To Live and Die in LA

By Ted Sares on April 28, 2013
To Live and Die in LA
Curry vs. Brooks affirmed what hardcore boxing fans and aficionados already knew.

Curry was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. However, he was found innocent by reason of insanity…

“Boxing was on the one hand barbaric, unconscionable, out of place in modern society. But then, so are war, racism, poverty, and pro football. Men died boxing, yet there was nobility in defending oneself.”—Ralph Wiley from his book, “Serenity”

The 1970s was a great decade of peace and love. The radical ideas of the ‘60s gained acceptance and were eventually mainstreamed and assimilated into American life and culture. The ‘70s proved to be a sharply different and more tranquil time. While American culture flourished, disco ducks quacked. Unlike the ‘60s, the ‘70s was the “Me Decade.” Activism switched to activities for one’s own pleasure. Far Out, Man!

In boxing, the ‘70s later became known as the Golden Age of Heavyweights with Ali, Foreman, Frazier, Norton, Quarry, Chuvalo, Lyle, Shavers, Patterson, and other big boppers doing their thing. A guy named Wepner ostensibly inspired the invention of a guy named Balboa.

Dementia pugilistica (boxer’s syndrome) becomes more noticeable though it has been around since the beginning of the sport. It is horrific because it develops over a period of years, with the average time of onset being about twelve to sixteen years after a fighter retires. And there is no turning back once it arrives.

Big boxing matches were televised free on Saturday afternoons and became events with the operative word being “free.” Roberto Duran and Danny “Little Red” Lopez became TV favorites, and the pleasure of watching great boxing blended well with the other aspects of the pleasure-oriented times.

As the ‘70s were coming to an end, I was lucky to watch a fight on TV that reminded me at the time of just how much pleasure I personally received from this thing called boxing.

Monroe Brooks vs. Bruce Curry (1978 at the Olympic Auditorium in LA)

“This is one of the best fights I’ve seen in the last ten years.”—Gil Clancy

“At the signal, unleash hell.”—Russell Crowe from the movie “Gladiator”

Sometimes you watch a bout on TV and don’t really know what to expect. You hope you might be pleasantly surprised, but you don’t know enough about the fighters to work up the anticipation. If Rios fights Alvarado, you get ready because you know what’s coming. If Bradley fights Provodnikov, you prepare for the worst because of Timothy’s heretofore reluctance to engage, but then you get the opposite. This was one of those times and what I would witness would become indelible; indeed, who knew it would become a classic?

Two sage old-school trainers, Gil Clancy and Angelo Dundee, were the commentators, and this made it even more special.

Bruce Curry (16-2 coming in) had been in the pro ranks for only two years (his amateur record, like his brother’s, was an eye-popping 315-11) but he had fought eighteen times, including two with Wilfred Benitez. Thanks to judge Martha Smith’s bizarre scoring of 7-3 for Benitez, Curry lost a split decision in 1977 even though he decked Benitez three times. He then lost an MD to him a year later when he gassed in the late rounds. Both fights were in the Garden. After beating the infamous Luis Resto, the stage was set for his bout with crafty Monroe Brooks (38-3-3 coming in).

Brooks, whose main port of call was California, was a six-year pro with a superb amateur record. He also was a close “on-again off-again” friend of Curry’s (both even shared an apartment in LA). But in this fight, the friendship was definitely off. In fact, given a variety of competitive-based issues, it’s safe to say they hated each other going in. As writer Lee Groves put it, “…the object wasn’t just victory. It was their opportunity to inflict legalized violence on each other – and be paid for the privilege. What madness could have occurred to transform a sporting event into a blood war? According to Jesse Reid, who was Curry’s trainer and manager, it was a combination of competitive instincts – both in and out of the ring – a clash of personalities and a managerial situation that only stoked the fires.” (“Closet Classic: Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks.” November 6, 2007)

Brooks had lost a bid for the junior welterweight title to Saensak Muangsurin in Thailand in 1977 in the fifteenth round. Muangsurin was decked in the third round; Brooks was down in both the fourteenth and fifteenth rounds.

Monroe was heavy-handed, threw wicked hooks to the body, and knew his way around the ring. He had five KOs in a row coming in. He also possessed a warrior mentality. Fighting mostly out of Sacramento, he put together a nineteen-fight undefeated streak right out of the professional gate.

The Fight

“In the ninth round of Curry vs. Brooks, the outcome was in doubt. Curry had a slight edge, but Brooks could conceivably pull the fight out.”—Greg Smith (Fight

“Despite all the shit we put on between the two of us, I have to confess, tonight he was the better man. Maybe the next time, I might be the better man but tonight he was the better man. I hope Bruce a lot of success in the future.”—Monroe Brooks

“Monroe, I thank you very much for the good compliment. You were tough too, you were tough. You came out and you were loading up and I was trying to wait to counterpunch and I caught you at the right time on the button.”—Bruce Curry

For those who witnessed the first round of the Daniel Ponce de Leon vs. Sod Looknongyangtoy fight in July 2006 or the fifth round of the incredible Somsak Sithchatchawal vs. Mahya “Little Tyson” Monshipour savagery also in 2006, Brooks-Curry was like that for almost nine full rounds. They swapped vicious hooks but they did it with a strategic intensity. They both seemed to know what they were doing, even though they gave the impression of engaging in mayhem. The stuff was so subtle, only the most observant boxing fan could detect it. Fortunately, Clancy and Dundee could pick up on the nuances and subtleties.

The exchange of evil-intending hooks and straight shots was incredible, and their ability to continue was a testimony to the shape both warriors were in. This was a street fight on one level and a chess match on another. The sounds of the punches were clearly audible on the television set … “whump, whap, whump whump, whap.” Curry would land with a hook and quickly move laterally and come on with a flurry. Then Brooks would come forward with his own array of pure violence. Even when they missed, you could hear the “whooshing” sounds.

As Greg Smith wrote, in part, in a fine article entitled “Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks: What Gatti vs. Ward Should’ve Been” (Fight World):

“This fight typified the true essence of the gladiator mentality…Both men indeed bombed, but with the sweet scientific moves of feints, shoulder rolls, angles, up jabs, crossover defense, and strategic—instead of reactive—lateral movement applied…Cerebral strategy and tactics combined with all-out warfare. This wasn’t a brutal street brawl where the fighters simply traded off beating on each other. There was method behind the madness of shots designed to end the fight. Every punch and move in the book was executed, and it was becoming readily apparent that something special would determine the outcome of the fight. Wicked body shots, followed by counter shots to the head, a little step to the right, and another left hook to the body. Step away and assess, establish the jab, fire the right hand, roll, slip, counter again. Ultimately, something had to give.”

In the ninth round, it finally happened. Both men exchanged lethal hooks at the same time. It was a Meza-Garza type of exchange and you knew one of them would land. Curry’s was more compact. It got there first, but just barely. Brooks went down flat on his back like he had been hit with a sap. It was a near-decapitation shot like Calvin Brock’s KO of Zuri Lawrence, but the difference here was that Brooks was in great shape and somehow willed himself to get up

Here is how Smith described the sudden end:

“Brooks went down like he was shot. He was flat on his back on the canvas. The announcers and crowd instantly knew the fight was over. Today, most referees would’ve called a halt to the fight immediately. At the Olympic Auditorium in the late 1970s, however, the ref counted. Brooks, in superb condition, somehow instinctively found the heart and will to rise, but in essence, he was unconscious. He was out on his feet. As the ref called a halt while Brooks was still standing but dazed, Curry exhalted in triumph, and Brooks slowly staggered around the ring while his handlers tried to hold him up .As the ref called a halt while Brooks was still standing but dazed, Curry exhalted in triumph, and Brooks slowly staggered around the ring while his handlers tried to hold him up…Brooks didn’t receive commensurate notice, and is virtually forgotten today.”

While I witnessed this extraordinary fight on free television and discussed it at great length with fellow boxing fans the following Monday at work, apparently few others did. Somehow, it inexplicably faded into obscurity and was virtually forgotten until YouTube and videos resurrected it and affirmed what hardcore boxing fans and aficionados already knew.


“Bruce basically just wandered around the streets until it was time for boxing practice.”—Brooks

Neither man died in L.A. They both lived on, but in different ways.

After a KO loss to Roberto Duran in 1978, Brooks went on a 10-fight undefeated streak before losing his last three to Ronnie Shields, Saoul Mamby, and Vilomar Fernandez, respectively. He finished in 1983 with a fine record of 48-8-4 and now is said to live in Los Angeles. Why he is not in the California Boxing Hall of Fame is somewhat of a mystery.

As for Curry, he took the WBC lightweight title from Leroy Haley in 1983, defended it twice, and then lost it to Billy Costello in a wild one in 1984 in Beaumont, Texas.

Paraphrasing Wikipedia, Curry was arrested in Las Vegas on February 2, 1984 after he fired several shots at his trainer, Jessie Reid, following an argument at a gym. He reportedly had fought with Reid after blaming him for his loss to Costello. Curry was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and carrying a concealed weapon. However, he was found innocent by reason of insanity and ordered confined to a mental hospital in Nevada until he was no longer a threat to society. He was released in March 1985 after a team of three psychiatrists said he was no longer mentally ill.

Incredibly, Bruce fought just one more time, defeating Tomas Garcia by a 10-round decision on April 29, 1986, thus ending his career at 35-8. If Brooks is virtually forgotten today, so is Bruce Curry.

Unfortunately, the only thing Bruce seemed to know was boxing and this contributed to his post-boxing troubles. It’s not my wont to point fingers, especially when I don’t have the up-to-date facts. While there may be some worthy people to point at. I’ll leave that to others. In this regard, Richard Hoffer covered the Curry story in a lengthy article titled, “Reality Provided the Knockout Blow to Boxer Who Fought on Heart Alone: For Curry, Ending Was Tragic.” The piece, which appeared in the Los Angeles Times, is dated January 18, 1985. Here is the link:

The ‘70s (sideburns, mustache and all) revitalized and restored my faith in mankind. In a strange way, Monroe Brooks and Bruce Curry put some icing on that cake because of the nobility they displayed in the ring.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part I - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part II - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part III - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part IV - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part V - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part VI - NABF Light Welterweight Title

Bruce Curry vs. Monroe Brooks - Part VII - NABF Light Welterweight Title

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  1. OY 04:51pm, 05/02/2013

    Great to see the old guard keepin’ this stuff alive. Nice.

  2. Ted 03:59pm, 05/02/2013

    I don’t dare surmise, Kid

  3. kid vegas 03:09pm, 05/02/2013

    What is that guy doing behind Curry?

  4. Ted 11:09am, 05/01/2013

    The Olympic was the place to be. Bobby Chacon owned the LA fight scene along with Mando Ramos. The Forum in Inglewood was also great. Bobby fought his first 9 there.Bobby was to LA what Tony DeMarco was to Boston. Arturo Frias was another who fought often at the Olympic. LA still maintains a great bunch of boxing people led by Frank Baltazar who is a great guy.

  5. Mike Casey 08:31am, 05/01/2013

    Yes, Tex, it was a wonderful fight locale back then.

  6. Tex Hassler 08:17pm, 04/30/2013

    Los Angles was a center for boxing and boxing fans in the 60’s and 70’s. Some great fighters called LA home.

  7. Ted 10:35am, 04/30/2013

    How do you know about the 60’s? You were still a dream back then, no?

  8. Ted 10:13am, 04/30/2013

    I loved that movie and the music was cooooool

  9. Don from Prov 09:12am, 04/30/2013

    The movie was different!!!

    I remember this fight—or war.  Very deserving of the “Closet Classic” tag.
    And, yes, Brooks could bomb.
    But, the “radical ideas of the 60s”? What we’ve had since has been radical!

  10. Ted the DJ 07:05pm, 04/29/2013—CwY&v=p8s42fbKjtM&NR=1&feature=endscreen—CwY

  11. Ted 03:28pm, 04/29/2013

    Thanks very much Rax. Like I said, this one helped me get rejuvenated after the crap I went through in the 60s. These guys showed what real men could do in that ring and on some level, I was refreshed to see that. They almost went to the brink with it.

    It was like watching two thoroughbreds in a match race.

  12. raxman 03:20pm, 04/29/2013

    That was fantastic ted. great choice. I love those Curry brothers. Donald’s zenith was right around the time I got into boxing in a serious way (which incidentally was 28 years ago on the 15th of this month) prior to that i’d only had a passing interest in the sport but Donald was one of my favourites. I thought at the time, along with Ray Leonard he was close to the most complete boxer. I missed Bruce but with the advent of youtube have been able to watch his fights and it stills baffles why both brothers didn’t have more impressive careers - they were incredibly talented. I guess it must’ve had a lot to do with outside the ring stuff affecting inside the ring. someone mentioned and was shot down, that Donald curry should’ve made the MMc’s top 100 - but that list was an accomplishment list, were purely talent i’m sure the Donald Curry of 1985, he who shared Haglers ring fighter of the year honours, would be right up there.

  13. Ted 03:18pm, 04/29/2013

    Me too. The kid could rock. Never got his due.

  14. johnny yuma 01:49pm, 04/29/2013

    I was a big Monroe fan.As I was for some very very good fighters around that time. My gosh ,we had Andy (Hawk) Price,Jimmy Heair,Quarry boys,Jesse Burnett, mike NIXON,Lobito MONTOYA,lopez boys,and the guys fighting at the Forum for George Parnassus,Olivares,Napoles,Chu chu Castillo & a ton of Mexican bantys, feathers, Rafael Herrera,Anaya too many to name.

  15. Ted 09:08am, 04/29/2013

    Don’t know Bill. Hope he is ok.

  16. dollarbond 08:59am, 04/29/2013

    An interesting read from start to finish.  I especially liked the way you set the historical stage in the beginning.  Where is Curry today?

  17. Ted 08:57am, 04/29/2013

    So did I Kid

  18. kid vegas 06:35am, 04/29/2013

    I loved the movie
    I loved the music
    I love L.A.
    I loved this article

  19. Robert Ecksel 06:06am, 04/29/2013

    No problem amigo.

  20. Ted 06:01am, 04/29/2013

    Thanks Robert

  21. Mike Casey 05:13am, 04/29/2013

    Great - thanks!

  22. Ted 03:42am, 04/29/2013

    Thanks, Mike1

  23. Mike Casey 02:56am, 04/29/2013

    This fight was a solid gold all time classic and Greg Smith was quite right in distinguishing it from Gatti-Ward. It deserves to be remembered, Ted!

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