The road up for Quarry has not been one on which he found garlands heaped upon him at every turn. True, he lured the press, but being a white heavyweight was costly. He seemed to be an irritant to people. The Los Angeles crowds, impatient with his progress and accustomed to the bloodletting of Mexican fighters, broke his spirit to the point that he now thinks of himself as a New York fighter.
The L.A. rejection was not entirely unjustified. Pushed beyond his experience, he was terribly uneven in his performances. His abilities were visible, but the crowds seemed to recognize some hidden flaw. His campaign through the heavyweights did not do much to allay suspicions. He nearly quit following a humiliating defeat by Eddie Machen, by then an unraveling retread. Then came his two fights with Patterson. He was forced to a draw in the first one and, thanks to the munificence of the officials, he stole the return fight. He floored Floyd a total of four times, but in both fights there was a common pattern: Quarry was never in either match in the late rounds. Patterson was confused. "He's terribly strong and he takes an excellent punch," said Floyd. "But this makes his style even less comprehensible. A man who has the strength he has should be more aggressive. He utilizes only 35% of his ability. Here you have a man who is either cheating himself or the public or both."
Quarry's fight with Thad Spencer was only a partial critical success; he punched Spencer—a dissipated prince of the night who could not even move in retreat because of a bad foot—nearly over the Golden Gate Bridge, but he could not finish him. It remained for Jimmy Ellis to all but crush Quarry's reputation, in the WBA title fight. This was a horrendous bore of a fight, and Quarry, who was unintelligent and placid, was left clinging to barely a thread of dignity. "I've never seen an Irishman become so discouraged so easily," observed one critic.
The whole experience, beginning with Machen, left its marks on Quarry. After the loss to Machen, his nerves were unaccountably shot. Being the economic strength of the family had not helped him much, but a psychologist, whom he consulted, wondered if he was emotionally equipped to handle defeat as well as victory. "I was just insecure, just immature," says Quarry now. "The responsibility tore me apart. I am a different guy. I used to worry about everything, my condition, my stamina, the other guy, everything. Always I was afraid of punching myself out. Now I don't worry about a thing. I just go out and put it to the other guy. Now I am a challenging fighter."
Quarry might well be a more aggressive fighter now—surely he was against Buster Mathis three months ago—but it does not seem likely, because he is an instinctive counterpuncher, an artisan who lays traps. Once a victim falls into one of them, the counterpuncher reaches down into his trick bag and comes up with a grenade. Quarry's steady ploy is one in which he leads his prey into a corner, like a spider leading a fly into a web. He invites punches and then counters within a tighter arc. It is a demanding, nerve-racking role, but Quarry has the gifts for his subtle chess game—flashing hand speed and short, punishing punches. "You fly in that man's face," says Patterson, "and he'll fire his hook. It's an awful punch and it's hard to take because it strikes without warning."
Oddly enough, for all of his erratic past, there is vast professional endorsement of Quarry before the Frazier match. It is based on a comparison of styles, which seems to indicate an advantage for Quarry. " Joe Frazier is a perfect foil for Quarry," says Angelo Dundee. "Quarry is a master trap-layer and Frazier falls into them. He is too proud to stay out. He'll come to Quarry, and anybody who does is in trouble." Says Cus D'Amato, "I lean to Quarry, although I hate to pick against Frazier. Frazier moves me. He's beautiful. All of that determination, competitiveness, raw courage, that refusal to be beaten. But I think that Quarry was late to mature, physically and emotionally."
There is no question that Frazier has troublesome defects. He drops his right hand to a dangerous level when he is throwing a left hook, which is his main gun. He comes at you in a straight line, his head sticking out as if he were looking over a fence. Because of these deficiencies, it appears imperative that Frazier advance behind a jab and fight within three inches of Quarry, smothering the punching radius that some believe Quarry must have. "Forget the figurin'," says Chickie Ferrara, who has trained Dick Tiger for years. "Forget the right hands and the counters. A guy can only get those punches off if he has time. What happens when he's under steady fire? What if he's under an artillery barrage? That's what Joe Frazier throws, bombs, and lots of 'em. He never stops."
The old trainer strikes at the heart of the conflict, the implacable valor and spirit of Frazier confronted by the instinctive countering of Quarry—or primitiveness vs. style. " Frazier will go down in the first round," says Quarry. "That's the round when he makes most of his mistakes, when he is trying to set his authority. I'll beat him to a hook every time he throws one." Perhaps. But if not, how will Quarry react when Frazier starts tearing chunks out of his questionable will? Will he come apart? Or will he suddenly rise to meet the brute from which he has hidden far too long?