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Mike Quarry, 55; Boxer Fought in His Brother's Shadow

June 13, 2006|Steve Springer | Times Staff Writer

Light heavyweight Mike Quarry, who boxed for 14 years but could never fight his way out from under the shadow of his more celebrated brother Jerry, has died. He was 55.

Quarry died Sunday at the Seasons, an assisted-living community in La Habra. Mike, who tried to emulate his older brother in life, emulated him in death as well, succumbing to pugilistic dementia, said his sister, Wilma Pearson.

Jerry, a renowned heavyweight, died of the same cause in 1999 at the age of 53.

"He started not being able to talk or walk three months ago," Pearson said, referring to Mike.

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

Mike Quarry had a record of 63-13-6 with 17 knockouts in a career that stretched from 1969 to 1982. But unlike today, when there are many sanctioning bodies offering titles, fewer options existed when Quarry fought.

"He was a pretty good fighter who just came along in the wrong era," promoter Don Fraser said.

In 1972, he got one title shot, against Bob Foster, for the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. light heavyweight crowns. He lost on a fourth-round knockout.

"He felt like he never reached success because he never won the light heavyweight championship," Robert Pearson said.

Pearson said Foster told him that Mike Quarry was probably the best fighter he ever faced.

Quarry's brother fought Muhammad Ali on the same night in Las Vegas on a card billed as the Soul Brothers vs. the Quarry Brothers. Jerry Quarry also lost.

Mike had to settle for a title from a minor sanctioning organization and several state championships. Even harder, however, was settling for second-class status in his own family.

"He always felt like he didn't have his own identity," Robert 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

Nor did Jerry make it easy on him. Publicist Bill Caplan remembers the tough sparring sessions the two brothers had.

"Mike was a boxer while Jerry was a puncher," Caplan said. "Jerry had that great left hook and he would really whack his brother around. I remember saying to him, 'Jerry, Jerry, that's your brother.' And he said, 'We are working together.'

"Mike was a real nice kid, but he just couldn't punch like his brother."

In a family that consisted of four boys and an equal number of girls, punching seemed like a normal method of communication. Another brother, Bobby, also boxed professionally and their father Jack, who had the letters H-A-R-D L-U-C-K tattooed on his knuckles, claimed to have boxed as well.

The Quarry family became legendary for fights at the Olympic Auditorium that were not confined to the ring.

"Those were family fights," remembered promoter Don Chargin at the time of Jerry's death. "Somebody would start it inside and the whole family would be involved by the time it spilled out into the parking lot."

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

Mike will be buried in Shafter, Calif., in the shadow of Jerry's grave.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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