Former light heavyweight boxer Mike Quarry dies

Updated: June 12, 2006, 8:53 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Mike Quarry, the younger brother of hard-punching heavyweight Jerry Quarry who lost to Bob Foster in his own bid for the light heavyweight title, has died. He was 55.

Quarry died Sunday night at The Seasons in La Habra, an assisted living community where he had been transferred from another Orange County nursing home in recent months, his sister Wilma Pearson told The Associated Press.

"He started not being able to talk or walk three months ago," she said Monday.

Pearson gave the cause of death as pugilistic dementia, the same disease that turned Jerry Quarry into a confused, childlike man before he died at 53 in 1999.

"His brain was atrophying in many areas," said Robert Pearson, Quarry's brother-in-law.

Ken Garnett, community director of The Seasons, confirmed Quarry's death, although he declined to provide the cause.

Quarry had a professional record of 63-13-6 with 17 knockouts in a career that lasted from 1969 to 1982.

He brought a 36-0 record into the biggest fight of his career against Foster on June 6, 1972, in Las Vegas.

Foster knocked out Quarry in the fourth round for the light heavyweight title. Their bout was the co-feature on a card featuring heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Jerry Quarry, who also lost.

Mike Quarry went on to fight another 10 years, but the loss to Foster haunted him.

"He felt like he never reached success because he never won the light heavyweight championship," said Robert Pearson, who recalled attending a Boxing Hall of Fame induction for Foster several years ago.

"Bob told me and my wife and Michael that he was probably the best fighter Bob ever faced," said Pearson, who occasionally sparred with his brother-in-law.

"As a boxer, he probably was the smoothest thing that ever donned gloves," Pearson said. "He was silk."

Quarry carried another burden throughout his life: being known as Jerry's little brother.

"He always felt like he didn't have his own identity," Pearson said. "At one time, Michael said, 'They might as well put on my epitaph: Here lies Jerry Quarry's little brother.' He would always look at his brother and feel like the public treated him like he's not Jerry."

Michael lacked the hard punch that was the hallmark of Jerry's career, Pearson said.

"Michael was a lot better boxer, but he would have to go the distance," Pearson said. "He would have to take a lot of the abuse you do when you go the distance."

Michael Quarry won the NABF light heavyweight championship in 1971 and also won state titles in California and Texas.

He was the third-youngest brother in an Irish-American family that produced four boxing sons, including Jimmy and Jerry, who both preceded Michael in death.

He first donned a pair of boxing gloves at age 8 and gained his amateur boxing license at 17. He had an amateur record of 22-2-2, according to Jerry Quarry's Web site.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen; mother, Arwanda Quarry; youngest brother, Bobby, who also boxed; and sisters Diana, Janet and Wilma.

Quarry will be buried in Shafter, Calif., near Jerry's grave.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press