Saturday, May 23, 2009

Sparring With Mike Quarry

By Randy De La O

In an earlier post by Rick Farris, he mentions that Jerry Quarry was hard on his younger brother Mike, bullying him and roughing him up when they sparred and more or less taking advantage of the size and weight difference.

In the above article about Jerry Quarry and Joey Orbillo by Pete Ehrmann, Ehrmann says this "In the last round, with the fight in hand, Quarry dropped his hands and did an imitation of ali dancing around the ring. the crowd loved it, but Quarry says he wasn't showing off."

Both the bulling and Ali shuffling clear up something, more or less, from 1976 when I sparred with Mike Quarry. I don't remember the date but it was sometime in the middle of the year. I had yet to have a fight.

Mike Quarry showed up at the Main Street Gym one day. This was the first time I had seen him at the gym since I had been training there and I had been there for at least a year and a half. Mike carried himself like a pro. His mannerisms, the way he walked and the way he dressed. He was wearing a light blue three piece suit that day. I was skipping rope when he came through the doors. From where I was standing, Mike cut a pretty imposing figure. I immediately recognized him.

No sooner did he come through the door then he and my trainer, Mel Epstein, had eye contact. They talked for a few minutes, then Mel walked over to me in that slightly bent and rapid pace way that he did whenever he felt rushed. "You're gonna spar with Mike Quarry today" he said to me. "He wants to work with someone smaller and faster than him-you okay with that?" Yeah, I'm okay with it" I said. "Okay, Keep warming up" and he walked away.

A few minutes later I was getting geared up for sparring, putting on the cup, head gear and wraps and gloves. Mel was putting Vaseline on my face and says to me "Don't try to slug with him, it's just a workout, and don't get nervous just because it's Quarry". I'm not nervous Mel" I said, and I wasn't.

As soon as I stepped in the ring, Mike started teeing off on me. He came at me as if I was someone that he hated. It took me a minute to realize that Mike was not playing around. I immediately had a bloody nose. I was doing my best to keep him off me and I never took a backward step. When the bell went off and I went to the corner, Mel was livid. "That f*cking bastid is cutting you with his laces". I hadn't noticed but I remember saying "Mel. He wouldn't do that". "F*ck it, I'm pulling you out-he can find someone else." "Mel. don't do it" I was serious. Normally I went along with whatever Mel wanted but I was firm on this. It was a matter of pride.

We sparred about four or five rounds that day and Mike was really laying it on thick. I was being pummeled. I got in a few licks though but for the most part I was just a punching bag.

When we were done sparring, Mike was back to his old self, smiling and joking. The picture of affability. I don't think I have ever seen Mel so angry. He used every curse word he could think of and probably created a few just for the occasion. After I was done getting dressed I walked back to the floor to wait for Mel. Mike walks up to me and says "tomorrow?" Yeah sure, no problem"

The next day my friend Ken Robledo came with me. I think he wanted to see Mike kick my ass. If so, he wasn't disappointed. It was a repeat of the first day only more so. Again Mel was pissed off. I know that Mel never really cared for the Quarrys. He always thought that they had a negative influence on middleweight Mike Nixon, at least that's what he told me. So for Mel, it was just one more thing to be angry about. When I was cleaned up and ready to go, my friend Ken walks up to me and said "Man, Quarry really kicked your ass" Yeah, well..." was all could muster. "You never took a backward step though, I'll give you that".

The third and last day was more of the same. Still I was looking for some payback, just a little bit. My chance came when Mike finished teeing off on my head. The funny thing is no matter how many times Mike landed, and he did land, he never really hurt me. He overwhelmed me at times but never hurt me. He dropped his hands to his sides and did the Ali shuffle and stuck out his chin. The guy was mocking me and was probably expecting me to be awed or intimidated, instead I threw the best right hand I have ever thrown or ever will. It landed flush on his chin. His eyes rolled up and flickered and he fell against the ropes. I know I hurt him. As I rushed him trying my best to at least end this sparring session with some dignity, the guy that was working his corner called an end to the sparring. Then Mike started acting funny. He started shaking his ass and laughing the way a fighter does when he wants to show the other guy he wasn't hurt. I hate to say it but he was acting like a jerk. I think he was embarrassed.

Mel walks up to me and said "You knocked that f*cking bastid out on his feet". "I don't think so Mel, I think he was kidding" "Bullshit, he was hurt.

Later after we showered Mike came up to me and said "Randy, thanks for the workout-I had a harder workout with you than most light heavyweights". "Thanks Mike, I had a harder workout with you than most welterweights!" Maybe Mike was just being polite, I don't know, but coming from him it was quite a compliment.

Evey word was true. It took me three f*cking days but I caught him and I know I hurt him, just a little. More importantly, at least to me, I never took a backward step.


brian said...

(RIP Mike Quarry)...this is sorta how I remember his fight against Bob Foster.

Unknown said...

I must say I am puzzled.
I sparred with Mike fairly often in the middle and late sixties, and I never had any negative experiences with him.
He and I were fairly close in skill and physical ability, so, he couldn't have roughed me up if he tried, maybe that is why I didn't feel his sparring was particularly tough.

We fought once, in Bellflower, the year his brother Jerry won the Olympics, he won a very close split

Before the fight he said, "We're friends and all, but in the ring, we aren't friends any more."

It was a good fight, he was tough, rang my bell once, as I recall, but I probably landed more shots.

Jerry, who I also sparred with, was much larger than I was.
He was always gentle, but he was so big and powerful that his jabs were like hammer blows.
He pulled his punches with the smaller fighters, though.

Now, I freely admit.
I idolized him.
It was like being in the ring with a super star.
But as I say, he seemed truly gentle.
I find it hard to believe that he went after Mike with any reason other than trying to make Mike a better fighter.

I did enjoy the article, thanks

Anonymous said...

Sparring with Mike Quarry was a little different for me. I loved that guy, he was tough, funny, serious when he had to be, and had the coolest JUDGE...GTO BRIGHT ORANGE, and most of our sparring was in that car heading to the main st. gym in beautiful downtown Los Angeles. i was 15 yrs old at this time, mike i believe was 18 or close to it. We would be cruising down the freeway, radio blasting with APPLE, PEACHES, PUMKIN PIE, then a quick bare knuckle shot to my head, in which mike thought was pretty funny, (it was kinda) but after about 12 shots, well, we were at the gym, meeting Jerry for sparring. Now, it was just Jerry, mike, and myself in the gym, no headgear, tore up maroon gloves, and the heat was on. I would watch Jerry beat the sht out of Mike, due to size, power, sheer meaness to Mike, who couldn't do anything about it. Jerry would laugh, Mike would spit blood, and continue until a real fight would almost break out. Ya, your gonna have to take my word for it, because Mike and Jerry are both gone RIP champs, and it's just me telling you all, so....but it's true. Jerry was a gentle guy outside the ring, but not gentle to Mike.
A love hate thing i guess. JERRY QUARRY'S NUETRAL CORNER sponsored my pony league baseball team in
downey. this was the name of Jerry's bar in bellflower. yes, a bar sponsored us. MY Sister dated mike for awhile, although he spent vmore time with me. i was in love with wilma quarry, the sister, but she only liked me, to young, by 1 year. my little brother hung out with mikes little bro, my mom baby sat while those 2 tore up the house,. Mr.Quarry, Jack, got me my first fight at the Olympic auditorium in downtown L.A against tim hieghtcamp. what an experience. I could go on but i won't. I do know what mike went through and felt because he told me. Mike did love Jerry though, and i loved Dan Verdugo Boxing trainer for Avery Psycho Vilche Pro boxer in Red Bluff Ca.

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