is so far ahead on all three cards, that the losing fighter could not win the next so many rounds and even get a draw on one of the cards, that the fight be ended, and be called a decision for the winning fighter. Example, a 10 round fight is over after six rounds because of this rule. It would save perhaps people’s brains a bit more.

  8. the thresher 05:44am, 03/22/2013

    Interesting points Mike.

  9. Mike Silver 06:31pm, 03/21/2013

    Headguards should be made mandatory for pro boxers. The public won’t buy it? That’s what they said when the bare-knucklers switched over to gloved fights. They thought it sissified the sport. But the audience eventually accepted it. Boxing can still be boxing with a well designed headguard. The mouthguard was also banned for a time. Marathon fights of 20 or more rounds were common 100 years ago before they were banned. Serious changes in this sport are long overdue.  There is no excuse for allowing the mayhem that exists today.

  10. the thresher 05:14pm, 03/21/2013

    Eric makes great points with which I cannot disagree.

  11. Eric 02:20pm, 03/21/2013

    We don’t allow dogs or chickens to fight because they are forced to fight. Nobody forces anyone to enter a boxing ring. Everything in life has risks. I’m sure if Ali had it to do all over again he would do things exactly the same. Back in Nolan Ryan’s prime I’m sure he had the potential to kill a batter if he beaned them with his 100mph fastball. A jockey can be trampled to death if he falls off his horse. Life is full of risks. Quarry took a severe beating in his second fight with Joe Frazier and I’m sure that really took its toll on his health. I blame the incompetent refereeing of Joe Louis and mostly Quarry’s corner for not stopping that fight sooner.  Gil Clancy went down a notch in my book for allowing Jerry to keep taking those punches.

  12. pugknows 01:37pm, 03/21/2013

    Scary stuff

  13. The Fight Film Collector 01:28pm, 03/21/2013

    By contrast to what Ted so eloquently described, note how quickly the media and the authorities in Football brought awareness to head injuries in their sport, when stories about Ralph Wenzel and other player’s dementia surfaced.

  14. the thresher 12:52pm, 03/21/2013


  15. Don from Prov 12:10pm, 03/21/2013

    It’s very sad to see (and I have seen it) boxers barely able to speak.
    The annuity is a very good idea but I don’t think there is anyway to physically protect the boxers—people get concussed while sparring with heavy gloves and headgear.  The new Great American Sport—football—is just beginning to deal with similar problems and I think that those in charge may realize that to make football safe is to make it no longer be football.  Ditto boxing, IMO.

  16. the thresher 10:25am, 03/21/2013

    Irish, yes I have but I don’t think that will ever become a part of pro boxing except in sparring sessions.

  17. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 07:24am, 03/21/2013

    Ted Sares-Have you ever noticed that protective equipment i.e. well designed head gear are hardly ever mentioned in these very serious discussions of life and death issues. Oh sure, we protect the groin zone particularly the family jewels but aren’t nearly as concerned about the very seat of our being….the brain. By the way, if we ever do locate our eternal souls I believe we’ll find them somewhere in our very temporal brains. Of course head gear are not the be all and end all and I’m not saying that, but guaranteed they would help. I’m talking about a high tech designed and manufactured 21st Century version of the current standard head gear used in the Amateur ranks and sparring. Machismo and blood and guts….the very essence of professional boxing….okay…I get it….nevertheless in the NFL the athletes don protective equipment from head to toe and there’s no lack of violence and excitement there.

  18. the thresher 06:53am, 03/21/2013

    To see what this disease does to people is an unforgettable sight. They are trapped in their own bodies where the body is still alive but the brain is dead. At least with Parkinson’s your brain is still ok, but this one is the worse one of the two.  Not too many want to talk about it because it involves a subject not too many want to think about to wit: Immortality. Fact is. most older people think about it every day.

  19. Mike Casey 06:40am, 03/21/2013

    I woke up this morning to a picture on FB of Vito Antuofermo visiting Emile Griiffith at his nursing home in NY. I couldn’t believe how shrunken and bad Emile looked and wondered how many people even know about his plight. Then I turned on the TV to a ‘major news story’ about live animals being exported from Dover. Protesters were out on the streets in their hundreds.

  20. the thresher 05:51am, 03/21/2013

    Walt, yes. A nursing home with a hospice wing is exactly what I am referring to. Willie Pep passed away of PD in one in CT. I believe Jimmy Young also did.

  21. the thresher 05:24am, 03/21/2013

    Thanks, Bob.

    Walt, I am aware of that but thanks for briniging it out.

    Meinhard, yes it is true, but I don’t know the answer to the drugs and booze question though I have my suspicions.

    Mike, I have come very close to that conclusion on any number of occassions.

  22. Bob 05:01am, 03/21/2013

    You outdid yourself with this piece, Ted.  The article, and the trailer for the Moyer film, literally left me emotionally shaken.  Great piece of work.  I understand that it’s a person’s right to choose their profession, but after reading this the sport is hard to justify.  It’s harder for me to watch fights these days. Every time someone takes a series of good shots, I’m thinking a few years ahead. Kind of takes away the joy of the moment.  Although I can dispute this assessment, James Quarry, the non-boxing brother of Jerry, Mike and Bobby,  once said something to the effect of we don’t allow dogs or chickens to fight because its barbaric, but we allow people to.

  23. john coiley 04:00am, 03/21/2013

    Truly it is a dark place, that in between being and not. Though my wife at the time might say otherwise, I did not experience the dementia. I did, however, suffer with persistent headaches for 2 years after being stopped by Tony Licata. in 1971. FInally, after brain scans and tons of meds, I was treated by a chiropractor who literally eased the pain. The physical pain, that is. The pain of losing is eternal…

  24. Walt 11:13pm, 03/20/2013

    I watched the documentary where the Moyer brothers were walking hand in hand. I also watched their 90 year old father feed them. I think he passed away recently. That documentary was as frightening as anything I have ever seen. Looking at Denny Moyer staring into space was terrible.  By the way, I assume you are referring to a nursing home here, correct? Or at least the hospice wing of a nursing home. One thing you might not be aware of is that the Moyer family, including an uncle, went 2-2 against Sugar Ray Robinson.

  25. Meinhard Schmidt 07:07pm, 03/20/2013

    Is it true that sluggers and brawlers are more prone to suffer from pugilistic dementia later in life? i think i read an article about that some years ago… and what is the role of alcohol and drug abuse? i think many fighters who suffer this terrible condition also did that.

  26. Mike Silver 07:04pm, 03/20/2013

    Only 227 reads for this excellent article. But just mention Mayweather in the title and over 3000 reads pop up right away. That says a lot. The bloodthirsty fans don’t give a damn about the fighters and neither do the idiot commissions, frightened referees and doctors (frightened they might not get assigned if they stop a fight too soon), the clueless sportswriters, greed obsessed managers and promoters and least of all the useless Alphabet boys (remove the sanctioning fees and they are history). Boxing in its present state should be abolished. The damage is worse than ever. There is no excuse for it continuing in its present state. So sorry fellas, but somebody has to say it.

  27. Tex Hassler 06:40pm, 03/20/2013

    Thanks Mr. Sares for bringing out a side of boxing we just hate to admit exists. It is totally sad but also totally true. The Moyer brothers like the Quarry brothers were great fighters that stayed in boxing a little too long.

  28. bikermike 06:40pm, 03/20/2013

    Ted…..you played football…So did I ...I got the chance to compete at a training camp or two…..and good thing I had a return bus ticket.

    Ne’re the less….this was in the sixties and seventies….lotsa bell ringing in those try outs….

    ..and . to my knowledge…there isn’t a lot of testing on that amateur bridge to prospect….but if anybody knows that this ten days will tell the difference….they’d break somebody’s leg or arm to make the team

  29. the thresher 06:40pm, 03/20/2013

    I’ll get into more detail on this tomorrow but right now it’s bed time.

  30. the thresher 06:37pm, 03/20/2013

    Chuvalo is a miracle. That’‘s all one can really say about him. He is a miracle.

  31. the thresher 06:36pm, 03/20/2013

    The name of the game is ANNUITY. Simple as that except that with current interest rates, even annuities are not all that great but they can still be structured to provide lifetime income at a decent rate. The entire situation is very scary from a financial standpoint

  32. bikermike 06:34pm, 03/20/2013

    George Chuvalo is also a medical phenom…..He does public speaking to motivate kids to live clean….go for the top…believe in yourselves.
    He took many a blow….fought through HW division in the golden age of HW Fighters….Took on Ali on a two week notice or so….and beat Ali’s body so bad Ali went to the Hospital…Chuvalo took his wife dancing…..true he lost…but got in more than a few….way more than a few

  33. bikermike 06:27pm, 03/20/2013

    I wish you well ...maybe that’s the way to work on it….
    How to eat an elephant….one bite at a time.
    Work with something like California….there are at least 50 State Boxing Commissions…..or so ...

    You are right….the blockage is participation…

    Saw Ray Leonard speak.( they made me leave my rifle at the door)
    ...he said….when it came to financial Planning…..he had a lot of difficulty accepting he had to put this money away for ten years at a time or more !!

    Guy is good for boxing..even if he robbed Hagler and Hearns.

  34. bikermike 06:20pm, 03/20/2013

    I’ve read Ted’s books…you guys should too.
    Dementia is something that can be minimized…with support from fanbase…
    Commissions/sanctioning bodies / as well….and eye them like a hawk !!!

    multi million dollar fines would be a great place to start

  35. bikermike 05:52pm, 03/20/2013

    I’m not sure how it would work…...out of each purse a little rain would fall…..from the top…like ‘health and life insurance’..for everyone.
    RIch folks would put a few coins more into the pot…but not a crippling amount….it’s deductable.

    Maybe trainers want to do something like that too. Lotsa good trainers were starving to death..between fights…and at the end….damned few Angelo Dundee’s…most were not able to be reached…..they could use a progranm too.

    I’m not talking socialism here….just some kind of shelter.  These athletes can’t dedicate a lot of time to much else…if they plan to be fit in a short time to fight professionally.
    Not the best environment to present financial planning as a practise!! WADAFKUMEAN GIVE YOU MONEY FOR MORE THAN TEN YEARS !!!”“”???

  36. bikermike 05:43pm, 03/20/2013

    I share Ted’s intent to make sure that NOBODY gets into the ring that isn’t medically ...and that includes neurological examinations….fit to do so.

    That Jerry Quarry was awarded a license ....is a dirth upon us.
    Quarry isn’t the only one…but there is the footage to prove that a contact sport will open participants to long term neurological injury…..and tests should be demanded more often…even at top level amateur contests

    I’d wanna get Bradley and his opponent into those scans ...soon.  lots of rocking in that one….betcha both guys counted seventy daffodils each ...over those 12 rounds

    like a lyle forman…without the KO….

  37. bikermike 05:35pm, 03/20/2013

    they don’t show much footage of Thomas Hearns anymore either…..nowadays.
    The Greatest is dealing with Parkinson’s Syndrome….and I can remember the guarded glimpses we got from Sugar Ray Robinson….after he was done Boxing.

    Dementia..be it boxing…football…rugby…racing..horse or machine….hockey…

    Tuff way to make a living…..being the most wealthy guy in the ‘home’

  38. the thresher 05:23pm, 03/20/2013

    pug, that was my intent. Glad it scared you. Most don’t want to talk about death.

  39. the thresher 05:23pm, 03/20/2013

    The Bradley fight was brutal. I never feel guilty because if I did, then I have no business being a boxing fan. I do feel that a lot more could be done for the boxers, but they have to demand it to get done.

    And forget about unions. That’s a pipedream that would never work. The way things get better for the boxers as a whole is if the promoters and networks, and others who control the money share a greater percentage with the boxers at all levels and not just at the elite level.

  40. pugknows 05:22pm, 03/20/2013

    Ted, the last two paragraphs of this essay sacred the living expletive out of me. Man, you were describing death. Not many ever do that. Whew. It chilled me.

  41. the thresher 05:19pm, 03/20/2013

    I have done tons of research on the subject, Mike, and it would be quite simple to set up an annuity plan based on certain criteria. The problem is that the boxers MUST want it in order to make it a reality.

    The State of California has a system that does not pay much but could be the platform from which to expand. I wrote about this at great length in my first boxing book.

    The solution is realtively easy. The creation of the solution is the issue. This is where the promoters could step in and help, but….....

  42. bikermike 05:17pm, 03/20/2013

    I don’t feel guilty about enjoying that Bradley defence….
    Hell of a fight….each guy believed he should win…...LaMotta Robinson ..first one

  43. bikermike 05:13pm, 03/20/2013

    gotta be a way to direct a portion of the purses…into something long term…even a group disabiltiy or at least permanent life insurance..as well.

    Something for these guys and/or their families to work with when boxing is over.  Not a new concept…other sports have this..NBA..NFL   BASEBALL
    Even track has some coverage..

  44. the thresher 05:13pm, 03/20/2013

    EZ E, me amigo, I too have had this experience too many times to talk about it.

    And yet, you take a guy like Tony DeMarco who is in his low 80’s and he is as sharp as a tack, but he is the exception.

  45. the thresher 05:11pm, 03/20/2013

    Biker, watch the Quarry video. It’s a chilling one.

  46. bikermike 05:07pm, 03/20/2013

    I remember the ‘comeback’ that Quarry launched…..had George Chuvalo there.  Chuvalo was embarassed..due the obvious dementia of Quarry..  How did Quarry get a license ??

  47. EZ E 05:03pm, 03/20/2013

    Teddy, I, like many of you folks, I’ve met many fighters. A countless number of whom I used to spar regularly and hang out with, and have even faced in the ring. I recognize many of them. Sadly, very few now recognize me, they don’t have the faintest idea. At a local fight card a few years ago I recognized an ex-contender who once defeated me. He was now having health issues and problems getting about. I helped him to his seat. Noticing that he didn’t recognize me I then told him who I was. My name didn’t ring a bell, no pun intended. I then told him that he beat my butt back in the ‘70s. With a half foggy then blank look on his face he answered, “I did??”

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