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Home Garden Former boxing champion Rocky Lockridge fought homelessness, addiction

Former boxing champion Rocky Lockridge fought homelessness, addiction

At the time of his defeat by Rocky Lockridge, Roger Mayweather, shown, was one of boxing’s early 1980s stars at 17-0. (Photo11: Isaac Brekken, AP)

When that right hand rammed into the jaw of Roger Mayweather in the winter of 1984, it was the realization of a dream for Rocky Lockridge.

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The Tacoma, Wash., native had been denied in his previous two title attempts. This was his third and probably final shot at a crown. That it was coming against an undefeated champion in a higher weight class did not bode well for the challenger.

But that right hand was true and hard and perfect, and Mayweather fell to the canvas in sections like an accordion. And, finally, Lockridge — the hard-luck kid on the brink of becoming a retread — was a world champion.

Addiction, homelessness follow fame

In a perfect world, that crowning achievement would have been the bridge to a better life. And for the next five years, Lockridge enjoyed the riches of a champion. He made regular appearances on network television and earned the healthy purses that came with them.

But he was also subjected to the unhealthy curses that often accompany the trappings of success. Specifically, alcohol and drugs. Eventually, after his career ended in 1992, Lockridge fell into a life of addiction and homelessness. He became as known for his viral videos as his world championship belts. 

In one, he flattened an unfortunate soul who mistook him for a regular guy. In the other, he became an internet meme after a moving appearance on the TV show, “Intervention.”

Lockridge died last week. He was 60. And, in a lot of ways, it’s amazing he made it that far. His life had become a chamber of despair. He was tortured by the relationships he had ruined and the spoils he had blown.

But this isn’t about what Lockridge wasn’t. This is about what he was — a fine fighter who won championships in two divisions and came within rounds of a Hall of Fame nomination.

After a decorated amateur career that saw him win the 1977 National AAU bantamweight title, the 5-foot-6 boxer-puncher signed with New Jersey-based promoter Main Events and made his pro debut as a junior featherweight in 1978 at the age of 19. It was a different era, and Lockridge was matched tough. He was 16-0 when he challenged longtime WBA featherweight champ Eusebio Pedroza, who had reigned for two years. The decision loss was close and controversial.

Later, in one of his few career blowout losses, he was knocked out in two by Juan LaPorte in 1981. But that was a rarity. He moved up to 130 pounds in 1983 after a second disappointing Pedroza loss. The best move of his career.

The February 1984 KO of Mayweather — Floyd’s uncle — will forever be Lockridge’s career apex. Mayweather was one of boxing’s early 1980s stars, 17-0 and a Thomas Hearns clone whose wiry, snapping left jab set up a monstrous right hand. Mayweather entered the ring that day in Beaumont, Texas, with shades and a cocksure attitude. Those watching on a Sunday afternoon on NBC expected a strong effort from the 25-year-old Lockridge. 

But Mayweather was younger, bigger and (most thought) better.

Next thing you know, Lockridge was being hoisted in the air by Lou Duva and company — finally a champ. 

Lockridge made three defenses of his 130-pound title before losing a dubious decision to Puerto Rican great Wilfredo Gomez in Gomez’s backyard of San Juan. In short, it was a rip-off. The decision in May 1985 should’ve gone to the Rock. 

Still in his prime, Lockridge traveled to Monaco in August 1986 and came close against the man considered the greatest Mexican fighter in boxing history, Julio Cesar Chavez, losing another decision. 

A year later, Lockridge won his second world title, stopping Barry Michael in eight for the IBF junior lightweight title. He made two defenses, including a decision over undefeated Harold Knight, before losing his crown to Sacramento’s Tony Lopez in the 1988 Fight of the Year. His career came to a close four years later, after losing four of five. 

His final record: 44-9 (36 knockouts).

There have been some questions as to whether Lockridge is Hall-of-Fame worthy.  At first glance, the answer is no. But consider this: Lockridge lost to Pedroza by split decision and to Gomez and Chavez by majority decision. A flipped round here or there and Lockridge owns victories over one, two or possibly three Hall of Famers. 

That would’ve put him in the Hall for sure. 

The difference between good and great is the thinnest of thins sometimes. But it likely wouldn’t have changed his life path. More victories, more success, might’ve made it worse.

But know that Rocky Lockridge was more than some embarrassing meme to be mocked. He was a world champ and a force to be reckoned with in a very tough era.

We should all be so lucky to leave such a lasting impact. 

Santa Cruz vs. Rivera

Meanwhile, WBA junior lightweight champ Leo Santa Cruz has his own outside-the-ring battles. His father, Jose, is battling cancer and has not been around much for training camps. Nevertheless, “El Terremoto” says he’s primed and ready for his next assignment. 

Santa Cruz, 35-1-1 (19 KOs), of Rosemead, Calif., will defend against Rafael Rivera, 26-2-2 (17 KOs), of Mexico, at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles (6 p.m. Saturday, FOX). 

This will be the first start for Santa Cruz since outpointing Abner Mares in a thrilling rematch in June. 

Rivera is a replacement for Miguel Flores, who suffered an ankle injury in January. He’s lost two of his last three (decisions to Joet Gonzalez and Joseph Diaz). He’s strong and sturdy but is a mammoth underdog here. 

Santa Cruz is a fan-friendly fighter who throws a lot of punches and who, despite being a three-division champ, probably should be more of an attraction than he is. But his career has been marked by stretches of inactivity and insignificant fights. 

This is more of the same. This is a fight that probably shouldn’t be showcased on national television. 

Santa Cruz by unanimous decision. 

On the undercard, former WBC lightweight champ Omar Figueroa, 27-0-1 (19 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas, will take on John Molina Jr. (24 KOs), of Covina, Calif., in what is expected to be a welterweight thriller. 

Figueroa was once a talked-about fighter but lost all career momentum with two long hiatuses. He’s only fought once in a little more than three years. 

Molina hasn’t been active either, having not fought since December 2017. But he’s bigger (3-inch height advantage at 5-foot-10) and stronger at welterweight. 

Molina by unanimous decision. 

Matthew Aguilar may be reached at [email protected] and @MatthewAguilar5 on Twitter.

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