Best I Faced: Quincy Taylor
Heavy-handed southpaw Quincy Taylor earned his stripes as the lead sparring partner for Sugar Ray Leonard ahead of the Marvin Hagler superfight in 1987. That experience served him well, and he went on to claim the WBC middleweight title in 1995.
Taylor, who is the youngest of six children, was born in Dallas, Texas, on July 18, 1963.
“It was rough, because I didn’t have the luxury of being raised by my parents. I was raised by great aunt,” Taylor told The Ring. “I didn’t have a father influence, [though] he was around. It was the aunts and uncles who showed me the ropes.”
The Texan’s first introduction to boxing came when he was around 12 or 13.
“We were playing basketball, and I got into a fight and beat up the guy,” he recalled. “My friend was like, ‘Man, you can box.’ At the time, I didn’t know I had the gift they were saying I had; I just knew how to protect myself. I was raised in the church. I didn’t know anything about the fight game.”
“Quincy Taylor nearly knocked me out … After sparring with Quincy, I changed my strategy for my fight with Hagler.”
– Sugar Ray Leonard
Taylor wasn’t a regular at the gym, but he had a respectable amateur career. Although he didn’t win any national titles, he reached the final on a couple of occasions and went 89-12 in the unpaid ranks.
Away from boxing, he got his GED and began working different warehouse jobs. Then, as he pondered his next move, Taylor was offered a life-changing opportunity.
“I was going to hang around until [the] 1988 [Olympics] because I felt like I had a better chance to win the gold medal then,” he said. “But they said, ‘How would you like to spar Sugar Ray Leonard?’ I thought it was a joke. Two weeks later, I ended up flying to Washington, D.C., to spar Ray Leonard.
“I had to have three quick fights so I could be a professional. So, I was 3-0 as a pro. I wouldn’t have been allowed to spar with Ray [without any professional fights], as he was a pro.”
Although Taylor didn’t fight for 10 months after those first three bouts, he gained invaluable experience with Leonard.
“It was great sparring,” said Taylor, who was selected because his fighting style had some similarities to Hagler’s. “Ray Leonard couldn’t believe my ability compared to all the other fighters he had, even though they had better records; these guys were 21-0, 22-0, 25-0. I was with Ray the whole camp. We did a lot of rounds.”
Taylor, who looked up to Leonard as a big-brother figure, vividly recalls the moment just five days before Hagler-Leonard fight when Leonard decided to drastically change his game plan.
“I was hurting him a lot, but I didn’t realize how strong I was; I was just going through the motions,” he explained. “The day I really shocked Ray was April Fools’ Day. We were in Las Vegas. I rocked Ray. I could have blown on him [and he would have gone down], but I wanted to keep him up.
“He gave me an extra $5,000 to go gambling. That made him know he couldn’t fight Hagler the way he was going to try to — he was going to slug with Hagler. Angelo Dundee told him, ‘That young man is going to show you why you can’t slug with Hagler.’ They already discussed what I was going to do.”
Leonard is only to happy to corroborate Taylor’s version of events and 35 years later remains extremely grateful.
”Quincy Taylor nearly knocked me out, but he pulled back the punches and then The Hagler-Leonard fight took place,” admitted Leonard. “After sparring with Quincy, I changed my strategy for my fight with Hagler. Thanks, Quincy. Love you, buddy.”
Taylor returned with a string of wins and was initially signed by Top Rank through his association with Leonard. However, he was released after losing to future junior middleweight titleholder and pound-for-pound entrant Terry Norris in August 1988.
“I let him beat me up in my head mentally,” Taylor admitted. “He said, ‘I’m going to show you how I can take a shot,’ and I abandoned my game plan and I just tried to knock him out. He started throwing extra punches. I’d catch two and he’d catch me with two more. I just lost focus. I was angry and mad. It wasn’t how I normally fight.”
He returned with four wins, which included a stoppage victory over previously unbeaten Mario Gaston in the final of the Forum junior middleweight tournament.
However, two defeats to experienced former welterweight titlist Jorge Vaca (TD 6, UD 10) threw him off course.
After a 13-month hiatus, Taylor returned under the expert eye of former welterweight champion Curtis Cokes and reeled off 13 wins, 12 by knockout, claiming the NABF title and wins over the respected trio of Otis Grant (KO 12), Derrick Rolan (TKO 8) and Rodney Toney (TKO 12).
Those wins helped position him for a shot at fearsome WBC middleweight beltholder Julian Jackson on the undercard of a returning Mike Tyson versus Peter McNeely in August 1995.
“That was pretty amazing,” said Taylor, who fought with an injured ACL on the showpiece undercard. “They told me I had the same knockout ratio as Mike Tyson. I was Ray Leonard’s protege. I was baby Tyson.
“[Jackson] was the pre-fight favorite. I stopped him in the sixth round. I had a bad leg; I had it in a brace. They were shocked to see I was able to punch the way I was.
via TNTomlinson Boxing on YouTube:
“I had to have surgery after the fight, and then they tried to force me to fight 90 days after the surgery against Keith Holmes. I had bad management.”
Ultimately, Taylor wound up facing Holmes on another Tyson undercard, this time against Frank Bruno in March 1996.
“I was the walkout bout on Tyson-Bruno II,” he said. “I couldn’t find my brace; I ended up having a sleeve on my leg. A lot of negatives that went wrong. I should have just said, ‘Take the title, because I can’t fight. My leg’s not healed.’
“I’m an emotional fighter. If I’d been on point, I wouldn’t have lost to Keith Holmes. When things are going well, I gel. When things aren’t going well, I don’t gel.
“When he caught me with the shot, I either got the leg tore up and take the shot or roll with the shot and put pressure on the knee. I went with taking the shot because I couldn’t get away from it.”
Taylor lost his title in nine rounds and would only fight twice over the next five years. He became frustrated at having fights fall out and retired for good with a record of (28-4, 24 knockouts).
Taylor, now 59, is married with four children and recently moved back to Dallas. After boxing, he trained children at the local Boys and Girls Club, and prior to the pandemic he worked on oil rigs.
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he fought in 10 key categories.
Keith Holmes: “He was tall and rangy; he used his height. He was a southpaw. I knew how to adapt to southpaws because I’m a southpaw myself. I think it helped him against other opponents.”
Terry Norris: “He was slick and difficult to get a clean shot on him.”
Norris: “Terry had good handspeed. He was slick with it. When you attack him, he counters and attacks you.”
Norris: “He moved around the ring real well. He knew how to cut off the ring, but at that time I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was trying to take it to him.”
Norris: “He was smart because he’d get inside your head. He gets you to fight not how you prepared yourself for, and he’d take advantage of it.”
Mario Gaston: “He was muscle-bound. He could push you around. If he got close in, it was hard to get him off.”
Tomas Perez: “I hit him with everything and he stood his ground and fought back. I hit him with good, clean shots, combinations, and he never went down. I said, ‘Coach, he’s on something.’ I’d never hit somebody so hard and them not go down.”
Julian Jackson: “He punched real hard. He hit me with a bodyshot — I’d done 1,000 sit-ups and 500 crunches every day — it felt like he bust my kidney. That was the hardest I’ve ever been hit. I thought if he hits me in the face, I’m going to be in trouble. I knew I couldn’t get caught clean to the face or body. It probably would have been over. I could take a pretty good shot, but I didn’t want to chance it with him, because he could punch. He knew if he hit you solid, you were going to go.”
BEST BOXING SKILLS
Norris: “He was aggressive, he had a cocky attitude, he was sure of his ability to box. If he can catch you off-balance with his speed and movement, he felt like he could use that against you. He was an all-around fighter. He had the power. He would walk you down.”
Jackson: “I watched his tape 20 times and couldn’t see a flaw. I couldn’t see nothing he was doing wrong. I watched it again and I saw it — it was his rhythm. He had the same speed. I couldn’t find an opening where I could penetrate his defense. He was all-around defense and offense. I had to memorize and punch between his rhythm.”
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected].