Boxer "Irish" Jerry Quarry (53-9-4), who not only "could have been" but was a contender for the heavyweight title — three times — ran a boxing camp at the Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon in the 1980s.
Here he is featured in The Ring magazine after an attention-getting 12-round decision over 1964 U.S. Olympian Buster Mathis on March 24, 1969.
World Boxing Hall of Famer and onetime Saugus resident Jerry Quarry (1945-1999), the No. 1 contender three times for the heavyweight title in the late 1960s-early 1970s, who amassed a 53-9-4 career record despite two losses apiece to Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, worked out and ran a training camp for younger boxers at the Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon in the early 1980s.
Known for his big chin and his punch resistance, "Irish" Jerry Quarry, aka the Bellflower Bomber, was born May 15, 1945, in Bakersfield, and was already winning boxing trophies at age 8. He went pro in 1965 and often fought at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles. His first professional loss didn't come until his 21st bout in 1966. He stood 6 feet tall and was light for a heavyweight, usually under 200 pounds. Today he'd be a cruiserweight.
In 1967, when the World Boxing Association stripped Muhammad Ali of his championship title for dodging the military draft, Quarry was included in a tournament of challengers to succeed him. Quarry defeated former champion Floyd Patterson in a split decision, knocked out Thad Spencer, and advanced to the final round for his first heavyweight title opportunity against Jimmy Ellis, who was coached by Ali and went on to beat Quarry in a split decision.
Blood drips down Jerry Quarry's face during his first bout in 1970 with Muhammad Ali, who was then still better known as Cassius Clay. The fight was called after three rounds. AP wirephoto. Click to enlarge.
Quarry then won a number of bouts and easily handled 1964 U.S. Olympian Buster Mathis, which put him in line to challenge Frazier, the de-facto heavyweight champion, at Madison Square Garden. Frazier landed solid punches, but Quarry refused to go down. Frazier cut him in the 7th round, and the fight was halted. Ring magazine named it 1969's fight of the year. Quarry then won several more bouts, with only one loss in between to George Chuvalo — the only time in his professional career that Quarry actually went down for the count.
Meanwhile, Ali sued the WBA and regained his right to fight in 1970. Only one of the 10 ranked heavyweights was willing to face him: Jerry Quarry. Thanks largely to Ali promoter Don King, the fight on October 26, 1970, at the City Auditorium in Atlanta took on racial overtones. Quarry embraced the "Great White Hope" label (see below). Ali dominated in the first two rounds and cut Quarry in the third. The fight was halted and ruled a technical knockout.
The rematch, billed "The Soul Brothers Versus The Quarry Brothers" (Jerry's younger brother Mike was a highly ranked light heavyweight boxer), came June 27, 1972, in Las Vegas. Ali wore out Quarry before the end of the 7th round. Mike also lost his match against Bob Foster.
Jerry Quarry went in and out of retirement over the next 20 years, stopping in Saugus long enough to train fighters at Dee White's Big Oaks Lodge and to announce one of several comeback attempts in 1983. Boxing started at the lodge under Quarry's guidance and White's ownership. White, who previously owned a variety store in Canyon Country, bought the lodge in 1980 and ran it for more than three decades. Her son, Johnny White, remembers that the canvas-and-rope boxing ring that was set up on the patio had been used in either "Rocky" or "Rocky II" and was owned by actor Mickey Rourke before it ended up at the Big Oaks.
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Quarry was no stranger to the camera himself. He was a character actor in various television series, especially during temporary breaks from boxing, and he had a recurring role on the dramatic crime series "Adam-12" (1968-1975).
In many respects, Jerry Quarry's life and career mirrored the story of boxing in the latter part of the 20th Century. He made millions of dollars in the ring and lost it all. He was hugely popular — and unpopular — during the Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing, only to end up with dementia pugilistica after being hit in the head too hard, too many times. By the time he was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, he barely knew what was happening. In the end, he could no longer care for himself. He was hospitalized in December 1998 and died a few days later, January 3, 1999. He was 53.
1. Dee White, personal conversation, August 2018.
2. Johnny White, personal communication, August 2018. The boxing ring had been removed before the lodge burned down August 11-12, 2018.
Quarry Announces Return to Ring
The Signal | Wednesday, May 25, 1983.
"Everybody says I'm an old man," said a lean and mean Jerry Quarry under the shady, bucolic expanses of the Big Oaks Lodge in Bouquet Canyon Monday afternoon. "God bless everybody who thinks that."
Quarry, who turned 38 on May 15, contended for Muhammad Ali's heavyweight boxing crown in the late '60s and early '70s before being turned away bloodied but unbowed.
Ali has since retired. And so had Quarry. Until Monday at Big Oaks Lodge.
With a host of backers, well-wishers, friends, family members, and boxing people looking on, Quarry announced that he was coming out of retirement to fight again.
But Larry Holmes and Michael Dokes need not worry. Quarry's quarry is the newly created cruiserweight title. He needs to get down to 195 pounds for that, but in the last two months he's dropped from 235 to 202 and so that appears to be no problem.
"I have no doubts that I can win it," said a confident Quarry to the applauding throng. "We're going to raise hell and shock the world.
"I'm an Irishman who hasn't lost his 'White Hope' title yet."
Quarry, who had a career mark of 63-8-5 [sic: 53-9-4] with 36 knock-outs [sic: 32 knockouts] (including six over number one contenders, his brother, Jimmy, claimed), last fought a professional fight five years ago. He knocked out Lorenzo Zanon in nine rounds.
Since then he put on some weight, but kept running and exercising to stay fit.
Two months ago, he went into the program in earnest and shed 33 pounds.
"That's because of exercise, not food diet," his father, Jack, noted.
Quarry said that he was not quite ready to step in the ring yet. He estimated that about two more months of work was needed before he could lace up the gloves in a real bout. The target date is mid-July.
His first fight?
"Probably some guy I pick up hitchhiking," Quarry quipped. The Quarries [sic] are a ring-wise family (Mike, now 32, fought for the world light-heavyweight crown several times and Robert, 21, is a promising young New Jersey heavyweight with a 7-3 record) and know that Jerry will need a few tune-up fights before jumping into contention.
According to co-managers Dan Goossen and Al Lewis, the great comeback fell into place a few months ago when they persuaded brothers Manny and Sammy Asadrian to become backers in the great enterprise.
That meant that the Asadrians would pick up the tab for Quarry's months of training and other expenses.
Not long afterward, the Quarry troupe happened upon Big Oaks for something to eat.
"Jerry asked if he could sing," said Dee White, who owns the Bouquet retreat. Quarry said that he had sung in Las Vegas.
That incident soon led to the Quarries [sic] picking Big Oaks as an ideal site to train for The Comeback, according to Lewis. The splendid isolation of the place was perfect.
"There's nothing else to do up here," Lewis said.
Quarry has had some very tough sparring partners to prepare for his return to the world of pro boxing. Not only are brothers Mike and Bobby available, but World Athletic Association heavyweight champ Monte Masters of Saugus has been working out with Quarry.
Masters, who has a 27-1 record with 23 K.O.s and stands 6-5, is about half a foot taller than Quarry. But that's nothing new for Quarry, and the pair sparred two lively rounds in front of the well-wishers before the afternoon ended.
The Saugus boxer is trying to iron out a contract for his next fight but would eventually like to take on WBA champ Michael Dokes one of these days. And hooking up with Quarry, whose backers drive very expensive cars and seem well-connected in boxing, is not a bad move for Masters.
Also on hand was a muscular lad named Dave Amos of England, whom Lewis referred to as the "future Olympic heavyweight champ."
"He'll beat (Teo) Stevenson right now, " Lewis proclaimed.
Actors Dale ("Wells Fargo") Robertson and Huntz ("Bowery Boys") Hall were the more well-known celebrities at the affair.
Quarry took some time to mention his cable television exercise program. He's calling it "Boxercise," a program that not only gets folks in shape to music, but teaches self-defense.
"I want to become an enigma," he concluded. "I want people to remember Jerry Quarry."
Former Heavyweight Boxer Quarry Dies
The Associated Press | As published in The Signal | Monday, January 4, 1999.
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TEMPLETON (AP) — Jerry Quarry, a popular heavyweight who fought Muhammad Ali and Floyd Patterson then eventually lapsed into a punch-drunk fog, died Sunday after being taken off life support. He was 53.
Quarry was hospitalized Dec. 28 with pneumonia and then suffered cardiac arrest while at Twin Cities Community Hospital. He died at 3:52 p.m. after family members directed doctors to remove life support, according to Claude Sutherland, a longtime family friend.
"It was a family decision to take him off life support when they were told he would probably be bedridden," Sutherland said. "They're pretty distraught."
Quarry, who earned $2.1 million in purses as a top contender in the 1960s and '70s, later was living on Social Security checks. By the age of 50, the pounding he had taken in the ring turned him into a confused, childlike man whose relatives had to take care of him.
The medical name for his condition was dementia pugilistica, severe brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head.
Among the highlights of Quarry's career were two fights against Patterson, the former heavyweight champion. Both bouts were in Quarry's hometown of Los Angeles, and the first ended in a draw and he won the second on a controversial split decision.
Quarry, a 6-foot, 195-pound blond who seemed to be easy to cut, earned his biggest payday, $338,000, by fighting Ali when Ali returned from his banishment in 1970.
Early in the fight in Atlanta, the two butted heads and a gash opened above Quarry's left eye. Ali peppered the spot with jabs, spraying blood, and stopped Quarry in three rounds.
Quarry futilely pleaded with the referee not to stop it.
Ali cut Quarry again to win a rematch in seven rounds, and Joe Frazier bloodied him badly in the second of their two fights, winning in five at Madison Garden in 1974.
Quarry finished his pro career with a 53-9-4 record after having (fought) more than 200 bouts as an amateur.
Neurological tests revealed early signs of dementia in 1982, before his short-term memory loss and motor skills deteriorated so noticeably and before his last three fights.
A neuropsychologist who examined him five years ago said that boxing had aged the boxer 30 years and that he was at third-stage dementia, similar to Alzheimer's.
In 1992, Quarry fought for one final time. Believing he could make a comeback as George Foreman had, he took a bout in Colorado, a state where no boxing license was required.
But Quarry was battered for six rounds by a club fighter. "Irish Jerry" Quarry's payday for absorbing the beating was $1,050.
He is survived by three children; four sisters; three brothers, including Jimmy and Mike, who were fighters; and parents, Jack and Awanda Quarry.
A funeral was scheduled for Saturday in Shasta.