Steve “Bluesman” McCrory was Solid Gold in 1984!
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Oct 2, 2009)    
Photo: Milt McCrory
When your brother is Milt “Ice Man” McCrory, the WBC welterweight champion you have some large shoes to fill. This was 1983 and his younger brother Steve “Bluesman” as he was called, had just won his third United States Amateur title and was heading to the Pan Am Games in Caracas. He would bring back a Bronze medal and be determined to go to the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984 and bring home the Fold. In 1984 when Milt was making his second title defense his kid brother was winning the Gold medal for team USA.

“He came into the Kronk Gym at the age of 9 along with his brother Milt, Jimmy Paul and Duane Thomas. He would move around with his hands down just like a pro”, said Manny Steward. McCrory would end his amateur career with a 221-17 record and turn professional in October of 1984. Thomas had already turned professional in 1979 and was the USBA champion. He would win the WBC light middleweight title in 1986 stopping John “The Beast” Mugabi.

McCrory’s debut would be in Madison Square Garden under title defenses by “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler and Kronk’s Michael McCallum. Another on the card was one who disappointed in not making the Olympic team in losing to Evander Holyfield, Ricky Womack, who was having his third fight. Jeff Hanna, 9-4-1, was the opponent who had his 3 fight win streak stopped by McCrory in 4 rounds. Less than a month later he would return home to stop Edwin Rangel, 4-0, in the 2nd round at the Cobo Arena, in Detroit.

Next up would be his first 6 round bout in Atlantic City on the under card of his brother Milt who was having a non-title bout stopping Lloyd Taylor. His opponent Sonny Long, 5-4-1, from Cincinnati had already gone the distance with future world champions Wilfred Vazquez and Greg “The Flea” Richardson. Once again McCrory would win, this time by decision. After another points win he would travel to France while Milt won defending against Pedro Vilella, the younger McCrory was held to a draw by future European champion Louis Gomis, 3-0, of the Senegal. As it turned out it would be the only fight Gomis would not win in his career finishing 22-0-1 by defeating Jeff Hanna, McCrory’s first opponent in 1987.

In August of 1985 in his ninth fight McCrory would defeat another future European champion in Luigi Camputaro, 6-0, in Atlantic City in his last 6 rounder by decision. Camputaro, of Italy, would win his next 13 fights, so you can see McCrory was defeating some good prospects. McCrory with the help of his trainer/manager, Steward, would get his record up to 10-0-1 but with only 3 knockouts. He felt he was ready for a title bout with the IBF bantamweight champion Jeff Fenech who was 13-0 with all his 11 knockouts coming at the start of his career. Fenech had lost in the quarter-finals of the 1984 Olympics to Redzep Redzepovski of Yugoslavia, whom McCrory beat for the Gold medal. Only thing is Fenech had won the title in his sixth fight and defeated American Jerome Coffee, 26-0, and former WBC bantamweight champion Daniel Zaragoza, 28-3, who was a future WBC super bantamweight champion.

“I was against him fighting for the title at this stage of his career but he didn’t want to wait,” said Steward. It was scheduled for July 18th, 1986 and McCrory would have to travel to Fenech’s country of Sydney, Australia. “I told him to wait and we could eventually get a title fight in the US,” said Steward.

One of his teammates from the Olympic team Evander Holyfield would win the WBA cruiserweight title on July 12th. His fellow Kronk Olympic teammate Frank Tate was 13-0 and 15 months from winning the IBF middleweight title for HBA (Houston Boxing Association). Another teammate Virgil Hill was 9-0 and 14 months from winning the WBA light heavyweight title. There were some comments when I talked to some of his teammates like Tyrell Biggs who was 9-0 and 15 months from fighting Mike Tyson. “Steve had good hands and flair,” said Biggs

Robert Shannon who was 12-0-2 at that time said “I had beaten him in a bout in the amateurs. He was a sharp, fun guy”. Henry Tillman was 10-1 and had just lost his NABF cruiserweight title to Bert Cooper. “Get the shackles off my feet”, said Tillman pertaining to what McCrory would say. Pernell Whitaker was 13-0 and 6 months away from his first title attempt. It would be almost a year after that before he won the IBF lightweight title. Meldrick Taylor was 12-0 and 2 years away from winning the IBF light welterweight title. Paul Gonzales was 4-0 and about to defend the NABF title against Orlando Canizales and wouldn’t fight for the title until 4 years later against the same Canizales who would hold the IBF bantamweight title. “Steve was a good boxer”, said Gonzales. Jerry Page was 3-0 at the time. “He was a beautiful boxer and a joy to be watching”, said Page. It seemed premature when you compare at this stage for McCrory to fight for the title but being young he wanted it then and didn’t want to wait.

Getting back to the Fenech fight they could have fought in a phone booth. I have no idea how McCrory thought he would beat Fenech inside. He landed quite a few upper cuts and gave as good as he took until the late rounds. In the 13th round McCrory went down. In the 14th the onslaught continued with McCrory holding on until the referee stepped in at 1:41 of the round. Fenech certainly landed enough elbows to go along with the punches but was simply too strong for McCrory. Fenech was ahead on points 128-118, 128-119 and 127-116 at the time of the stoppage. “We parted ways after that fight,” said Steward.

McCrory would come back just over 3 months later and was stopped by Jose Sanabria of Venzuela, 9-2-1, in the 5th round. He was then trained by Johnny Ace. Sanabria would defeat Robert Shannon two fights later and two fights after that lose a split decision for the IBF super bantamweight title in South Korea. The champ then gave the title up and Sanabria won the vacant title. So we are not talking about an average fighter.

McCrory would reel off 17 straight wins against mediocre opposition except Tony Montoya whom he stopped in 7 in November of 1987 defending the WBC Continental Americas super bantamweight title he had won in June. In November of 1990 McCrory would lose in 12 fighting Richard Savage, 29-4, the former IBF super featherweight challenger, for the IBC super featherweight title. Two wins would follow before he took on Jesse James Leija, 20-0-1, the future WBC super featherweight champion in October of 1991 losing in 10 rounds. The following month he would wrap up his career losing in France to Stephane Haccoun, 16-0-1, who would become European feather and super featherweight champion while losing in an IBF featherweight fight to Tom Johnson. It was the end of the road at 27 with a 30-5-1 (12) record for McCrory. On August 01, of 2000 at the age of 36 McCrory would pass away after an illness. Its only speculation what would have happened if McCrory had only waited as Steward wanted him to with 4 organization belts out there. Like he said to Tillman “the shackles are off my feet”!

I talked to Steve’s brother Milt, the former world welterweight champion. “Steve was gifted. He was like an old pro when he was just a kid. They called him Bluesman because he even loved the old music,” said McCrory. “I think he was a good fighter. I’m glad he wasn’t in my weight class. I think after Fenech he lost his love do to too many distractions,” added McCrory.

When you hear an older brother talk about a younger brother you can feel the love and respect he had for him. Even though McCrory left Kronk after the Fenech fight the brothers remained in contact with one another. “Even though I was older I retired just before my brother in 1991,” said McCrory. May the “Bluesman” rest in peace.

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