A Boxing Memory: Rocky Lockridge
I hadn’t thought about Rocky Lockridge in many a year. He was very much part of my early years, he filled plenty of lines in the weekly and monthly magazines of the time and was a part of my old extensive video collection, remember them. But like many an old fighter, they fall from the consciousness far quicker than they came. Thankfully, albeit belatedly, by way of research for another article, I was reminded of his story.
In many ways, Lockridge was a victim of the sport he graced and even life itself. Fights he should have won went elsewhere in a sport where hard luck stories don’t reward. Outside of the ring, he fell victim to the same demons that many of his contemporaries did. Drugs and alcohol, the usual vices, the only difference is the name in the headlines, the fighter in the boxing abyss. Hard times threatened everything. But Lockridge was ever the fighter. He had to be.
Ricky ‘Rocky’ Lockridge was born on January 10, 1959, in Tacoma, Washington and was the youngest of 11 children. There were two passions, music and boxing. The music prevented him from having a serious run and making the 1976 Olympic team. Lockridge played the drums, he sang and his band were getting paid gigs. They took priority over his boxing. Lockridge had dreams of being a rock star. In many ways, he lived that life.
But while the musical hopes eventually faded away, Lockridge had his other trade to give him hope. With an amateur record of 210-8 and many titles, Lockridge was always a fighter too good to be lost to his sport.
Lockridge was washing cars when an old friend made a call. The 1976 Olympic Champion Leo Randolph needed a sparring partner, he remembered Lockridge and brought him in from the shadows. The hired hand soon developed into something more.
Lou Duva, the then manager of Randolph, liked what he saw, and with the fountain of knowledge George Benton on hand, Lockridge was fine-tuned to a fighter of much promise. Lockridge turned professional when he was 19, he always had a touch of potential about him.
At 16-0, there were real hopes that Lockridge could end the long reign of the WBA featherweight champion Eusebio Pedroza in 1980. But there was controversy as the Panamanian made his 10th successful defence by way of a disputed points decision over 15 rounds. Tim Ryan and Gil Clancy scoring the fight for CBS both had it 145-140 for Lockridge. A rematch three years later ended much the same way. Lockridge had every right to feel aggrieved.
But a move up in weight brought a change of luck and finally a world title. In 1984, Lockridge knocked out the previously unbeaten Roger Mayweather to claim the WBA super-featherweight title. The ‘Black Mamba’ was stopped inside a round. A big outsider, a routine opponent, Lockridge upset many plans that night.
But the following year more cries of robbery would end his reign. Lockridge travelled to Puerto Rico to fight the local hero and living legend Wilfredo Gomez. The two fights with Pedroza looked debatable, the fight with Gomez looked anything but. Lockridge won with room to spare, but the Puerto Rican somehow got the decision and won his third world title. A shameless robbery, Lockridge had to take many fights on the road where favours are few and justice is in another town. A close decision loss to the great Mexican Julio Cesar Chavez in 1986 seemingly assigned Lockridge seemingly ended any further aspirations of world title glory.
But Lockridge would regroup and won the IBF version of the world title in 1987 from Barry Michael before two defeats to Tony Lopez ended the championship days once and for all. Lockridge followed the usual path, hoping he was different, that the irreversible slide to the roll of the opponent wouldn’t come his way. And trust me, Lockridge did try, but Lockridge would find he wasn’t different.
After the two Lopez setbacks Lockridge beat one Mike Zena in 1989 he then retired before the inevitable comeback in 1992 that was a road to nowhere and ended after two straight defeats. But when all hope had gone Lockridge found life after boxing hard. The money, his wife and children were soon history. Even in his heyday, Lockridge lived life to excess, in retirement, it finally consumed him.
By 1997 it was beyond desperate, a 27-month prison sentence for burglary saw Lockridge become homeless on his release. For six years Lockridge lived on the streets of Camden, New Jersey. Living, in truth, it was a fight for survival. A dangerous world, every street corner had a distinct smell of despair and worse, one wrong turn could have been his last move.
Fighters are appreciated for their short time in the sun, forgotten and more when the inevitable darkness arrives. As the former champion would later say:
“There’s a lot of down-lookers out there. A lot of folks like seeing you in the quicksand.”
Lockridge had to battle multiple strokes throughout those final desperate years. The stick he needed to help him walk, his only true friend. The needle and the bottle were his only solace. The millions long gone, begging on the streets became a necessity.
But he would at least see out his life with some dignity. Lockridge got clean, found God before his body finally gave way in 2019. Lockridge was just 60.
When he sadly passed away in a hospice, Rocky’s son said:
“All he wanted was to be in the comfort of his home with friends/ family. God has called him to walk through the gates of heaven.”
Lockridge ended his career with a career resume of 44-9, a two-time world champion and made five defences in his two reigns. Most of the defeats were in his decline, and three of them in his prime, could and should have gone the other way.
The career of Rocky Lockridge was overshadowed by many things. The 80s was some era, a golden time, many fighters got lost in the mix. Lockridge was one. He fell victim to the excesses of life, another sad story. Too many fighters end the same way. The boxing way. He found some semblance of fame late in life, a meme courtesy of a reality TV show he went on in an attempt to get clean. Lockridge deserves to be remembered for much more than that.
Photo Credit: Jeff Robbins/Associated Press