The Original Sugar Gold Medal Winner “Sugar” Ray Seales! By Ken Hissner (Dec 24, 2009) DoghouseBoxing
“Sugar” Ray Seales earned his way into the 1972 Olympics by winning the AAU title in 1971 and the Golden Gloves in 1972. He was four years ahead of another Olympic Gold Medalist named Leonard. Both Seales and Davey Armstrong from trainer Joe Clough’s Tacoma Boys Club in the state of Washington would make the Olympic team. That in itself was quite an accomplishment. “Ray was one of 4 brothers who boxed for me. He would always be asleep before his bouts. He would say let the other guy worry. He had the heart of a lion. I talked to him about 2 years ago and we were both in tears. Fighters are like family,” said Joe Clough. When you consider how far Seales had come from the small island of St. Croix in the Virgin Islands in 1964 at the age of 12 is a story in itself. “My brother was hit in the eye and needed an operation. My mother moved to the US to get a good doctor in the state of Washington,” said Seales. If he hadn’t gotten hit I may have never became a professional boxer. Seales would move there two years later.
”I had an amateur record of 338-12 over nine years with over 200 knockouts,” said Seales. Clough would train such fighters as Seales, Armstrong, Leon Randolph, Brett Summers, Rocky Lockridge and Johnny Bumphus. Today he is training boxers in the Philippines after spending five years in Thailand. “In 1968 I was the first member of the Tacoma Club to win a medal,” said Seales.
At the Olympics in Germany the Islamic terrorists had killed members of the team from Israel. “It all happened before the boxing began. I knew I wasn’t leaving until I fought for the Gold medal. My parents had made reservations six months before and were there,” said Seales. He defeated boxers from East Germany, Ireland, Cuba and Yugoslavia. In the finals he defeated a Bulgarian in the 139 division. When we returned home I flew into a stadium and this 13 year old little kid came through the crowed to see my Gold medal named Rocky Lockridge. His name was Ricky but he got hit in the head with a Q-ball and got the nickname Rocky,” said Seales.
In January of 1973 Seales would make his debut at the U of Puget Sound Fieldhouse in Tacoma winning an 8 round decision defeating Gonzalo Rodriguez, 4-3-1. He would never have a four or six round fight. “My manager was George Yelton and my promoter was Joe Williams. Joe (Clough) didn’t want to train any professionals so George Wright from New York would be my trainer,” said Seales.
Seales would fight 14 times in his first year of action. He had 3 fights in March alone. He would fight in Oregon, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona and Texas that year besides Washington. He had his first 10 rounder in May in his seventh fight stopping Roger Buckskin, 12-3, in the 5th round. He defeated veterans like Chucho Garcia, 89-22-6 and Dave Coventry, 38-8-1. He would start off 1974 beating Angel Robinson Garcia, 126-64-20, in Las Vegas. By April he had won 19 straight fights and 10 by knockout. In June he would fight another Washington fighter named John L. Sullivan, 22-1, who had lost to future world champion Vito Antiuofermo in his last fight by a 10 round decision. Seales would score a 2nd round knockout. “We were teammates in the amateurs at the Downtown Boy’s Club,” said Seales.
Next up would be California’s David Love, 23-8, back at the same Fieldhouse he turned pro in. “He had Angelo Dundee in his corner who later would say they ought to throw out those left handers,” said Seales. Love was knocked down twice in the 12th and final round and stopped at the 2:45 mark.
Before the month was out Seales would take his 21-0 record to the WNAC-TV Studio in Boston. “I didn’t know who Marvin Hagler was,” said Seales. The future legendary champion was 14-0 at the time. It would be the first loss for Seales with scores of 97-95, 97-93 and 98-94. It would not be the last time they would meet each other. The following month Seales got back to his winning ways scoring a knockout over Les Riggins, 10-4-1, at the Seattle Center Coliseum. Hagler agreed to a rematch in November, some three months after their first meeting. They would each have a win in between.
“This was like a championship fight. It ended in a draw and I couldn’t believe that could happen in my own state,” said Seales. One judge gave it to Seales 98-96 but the other two had it 99-99. It would be almost five years before they would meet for the third and final time. It would be three months before he fought again defeating Mike Nixon, 21-4, who had won seven straight and was well known on television fights out of Woodland Hills in California. Nixon was down once in the 4th and again in the 9th round losing the decision to Seales. In his next fight he would beat future world champion Mike Rossman who was 21-0-1 at the time.
Seales would be back the following month defeating Johnny Rico, 24-9, in Tucson, AZ, then Manuel Elizondo, 15-6-1, by 2nd round knockout in Sacramento, and Rudy Cruz, 14-5-1 in the same city. He was 26-1-1, and would travel east for the second time in his career and meet one of the hardest punchers in the middleweight division from Philly known as Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, 27-5, with 26 knockouts. The fight would take place in Atlantic City. Hart had won his last three fights by knockout. “He was 159 at the weigh-in the day before and about 177 the night of the fight. He hit me with a left hook to the rib that lifted me off the floor. I ran for the next six rounds,” said Seales. He would lose the decision. “I think they put him in with me too soon,” said Cyclone Hart.
Next up for Seales would be another Washington boxer named Mike Lankaster, 21-3. “He gave me a banana and said he was going to make a monkey out of me. I peeled it and at it in one gulp and told him I was going to eat him up,” said Seales. The fight ended in the 2nd round by knockout. Lankaster paid the price! The last fight of 1975 was with Renato Garcia, 33-6, of Chile, with Seales winning in 10.
In March of 1976 Seales would fight for the NABF title against “Indian” George Cooper, 30-2-2, who had was 16-0-1 in his last seventeen fights. This was a major fight for Seales as he won it in 12 by scores of 119-116, 119-115 and 117-115. “It was a good fight,” said Seales. He defended his new title two months later stopping Bobby “Rico” Hoye. It could possibly the father of Rico Hoye, also of Detroit. “I hit him with a bolo punch and he was out for 20 minutes. It was really a scary situation,” said Seales.
He would then travel to Italy on the undercard of a Mate Parlov European title defense. “It was supposed to be a three fight deal with Top Rank. It was his first 8 rounder in three years. He stopped Gianni Mingardi, 13-13-4, in the 6th round. Two months later he would fight Britain’s future WBC/WBA world champion Alan Minter, 25-4, in London the end of 1976. “I was knocked down in the 5th round. The referee (Roland Dakin) allowed Minter to stand over me and I missed the count,” said Seales.
Ronnie Harris was part of the contract so two months later Seales would meet Harris at Madison Square Garden while Minter would go onto win the European title in Italy. Harris was a Gold medal winner in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. “He ran for the distance of the fight as if he was on a bi-cycle,” said Seales. Seales was back in action the following month scoring a knockout. After that he stopped Tony Gardner, 49-12, in 4 in a NABF title defense in Anchorage, Alaska.
Seales would win nine straight fights since the Harris loss and fight for the USBA title against Doug Demmings, 20-1-1, over 15 rounds. His opponent was 18-0-1 in his previous nineteen fights. Seales would win this title but never defend it.
In February of 1978 Seales was held to a draw by Willie Warren, 42-33-2, in Seattle. “He was slick,” said Seales. He had to pick himself off the canvas in the 8th round. Next would be a fighter with a 3-4 record named Mayfield Pennington who had defeated former world champion Emile Griffith two fights ago. “I stopped him in the 8th round in Pikesville, Kentucky,” said Seales.
In June he would defeat Tommy Howard, 25-13-3, of Seattle, who was 10-1-1, in his twelve previous fights. “It was what they call Leprechaun night and for the State title over 12 rounds,” said Seales. A week later he beat Johnny Heard, 12-9, in Washington, DC. Seales had stopped him in 1977. “I was serving as a sparring partner for Hagler for six weeks preparing him for Antuofermo.
In August Seales would stop hard punching Sammy NeSmith, 24-3 (22) in Seattle in 5 rounds. NeSmith had been on a 7 fight knockout streak. These two would do it again in 3 years. Less than 2 weeks later Seales would travel to Denmark to take on Ugandan Ayub Kalule, 23-0, the Commonwealth champion. He was a resident of Denmark having all his fights there. His opponent was 11 months away from winning the WBA light middleweight title. The fight went to Kalule by majority decision. “He fought European style. I thought I won the fight,” said Seales. It stopped his streak at 15-0-1.
The rubber match with Hagler would be next in February of 1979 in the Boston Garden. “I wasn’t ready for this fight. He left hooked me right out of the ring,” said Seales. He was down three times and stopped at the 1:26 mark of the 1st round. Next would be Portland’s Mike Colbert, 28-3, and they battled to a draw.
It would be 10 months before Seales fought again. He traveled to the home of Art “Tap” Harris 31-0, and scored a 5th round stoppage. Two weeks later he scored another knockout and a month later met unbeaten contender Dwight Davison, 25-0, of Detroit. He would lose a 10 round decision in Clarkston, WA. It would be his only lost in his home state going 20-1-3. Next would be a fight that would change the life of Seales. He won a decision over Jamie Thomas, 12-9, in Baton Rouge, LA, and received a thumb in the left eye. “I have had 4 surgeries for my right eye and 3 for my left eye. My vision is 20 over 400 and 20 over 200,” said Seales.
It was time to retire with this eye injury but Seales fought on 4 months later defeating James Williams, 12-8-1, in Tacoma, which would be his last fight in the state. In March of 1982 he had his rematch with NeSmith, 36-5 (32), in his hometown of Indianapolis. The ending was the same in scoring another 5th round knockout in a NABF title fight. “This would be my last fight with manager Yelton. Willie Joe DeMeyers took over,” said Seales.
Seales would post knockout wins in Bakersfield, CA, and Stateline, NV. The off to the Felt Forum in New York to fight the dangerous John LoCicero, 18-7. “He knew about my bad eye and went for it. I whipped him,” said Seales. That he did over 10 rounds. A knockout win Albuquerque and then his last major fight against National Amateur champ and 1980 Olympian (team did not participate) James “Black Gold” Shuler, 12-0 (11), of Philly in McAfee, NJ. He would lose his NABF title over 12 rounds. During the broadcast commentator Ferdie Pacheco said “Seales can’t see.” “It was a good fight,” said Seales.
Seales would have his last fight in Denver, CO, during a snow storm in January of 1983 against Max Hord, 26-14. “Manager Ed Gardner didn’t want to pay me due to the worst snow storm in Colorado in years,” said Seales. He scored a 1st round knockout finishing his career at 56-8-3 with 33 knockouts. He had fought in 20 states and 4 different countries. Seales explained how his decision to end his career came. “God is everything . He’s my light and He’s my guide. I argued with the Lord asking for one more fight around the corner. He blinded me for 4 days. After my decision to retire my site returned to the way it was,” said Seales.
“You have to reach into your heart and show you are somebody,” said Seales. Seales would work with Autistic students at Lincoln High School in Tacoma for 17 years until 2004 before retiring. “Service to others is the rent we pay for our room in Heaven. I knew nothing about these types of kids. God gave me a chance,” said Seales.
He and his wife Mae would move to Indianapolis where he friend and 1972 Olympic teammate Marvin Johnson lived. “I have been training kids to fight with Bob Chambers the coach at the Sarge Johnson Boxing Team Gym,” said Seales. Pertaining to his original home in the Virgin Islands he said “they have a “Sugar” Ray Seales Day in my home country in the Virgin Islands on April 14th. I stay in touch with my good friend Julian Jackson (former world champion) there. The past is what the future is made of,” said Seales.
The sum it up in the life of Seales it reminds me of those words of wisdom, “I once was blind but now I see!” He is an enriched person for his Faith has returned him to the sport he loves and working with God’s children.