The Legacy of Ray “Sucra” Oliveira

By Ted Sares Ray was never in a boring fight --Promoter Jimmy Burchfield

Ray could be the best fighter of the last decade who hasn’t won a major world title --Burchfield

I wanted to be the first one to stop this world-class opponent and I did. I out-boxed the boxer. When I am up for the challenge that is what happens --Ricky Hatton

Ricky Hatton is showing respect and I appreciate that as I respect him too. --Ray Oliviera

After this former world title contender fought guys, many were never the same thereafter win or lose; in that regard, he was kind of a career destroyer (ask Sergei Artemiev, Tyrone Downes, Tracy Spann, or Zack Padilla). And the level of his opposition was simply off the charts. He never won a major world title, but he fought seven world champions and defeated three of them (Vince Phillips, Vivian Harris and Charles Murray, twice) in a 15-year pro career. He was a tough as they come and was one of boxing’s most popular television fighters because of his entertaining style

Early in his career he duked with Ricky Meyers, Tyrone Downes and the later Murray (twice), Jake Rodriguez, Reggie “Showtime” Green, Vernon “The Viper” Forrest, Fitz Vanderpool, Cihat Salman, Phillips, Ben “Wonder” Tackie, Omar Weis, Saul “Baby” Duran, and Lorenzo Smith. His loss to Elio “El Chingo” Ortiz with the IBU welterweight title at stake in 2003 likely marked his direction South. He did beat Cuban Hicklet “El Marielito” Lau to capture the IBU welterweight title in 2004, but then was stopped in ten hard rounds by Ricky Hatton later that year and seven months later by Emanuel Augustus when he failed to come out after the 8th round.

But the fights that defined Sucra’s fifteen-year pro career were punch-fest ones (against Zack Padilla in 1993), in which 3,020 punches were thrown and one in which 463 total punches were launched in a single round, between Ray and the always tough Vince Phillips in 2000. Both all-time records CompuBox records were set at Foxwoods Resort Casino. (Antonio Margarito later set the all-time (for all weight classes) CompuBox record for most total punches thrown in a fight, 1,675 (140 per round), in his decision win over Joshua Clottey in December 2007). He broke Padilla's thirteen year old record of 1,596 total punches thrown, in his decision win over Oliveira).

I witnessed Ray’s fight with Ghanaian Ben “Wonder” Tackie on August 10, 2001 at Foxwoods in which 2,729 total punches were thrown in full-tilt boogie action and the third most in CompuBox history. Both showed the stamina of porn stars in this incredible punch-fest as Tackie won the NABF 140lbs title by a MD thriller.

I also witnessed Ray’s last fight against Emanuel Augustus at the Hampton Beach Casino in my home state of New Hampshire and watched as the career of one of my favorites came to a painful end. After eight rounds of flying leather and some dramatic and poignant moments, referee Steve Smoger called a halt to the bout. Just before the end, Ray was somehow off kilter and held the back of his head as if in great pain after taking a pawing shot that normally would have had no impact. Clearly, something was wrong. Augustus then asked Smoger with his eyes, “Are you sure you want me to start hitting him again?” Thereafter, Augustus threw strictly body punches until Smoger, watching the action ever so closely, did the right thing. Augustus and Smoger both proved their mettle in what could have been a tragic ending.

As fellow writer, Wray Edwards said in a great piece dated October 7, 2005 (ESB):

“These two boxers are among best examples of the bedrock of the sport. Hard-working, dedicated combatants without whom the sport would not exist. Oliveira’s primal scream at not being allowed to risk his life any further in the match was heart-wrenching evidence of his warrior’s soul crying out in the wilderness of his frustration. No one who heard that sound could doubt the lonely pain of letting go of the dream. His champion’s heart was breaking in front of the whole world as he accepted the inevitable truth of his mortal limitations.”

The Legacy

After his stoppage loss to Ricky Hatton in what many have called Ricky’s finest performance, it was clear Sucra was at the end of the line. The subsequent loss to Augustus affirmed that sad fact. However, despite these two losses, Ray Oliviera left a lasting legacy. It’s a legacy that ranks him with the likes of Arturo Gatti, Hatton, the late Mando Ramos, Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Micky Ward, Ray Mancini, Saad Muhammad, Frank "The Animal" Fletcher, Marvin Johnson (and today’s Michael Katsidis and Antonio Margarito) as fighters who proudly continued the fan-friendly tradition of providing fights that were sheer excitement.

This New England fan favorite (from New Bedford, MA) with a soft-spoken, humble persona and a record of 47-11-2, was inducted into the "CES Ring of Honor" on Friday night, January 25, 2008, at the Fox Theatre located inside Foxwoods Resort Casino. It was a fitting honor to someone who gave 110% to entertain boxing fans.

Watch for the author’s new book due out in November

Article posted on 09.09.2008

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