Jerry Quarry: The Enemy Within

By Ted Sares on August 28, 2011
Jerry Quarry: The Enemy Within
This was not the same fighter who slaughtered Shavers just a few months previously

The feints were absent, the counterpunching was not sharp, and the punches were wild. Something was amiss…

Mac Foster finished with a record of 30-6 and all of his wins came by way of KO. He was 24-0 when he met Jerry Quarry (35-5-4 at the time) on June 6, 1970, in Madison Square Garden. This was a big one for Jerry and a win would get him right back into the mix. After a bad start, Quarry broke Foster down in round five with heavy left hooks to the body, and then with some cute defensive moves that featured his signature head feints, Jerry exploded with a savage flurry of crunching shots that put Mac into a heap in his own corner. The crowd went wild as this was Irish Jerry Quarry at his very best. Foster would finish with a 30-6 mark with all of his wins coming by way of KO.

On December 14, 1973, Jerry would again be in a pivotal fight—this time against another highly touted bomber Earnie Shavers who was 46-2 and had won 34 in a row (all by KO).Shavers was the favorite and this fight also was held in MSG. But Jerry jumped on Shavers from the get go, stunned him, and proceeded to blow him away in the first round with an even more savage closure than that displayed in the Foster bout. Once Jerry had his man hurt, the end was a foregone conclusion. Jerry Quarry once again seemed to be at the top of his game, but something was happening to him that no one could possibly know about. He was fighting an enemy within that even he could not understand and that enemy may have taken initial hold soon after this fight.

On May 8, 1974, Irish Jerry showed the first signs of something being wrong as he appeared a bit bloated and his reflexes seemed off when he fought lightly regarded Joe Alexander (8-3). In fact, Alexander decked him with a well leveraged left hook shortly before the bell sounded to end round one and Quarry literally bounced off the floor. An emboldened Alexander then raised his hands between rounds confident that he would close matters in round two. But the bomber from Bellflower turned things around with a solid right that decked Joe who barely made it up. Then Quarry, ever the savage closer, finished Alexander off with a right, left, right combo. Again, the crowd was up and roaring.

But this Quarry was not the same one who slaughtered Shavers just a few months previously. Something had changed even though Jerry had prevailed in this closet classic that would set him up for another shot at Joe Frazier just one month later in MSG. The feints were absent, the counterpunching was not sharp, and the punches were wild. Something was amiss, but how could anyone know that the real battle had just begun.

The Time Line

The tragic time line looks like this:

1. On May 8, 1974, Quarry beat Joe Alexander but showed signs of sluggishness and bloat. These may well have been the first warning signs.

2. On June 17, 1974, he fought and lost to Joe Frazier in a savage encounter in which both warriors dished out and absorbed meaningful punishment.

3. In 1975, he fought and also lost badly to Ken Norton. He retired for two years.

4. In 1977, he won a dreadful come-from-behind KO victory over Lorenzo Zanon (20-3-1). He was a shell of his former self and those who watched the fight were stunned by the way he looked. 

5. In 1983, while researching a magazine article about the health problems of retired boxers, a Sports Illustrated reporter visited and interviewed Quarry, then 37 and training for a comeback attempt. Though the boxer appeared to be in good health, his performances on several simple cognitive tests were shockingly poor. The title of the April 11, 1983 article is “Too Many Punches, Too Little Concern,” by Robert H. Boyle and Wilmer Ames.

6. In 1983, he won two fights against mediocre Lupe “Macho” Guerra (20-10-1) and James Williams (23-25-2).

7. In 1992, after nine years of inactivity and at age 47, Jerry thought he could be another George Foreman. He fought and lost to unknown Ron Cranmer (3-4-1) in Colorado and took horrific punishment for six rounds but did end the fight on his feet which was a testament to his raw courage and will. 

8. By 1996, just four years later and at age 51, he was an invalid.

9. Early in 1999, Jerry Quarry passed away at age 53 after family members decided to remove life support systems. The indirect cause of death was pugilistica dementia (the atrophy of the brain from repeated blows to the head, eventually leading to an Alzheimer’s-like state).

This good-looking Irish kid with a great smile and an engaging boy-next-door manner and sunny California manner was one of my favorite warriors and a personal friend. His hardscrabble heritage was of the hot dusty Oklahoma farms of the Grapes of Wrath, and that was part of his appeal. Walking down the aisle with his old school robe, rolling his head and shoulders, loosening up his arms, he was what charisma is all about. He was gritty, down-to-earth, and fun to watch. When he exploded in the ring, it was a sight for the memory bank.

Even today, Jerry has a great number of loyal fans and is remembered both for the heart he showed in the ring and for the way he touched his fans’ hearts. If there is a heaven for boxers, Irish Jerry Quarry is there.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Jerry Quarry -VS- Mac Foster 1970 part 1

Jerry Quarry -VS- Mac Foster 1970 part 2

Jerry Quarry -VS- Mac Foster 1970 part 3

Jerry Quarry | Earnie Shavers 1/2

Jerry Quarry | Earnie Shavers 2/2

Jerry Quarry vs Joe Alexander 1974

Joe Frazier vs Jerry Quarry II 1974J

Ken Norton vs Jerry Quarry - Part 1 of 3

Ken Norton vs Jerry Quarry - Part 2 of 3

Ken Norton vs Jerry Quarry - Part 3 of 3

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  1. charles bernal 09:31pm, 09/10/2013

    Jerry was in a boxing time when size was transitioning to being 200 pds or more. Marciano fought below 200 pds during his career as champion and hitting anywhere above 190 was considered too big at one time. Quarry when he fought fights under 200 such as the Mac Foster fight he did very well. But as Ali, Norton, Foreman, Frazier came along easily over 200 for their fights, Quarry looked like a light-heavyweight compared to them in their prime. Quarry fought against them with pure guts, Foreman admitted that he avoided Quarry due to this with the fear he just might get lucky. The later era of his fighting career was too enriched with large highly boxing skilled fighter. He was able to get through a few in the top ten but not the champion elite. His best chance was the Ellis fight.

  2. Eric 09:18am, 07/15/2012

    For those who really don’t know boxing or Jerry Quarry, the image they have of this tremendous fighter is a man who was used as a punching bag for Ali and Frazier. Most only know Quarry by his defeats and know little or nothing at all about his victories. The first Frazier fight was voted fight of the year for 1969. Quarry gave Joe all he wanted in the first round and even by fighting Frazier’s fight. Quarry had abandoned his counterpunching style and had elected to go toe to toe with boxing’s premier slugger at that time. Quarry’s thin skin betrayed him, but not his heart in his gallant effort against one of boxing’s best heavyweight fighters in the history of the sport. People need to watch not only the Mac Foster and Earnie Shavers fights, but also Quarry’s fights against Floyd Patterson, Buster Mathis, Ron Lyle, Thad Spencer. Quarry’s only blemish on the aforementioned opponents was a draw against Patterson, and his victory over the favored much larger Lyle was a masterful performance where Quarry completely outboxed the favored Lyle for an easy victory. Of course Quarry seemed like he never could quite win the big one, but few realize he fought Jimmy Ellis with cracked vertabrae in his back but still managed to lose a close decision. Another fight that baffles many was the fight with contendor and fellow white hope George Chuvalo. Quarry was easily outboxing his game but outclassed opponent when suddenly Chuvalo landed a hard but not particularly devasting punch high oh Quarry’s forehead in the middle rounds. Quarry went down but instantly got up, but curiously then dropped to one knee and allowed himself to misjudge the count and fail to get up in time. Quarry had swollen Chuvalo’s face and had appeared to be cruising to an easy decision when this totally bizarre ending to this fight occured.

  3. Rotoscope 01:46pm, 09/12/2011

    Jerry’s physical change between his retirement in 1972, when he lost to Ali, until early 1973 when he came back against Lyle, was due to his casual cocaine use.  During this six month period, Jerry toured as an apprentice manager for the rock band Three Dog Night and got caught up in the excess.  The use of hard drugs, even casually, changes people physically.  Jerry’s weight gain was a typical result of this.  Once the bloating sets in, it’s very hard to reverse.  There’s also a lethargy that comes when one stops using, which why so many people remain addicted.  Sadly, there was no science or medicine at the time to help athletes deal with substance abuse in the 1970s.  Jerry had a drinking problem later in life, but I do not believe he was an addict.  His dementia set in later as well and was likely not a cause of his slow down after the Shavers fight.  He was apparently a casual user during his late career and even that amount was enough to take the winning edge off this great athlete.

  4. The Thresher 05:03am, 08/31/2011

    Kent, good observations. I agree.

  5. The Thresher 05:01am, 08/31/2011

    Never saw Quarry-Mathis.

  6. Kurt 04:11am, 08/31/2011

    Has anybody ever seen Jerry’s fight with Buster Mathis? That may have been Jerry at his fighting peak. Mathis was a big betting favorite, however Jerry punished him in every round and won going away.

  7. Kent 07:24pm, 08/30/2011

    A lot of people say Gil Clancy was a great cornerman but I think he did more harm than good in two key later fights in Jerry Quarry’s career. 

    In both the second Frazier fight and the Norton fight he didn’t protect his fighter and while the referees were also at fault for not stopping the fights sooner a good cornerman knows how to say no to his own fighter even to a fighter with a much heart as Jerry Quarry.

    I believe that Jerry should have never been allowed off of the stool in round five in both of these fights or at least after the first 30 seconds of round five when it was clear he was taking too much punishment.

  8. The Thresher 06:54am, 08/30/2011

    Re Jerry’s corner, that was always a big issue. Not when Gil Clancy was in it, but when his dad whas there because his dad often would allow Jerry to be lured into a brawl. That’s where the unncecssary punishment came in. That, and the fact Jerry often spared without head gear.

  9. The Thresher 06:51am, 08/30/2011

    Great post. What’s your real name?

  10. Your Name 06:43am, 08/30/2011

    very under-rated heavyweight; ironically, you could argue that quarry has been under-appreciated (as opposed to over-rated) because he’s white. I always felt that he had a shot against early-prime Frazier if he’d simply boxed Frazier a bit more; that would not have been easy, but clinching a lot on the inside (to negate Frazier’s inside fighting) and counter-punching could have led to success because Frazier was certainly hittable. If Quarry fought Big George and his head was screwed on right, he could have given George a real fight - certainly, a better fight than Frazier gave him. Why? Because I don’t think Quarry would - if he had the right people in his corner -  be stupid enough to stand and exchange with the big guy; it would be hit and run, stick and move, bursts of bunches on the inside (being a smaller man than George could work to his advantage) and, whenever you felt the pressure being ratcheted up, running away from George. The only guy amongst the big 3 I don’t see Quarry ever beating - no matter how smart he fights or how well he game-plans - is Ali: too big, too fast, terrific chin, the constant movement, and too much athleticism. Ali had technical flaws that Quarry could have exploited from time to time (he was always a sucker for a good left hook) but Jerry didn’t have the fire power to REALLY hurt Ali a la Frazier. In any case, Quarry was easily one of the 5 best heavyweights in the world for a considerable length of time during the division’s golden era; in most other eras - save for those dominated by all-time great champions - he would have been HW champion (and a good champion, too).

  11. The Thresher 06:20am, 08/30/2011

    Agreed. My mistake. I meant the first fight.

  12. Michael 06:15am, 08/30/2011

    I don’t know if I would called Frazier v Quarry II a fight where, “both fighters dished out and absorbed meaningful punishment”. If you watch it poor Jerry was badly beaten up from the opening bell.

  13. The Thresher 06:06am, 08/30/2011

    Yes, Jerry was a superb amateur.

  14. L.L. Cool John 07:39pm, 08/29/2011

    An amazing statistic: Jerry Quarry came to notice by winning the 1965 National Golden Gloves championship in Kansas City at age 19. He knocked out each of his five opponents—a feat still unmatched before or since.

  15. The Thresher 05:27pm, 08/29/2011

    Thanks, Sharkie. Much appreciated.

  16. pugknows 03:32pm, 08/29/2011

    Very moving, Ted. Almost brought tears to my eyes. I know you were a great friend of Jerry’s.

  17. Sharkie 02:34pm, 08/29/2011

    That was an EXCELLENT read Ted! This was some of your finest work yet. Boxing is in fact a deal with the devil and Quarry suffered like so many big time champions do in the long run after absorbing so many shots to the head. Boxing is a dangerous sport and fans should recognize the risk two men take when they step into the ring. I like the humanity of this piece, as is common in all your work I’ve read. Good job Ted!

  18. Tex Hassler 01:59pm, 08/29/2011

    Thanks for pointing out that Quarry beat some real top contenders and always put up a fight. Jerrry Quarry might have been a champion if he had fought in another era but he fought during the golden years of the heavyweight division and usually came out on top. Jerry was one of my favorite fighters so this great article is really appreciated. Quarry like many before him just did not know when to quit the fight business. Thanks Mr. Sares for remembering a truly great fighter.

  19. Pugknows 09:30am, 08/29/2011

    A masterpiece.

  20. dollar bill 08:14am, 08/29/2011

    A gem of an article.  Great read.

  21. The Thresher 05:13am, 08/29/2011

    John, so good to see you on here. I expect the final edit this week.

  22. The Thresher 05:12am, 08/29/2011

    err, thanks

  23. The Thresher 05:10am, 08/29/2011

    Thanks, mates

  24. Iron Beach 04:21am, 08/29/2011

    ‘Nother great piece Ted and I love the accompanying videos…puts you at the fight you’re discussing. Jerry had a “short peak” imo, but the lad could fight a little. Met his brother Mike and saw him fight in Orlando a few times, too bad he didn’t inherit Jerry’s power. Thanks Bull.

  25. Joe 03:40am, 08/29/2011

    Jerry Q was a very good fighter during a time when the Heavyweight Division ruled.  (The timing for him to win it all just wasn’t meant to be - but he was a real fighter.)  The man could take it that’s for sure.  And his brother Mike wasn’t bad either.

  26. john coiley 01:42am, 08/29/2011

    I was a avid fan of Irish Jerry Quarry, saddened immensely when his career and lifestyle spun uncharacteristicly of the fighting gentleman he was trying to maintain the appearance of the fighter he once was. Character personified.

  27. The Thresher 07:04pm, 08/28/2011

    More tomorrow , lads.

  28. The Thresher 07:03pm, 08/28/2011

    If you’ve got problems on a CAT scan, you’re too darn late…
    Dr. Battaglia of Oregon, “Too Many Punches, Too Little Concern.” SI Vault. 4-11-83

  29. The Thresher 07:02pm, 08/28/2011

    While other injuries such as cuts and fractures can be repaired, brain tissue, once damaged, remains damaged. The boxer can recover from a broken nose; however, severe brain damage is permanent. More than a single blow or knockout punch, it is the accumulation of punches, endured over a period of time, both in actual fights and during the many rounds of gym training.

  30. The Thresher 07:01pm, 08/28/2011

    People with this kind of mental damage are sometimes described as being punch-drunk or punchy. Those words are both demeaning and terribly misleading. A better way to describe it is to use diagnostic terms such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). 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. But plainly stated, it is dementia pugilistica (aka boxer 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 is horrific.

    Boxers with dementia pugilistica can also exhibit symptoms resembling other degenerative disorders, including: Parkinsonism (which Muhammad Ali showed signs of at age 38 and was diagnosed with in 1984), Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and Kluver-Bucy syndrome.

  31. The Thresher 07:00pm, 08/28/2011

    Raxman, I can tell you this. PD takes about 12-14 years to show its ugly sysmptoms which means you can contract it while still fighting and then it pops up after you retire. It is irreversible and deadly and makes you a dead man walking. It is horrific.

  32. The Thresher 06:56pm, 08/28/2011

    Pavel, the odds were very close if I recall correctly. Joe was on the downswing while Jerry appeared to have recovered well from his loss to Ali and was on a nice win streak. Alexander almost rained on Jerry’s parade. BTW, if you want to see how Jerry deteriorated over the years, watch the two Frazier fights. The first one was incredible—simply incredible.

  33. raxman 06:50pm, 08/28/2011

    Pavel - I’ve watched the Ellis-Quarry fight and I can’t really pick a winner - I do know Quarry was certainly coming home the stronger fighter - oh for the days of depth within the heavyweight ranks. That’s interesting re: the gene thing - a few months ago there was a news item that carried over a few day (down under) about American footballers even at college level suffering what is described as pugilistic dementia - the story went that there would even be high school footballers with the early stages - I didnt really pay the story much attention but there was some footballer who willed his brain to be examined - Can anyone get on and can enlighten in more detail?

  34. The Thresher 06:48pm, 08/28/2011

    I just can’t bear watching Quarry-Chuvalo. Jerry was out of shape and misread the count. It was awful but he only had himself to blame.

  35. Pavel 06:47pm, 08/28/2011

    Does anyone know what the betting odds were for Quarry-Frazier #2? I vaguely remember reading—when I was a kid—that Quarry was actually a slight betting favorite going into that bout. If so, I can understand why: Frazier was perceived as being on the downside, after his bouts with Foreman, Bugner, and Ali, while Quarry was thought to be in his prime, coming off a series of big wins. Can anyone elaborate on the odds?

  36. The Thresher 06:46pm, 08/28/2011

    Pavel, I’m not sure I agree with the following:

    As for the pugilistica dementia, authorities believe it has a genetic basis. Boxers who inherit a certain gene, supposedly, are at risk of damage. Boxers that don’t inherit the gene supposedly fare much better, health wise. This would explain why some bulldog types who get hit a lot finish long careers without any signs of damage (Chuvalo, LaMatta) while some defensive wizards (Benitez) suffer trauma.

    Buy it was true for the Quarrys. Even Bob has Parkinson’s. And it was also true for the Moyers. Still, I am not convinced about the genetic thing.

  37. The Thresher 06:42pm, 08/28/2011

    raxman, thanks. I share that love for Jerry. The issue of pugilistica dementia is still very much with us and is not only in boxing. I have written a number of articles on this subject. I suggest you get the documentary “After the Last Round.” You can get it by emailing the Retried Boxers Foundation. That one will chill you and stay with you forever.

  38. The Thresher 06:39pm, 08/28/2011

    Pavel, Quarry got stiffed against Ellis, but really lost the fight based on the difference in corners. Dundee vs. Jack Quarry was simply no contest.

  39. The Thresher 06:38pm, 08/28/2011

    Agreed. Quarry got cut up badly by Joe and the ref, Joe Louis, should have stopped the fight earlier. Joe seemed to be in a haze.

  40. Pavel 06:36pm, 08/28/2011

    Raxman: Quarry-Ellis is a fantastic fight. Great action, competitive, and fascinating from the perspective of skill and strategy. Both guys excelled that night. I think Jimmy won legitimately. It was close, but Ellis rightfully won by a round or two. As for the pugilistica dementia, authorities believe it has a genetic basis. Boxers who inherit a certain gene, supposedly, are at risk of damage. Boxers that don’t inherit the gene supposedly fare much better, health wise. This would explain why some bulldog types who get hit a lot finish long careers without any signs of damage (Chuvalo, La Motta) while some defensive wizards (Benitez) suffer trauma.

  41. raxman 06:29pm, 08/28/2011

    Nice read Ted - I love Quarry too – I was just a kid when his prime was over but I remember my old man and his mates talking about him being robbed in the Ellis fight. I recently watched some 90’s American news show (on youtube) that broke my heart – there was Quarry being looked after by the only brother who didn’t go pro (or maybe didn’t have much of a pro career), while Jerry and his other brothers were all crippled with pugilistic dementia. I wonder if today’s fighters are protected from this horrible outcome - with the 12 rounds, the quicker stoppages and the fewer fights per year. i once knew an old Italian ex-boxer, semi- homeless guy here in Melbourne (I say semi coz he spent a lot of time in jail and/or the nuthouse), he fought in the 60’s - the boom time of oz boxing - he had over 150 pro fights - in one year he had 54 pro fights. At 60 he was in ok shape physically, he didnt have that shuffle or even the heel rock that some get, but his mind was completely gone. I know a lot of us fans scream foul at the inactivity of today’s fighters but seeing how Quarry ended up (and broke as well) makes me think it’s not so bad.

  42. Pavel 06:28pm, 08/28/2011

    I wish somone would post the second half of the Quarry-Chuvalo fight on youtube. The current version only goes through round three or four. Incidentally, I’m impressed with Chuvalo’s effort: he’s losing the fight, but he doesn’t look bad at all. Nice jab, impressive rough-stuff on the inside.

  43. Pavel 06:27pm, 08/28/2011

    In my view, Frazier-Quarry #1 was awesome action; Jerry put up a whale of a fight, giving as good as he took for the first few rounds. Possibly Quarry was at his physical and mental peak as a boxer at that point, 1969. I thought he won the first round, shared the second, and put on an excellent losing effort in rounds three and four. After that, Quarry hanging in there on guts. Quarry’s inside counterpunching—the way he drew opponents into slugging so that he could suddenly unload beautifully executed, fast, powerful combos to the head and body—was on full display against Frazier that night. Quarry’s only problem was that he was fighting one of history’s great heavyweight champions in Frazier.

  44. The Thresher 06:21pm, 08/28/2011

    This is kind of tough to watch but I recommend it:

  45. The Thresher 06:20pm, 08/28/2011

    Points taken, Pavel. The Frazier fight featured some of the most incredible mano a mano I ever witnessed.

  46. The Thresher 06:17pm, 08/28/2011

    Here is the link for the Sports Illustrated article:

  47. Pavel 06:07pm, 08/28/2011

    Bull: I’ve been studying Quarry’s films lately; what coincidence that you put this article out. Anyway, based on what I saw, I can’t help but wonder if Quarry was over-the-hill as early as 1973, when he fought Ron Lyle. Sure, Quarry beat Lyle clearly enough, but I though he looked faded athletically. In this fight, I did not see the same hand or foot speed, or the same degree of vitality, that Jerry exhibited in earlier wins. I can’t help but wonder if Quarry beat Lyle strictly on superior experience, and nothing else. As for Shavers, Jerry cracked him early with some serious bombs, and that was it for Earnie. We didn’t get a chance to see if Quarry’s old zip, his reflexes and vitality, were there or not. Finally, concerning the Frazier fight in june, 1974, Quarry is unquestionably a shot fighter. Great article, but I disagree with your claim that Frazier took serious punishment in fight #2: Joe absorbed Jerry shots like a battleship deflecting BB’s.

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