Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Decade-long quest to find Rocky Lockridge

Courtesy: The Star-Ledger

by Todd Schmerler/For The Star-Ledger June 27, 2009 9:51PM

It's hard to pinpoint exactly why I became fascinated with Rocky Lockridge.

Maybe it was because, like me, he was from New Jersey. Maybe it was because he was a consummate underdog, at 5' 5" short even for a featherweight. Maybe it was because he was on the undercard of one of the first fight cards I attended at Ice World in Totowa and won by first-round knockout, then autographed my program afterward.

Whatever the reason, I was a teenager in the mid-1980s as Rocky rose from local attraction to title contender to world champion. For a while, I was all about boxing and all about Rocky Lockridge, regaling bored high school friends with stories about how great he was.

Take Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Larry Holmes, I would say. I'll take Rocky.

Ten years ago I decided to look him up, perhaps for a feature story, but also out of curiosity. Whatever happened to Rocky, I wondered, who would have been about 40 at the time. Working in the sports department, I figured it would be easy to find him. The Internet turned up no relevant information so I turned to the Lexis Nexis system, which reveals phone numbers and addresses for anyone who has applied for almost anything -- driver's license, mortgage, even a credit card.

Nothing came up.

I gave up and moved on to something else, but Rocky stayed in the back of my mind. Once a year I would go back to Lexis Nexis, back to the Internet, hoping for a nugget of information that would lead me to Rocky.

Year after year I came up empty, and after close to a decade of wondering, I gave up.

Then, last year, a breakthrough.

I had joined the social networking craze known as Facebook to get back in touch with some old friends, and just for kicks I did a search for Rocky Lockridge.

Bingo -- sort of. A Ricky Lockridge came up, located in the D.C. area. Ricky was Rocky's given name, so I sent a message to Ricky's inbox, asking if he knew Rocky.

The answer came back: "He's my dad. Do you know Rocky Lockridge?"

I let him know that I was a reporter looking for Rocky to write a story about him, and I would love to get his phone number, or at least his whereabouts -- at least what state he lived in. I didn't hear back for about a month, but then Ricky Lockridge let me in on what was going on.

He had not heard a word from his father in 15 years, but just a few weeks prior to my making contact, Ricky had heard from a mail carrier in Camden named Orlando Pettigrew that Rocky was homeless, living on the streets of Camden. Ricky put me in touch with Orlando.

A couple weeks later I drove down to Camden to meet Rocky. Orlando told me his story, that he had heard that a world boxing champion from the '80s was living on the streets of his city, and went and found him, helped him, gave him food, tried to get him into a shelter and tracked down and contacted his son.

Orlando, who seems to know everyone in Camden, found Rocky for me. Though dirty and hungry, Rocky was gracious and polite. He had been on the streets for 10 years and walked with a four-pronged cane after suffering a stroke, he said, three years prior.

He allowed me to interview him for over an hour. Afterward I went home, thinking about how nice it is just to have a home to go to.

Courtesy: The Star-Ledger


brian said...

Michael Jackson who...?

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