Muhammad Ali, beware! Three or four years from now, when you have lost a trifle of your speed, a young man from the hinterlands whose name you may see here for the first time very likely will knock you as stiff as you knocked Sonny Liston. There are six prime candidates for this role on the following pages. But you may be wise to devote most of your attention to studying the picture of Jerry Quarry (right). Quarry has a date with Buster Mathis in New York's Madison Square Garden on March 4. Six other young heavyweights will fight on the same card. Suddenly, and for the first time in years, the heavyweight division looks healthy.
Quarry, who lives in a suburb of Los Angeles and has had only 15 professional fights, should be ready to take the huge but versatile Mathis, who has fought professionally five times. Quarry has won 14 and fought a draw with Tommy Doyle; eight of his victories came by knockout. Although he will not be 21 until, this May, he has been fighting for 15 years and his moves are much more sophisticated than one would expect in so young a heavyweight.
He is very much aware of Cassius Clay. "I should be ready for him maybe by 1967," he said the other day in a small Mexican restaurant near the Main Street Gym in Los Angeles, where he trains. He looks like a bigger and much stronger Billy Conn and, like Conn, he is Irish.
"Three years," his father said. Jack Quarry is a truck driver and co-manager of his son. He was a fighter of sorts in his youth, and Jerry is one of four sons, all fighters. "Other guys it might take five years," Jack said. "But Jerry has to come along faster."
"I have trouble getting the kind of fights I want," Jerry said. He spread his hands on the table and looked down at them. The only scar on his face after 130 amateur and 15 pro fights is a small one over his left eye, and he got that in a collision playing touch football. But his hands could belong to a man who has been fighting for 40 years. He is a savage puncher with either hand and the knuckles are gnarled and lumpy. Anyone he can hit he can take out.
"The guys with his experience don't want him," explained Johnny Flores, his other manager. "The big guys we're not ready for yet. I think Jerry could take most of them but we don't want to step up too far in class yet. He has things to learn. We want to move him slow."
"I have trouble with a guy moves away from me," Jerry said. "I don't punch as good moving forward. If the guy comes to me, that's what I like. Like this fight I had in Vegas the other night. This guy ran like a thief. I wasn't real loose. I think maybe I was gym-stale. But I'd get him cornered and he'd cover up and I couldn't get to him."
Quarry's opponent was Ed Land, a talkative young man who must have heard that Quarry has a temper.
"About the fifth round he said to me, 'I'm carrying you,' " Jerry said and grinned. "So I said, 'Maybe so, but you're losing the fight.' I didn't lose my temper until after, when he came in my dressing room and started smarting off. 'I'm going to get in shape and knock you out,' he says. 'You're just a bum.' I told his second to get him out of there before he got hurt. He got out."
Unfortunately for Land, he encountered Mary Kathleen O'Casey Quarry just outside the door. She is Jerry's pretty, 5-foot wife and she promptly stepped on Land's toe.
"You can do better than that," Land said, so she stomped on his foot again.
"Your husband is a bum," Land said lamely and turned away, whereupon Mary Kathleen kicked him briskly in the seat of the pants. He disappeared sadly into the night, having lost two straight decisions to the Quarry family.
Jerry finished his orange soda and went to the Main Street Gym to work out. He stands a shade over 6 feet, weighs about 195, but he probably will get bigger. He has thickly muscled arms and shoulders, no waist and sturdy legs. He also has extraordinarily quick hands.
"He grew three-quarters of an inch in the last year," his father said. "He may go six-one, 200 eventually. But he's big enough right now. He likes to fight big heavyweights."
Jack Quarry gave his son his first pair of boxing gloves when he was 3 and Jerry had his first fight when he was 5. He won a Junior Golden Gloves title at the age of 10 in 1955 for the first time and repeated for the next three years. Then he contracted nephritis, an inflammation of the kidneys, and was too sick to fight for 19 months.
"The doctor told me he only had a 50-50 chance to live," Jack said. "And he said if he did live he would be a semi-invalid for the rest of his life. Jerry took it better than me or his mother when I told him."
"The doctor said I had to stay in bed when I got out of the hospital," Jerry said. "But I figured it wouldn't be worth it. So I'd sneak out when Dad went to work and Mom was busy and play until I was too tired to go on, then sneak back to bed. Then I had my appendix out and all at once I started getting better."
This was neither Jerry's first nor last visit to a hospital. As a youngster, fighting with his older brother Jimmy, he had his arm broken when Jimmy hit him with a baseball bat. The day the cast came off his arm he was called out at home plate in a sandlot baseball game and promptly punched the umpire between the eyes, breaking his hand.
"That temper," his father says. "It's one of the things he's learning to control in the ring, the way he did against Land."
Last year Quarry fought as a heavyweight and won the national Golden Gloves championship, knocking out four straight opponents.
"My toughest fight was out here," he said. "In the Pacific Coast finals I fought a big heavyweight named Clay Hodge. All week in the papers all you read about was Hodge, Hodge, Hodge and what he was going to do to poor Jerry Quarry. By the time the bell rang I was so mad I didn't know what I was doing. I must have thrown 150 punches in the first round and missed with 100."
The weary Quarry won a split decision and, as he says, "I learned a lesson. I know more about pacing myself now."
There is another very good young heavyweight in Los Angeles, built much like Quarry and as dedicated to fighting. Joey Orbillo has had nine professional fights, won eight and fought one draw.
Asked how he thought he would do against Orbillo, Quarry, who is nothing if not affirmative, said, "I would knock him out in the fourth round. He's a three-round fighter."
Orbillo is less assertive. "Quarry is a good fighter," he says. "But so am I"
Indeed he is. And so are Mathis and the other young heavyweights below. It really does not matter too much which of these youngsters develops in the next few years. What does matter is that they have made the future of the heavyweight division brighter than it has been for a long time.