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BOXING : Quarry Evokes Images of What Might Have Been

July 28, 1990|EARL GUSTKEY

Once, they were a team. They shared gym time, fighting time, happy time . . . and then there were unhappy times.

In the 1950s, Johnny Flores ran a little gym in Pacoima, where he taught kids how to box. Guys like Flores dreamed of the day when a future champion would walk through the door and ask: "Mister, could you teach me how to box?"

Jerry Quarry was never a champion, but he came close. By the early 1960s, some thought that Quarry, a rugged teen-age amateur from Bellflower, had a shot at being the Los Angeles area's first world heavyweight champion since Jim Jeffries.

But events would show that Quarry--who recently applied, at 45, for a California boxing license--barely fell shy of championship class. In his prime, he showed he could beat any heavyweight in the world except Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, and that was no mark of shame.

For most of those years, Flores managed and trained Quarry until he got into a beef with Quarry's father, Jack. They argued over how much money Quarry should get to fight Ali in 1970. Flores lost the argument, Quarry lost to Ali and Flores lost his heavyweight. He wound up in court in a messy lawsuit with the Quarrys.

Today, Flores, who runs a gym in Los Angeles' old Lincoln Heights Jail, thinks Quarry might have been a champion.

"If Jerry would have just listened to me more in those days, he might have won the title," Flores said. "I still haven't seen anyone with a better left hook than he had. He could really whack. He was always dangerous with that hook. Even in the Ali and Frazier fights, Jerry always had a puncher's chance."

And he's worried, because Quarry, he said, still isn't listening.

"No one that age (now) should box, it's dangerous," Flores said. "Jerry couldn't get the title in his prime. What chance does he have now? All that money out there is what's done this to him, the money Foreman is getting. I could tell him that. But it's immaterial what I or anyone else thinks. Jerry's stubborn. He'll do what he wants."

Quarry has passed the state-required neurological examination to box, and his license application will be considered at the Aug. 17 California Athletic Commission meeting in Sacramento.

In the meantime, Flores remembers with some fondness those heady days in the 1960s when he thought he had a champion.

"Jerry went to the national Golden Gloves in 1965 and knocked everyone out," he said. "He was sensational then; everyone liked him. He turned pro at the Olympic (Auditorium). There were a lot of knockouts. . . . It was an exciting time.

"I started with him, you know, when he was 6 years old, the day his father, Jack, brought him in my gym. I can even remember his little brother, Mike, who became a very good light-heavyweight, running around the gym in diapers."

Sacramento promoter Don Chargin said he is close to wrapping up a fight that he thinks has a chance to be California's all-time box office winner, a Sept. 22 bout matching Jorge Paez, the International Boxing Federation featherweight champion, against Tony Lopez, the IBF junior-lightweight champion.

In the 17,000-seat Arco Arena, Chargin believes that Lopez-Paez can top the $548,000 that Muhammad Ali and Ken Norton drew at the Forum for their 1973 fight, which is still the state record.

Lopez is already a major draw in Sacramento, and Paez has put up impressive TV ratings in recent NBC fights against Troy Dorsey. Lopez's 1988 victory over Rocky Lockridge in Sacramento drew 10,000 and a $340,000 gate. Lopez-Paez would be at 130 pounds for Lopez's championship. Paez, who has had difficulty making 126 pounds, apparently was celebrating his graduation to the junior-lightweights when he was involved in an altercation in Mexicali two weekends ago.

Mexicali police said they were summoned to the Mexican border town's Pasadena neighborhood, where they found Paez in a noisy argument with area residents.

Assistant chief Roberto Gonzalez-Bustamante said Paez was taken to the police station, where he paid a fine.

"We gave him an infraction for driving the wrong way," Gonzalez-Bustamante said, through an interpreter. "He was not drunk; I don't think so."

A markedly different account appeared in a Mexicali newspaper, La Voz de la Frontera.

The article described an ugly confrontation at the intersection of Alamo and Sur Streets in Mexicali's Colonia Bellavista District, during which "one neighbor was about to hit (Paez) with a beer bottle." The newspaper's account also reported that "one resident filed charges against Paez with the police, and that the boxer shortly afterward ran his car into a police car."

Michael Nunn, the middleweight champion from Agoura Hills, wants Angelo Dundee to train him for his Oct. 18 bout against Donald Curry in Paris.

Nunn, who has split from Ten Goose Boxing of Van Nuys, approached Dundee last month in Las Vegas, where Dundee was training Adilson Rodrigues for his ill-fated bout against George Foreman.

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