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A King Without A Crown
E.M. Swift
November 02, 1981
Sean O'Grady held the lightweight championship and did as his father wanted—and that cost him his title
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November 02, 1981

A King Without A Crown

Sean O'Grady held the lightweight championship and did as his father wanted—and that cost him his title

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He started training again last New Year's Day, and he was again given a chance to win a 135-pound title in April, against Kenty. It was Kenty's fourth defense, and few thought O'Grady had much of a chance. O'Grady is tall (5'10½") for a lightweight, which gives him exceptional leverage and, hence, power, and he's a polished boxer. But he also takes a lot of punches and cuts easily. Kenty, most observers supposed, would jab him to ribbons. But in the second round O'Grady knocked Kenty down with a straight right on the point of the chin, and he dominated the fight, winning 13 of 15 rounds. "Hit him in the tub," his father repeated between rounds. "Every time you hit him in the belly he cries." Kenty took a terrible beating and showed great courage in lasting 15 rounds. It was a resounding way for O'Grady to win the lightweight championship. "He's a great body puncher," says Angelo Dundee, Sugar Ray Leonard's corner man. "One of the few left."

Then, after five months and no fights, O'Grady became an ex-champ at 22. The goal that he had sought since he was in fifth grade—when he announced to his laughing classmates, "Someday I'm going to be world champion!"—thrown away without taking a punch. And even though he's the same fighter, his marketability is limited without a title. And his talk about moving up in weight to fight Leonard sounds hollow. What does Leonard need with Sean O'Grady, former champion?

And just how good is O'Grady? "He's a real professional fighter," says Cus D'Amato, who managed Floyd Patterson and Jose Torres, among others. "He's not a skillful fighter, but boxing is a test of wills, not skills." A more sober assessment comes from Jimmy Jacobs, Wilfred Benitez's manager: "Right now he wouldn't beat Arguello [the WBC lightweight champ]. He hasn't reached his peak yet and won't for a few more years." What would happen if he fought Leonard? Says Jacobs, "I wouldn't even address myself to a question like that."

They have completed five laps. The fog has lifted some; the sun is burning its way through. They are walking, joking with each other, their T shirts wet and sticking to their skin. It has been a good start for the day.

A car approaches. O'Grady recognizes it and he tightens. A trapped look passes across his face. He walks on, hands on hips, head down now.

His father drives up. "You through already?" he says.

"Yep."

"What time'd you start?"

"Seven."

"How far'd you go?"

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