R.I.P Roy Harris – A Heavyweight Who Fought The Best

By James Slater - 08/10/2023 - Comments

It was reported yesterday how former heavyweight contender and world title challenger Roy Harris passed away, this at the good, old age of 90. Harris of Cut and Shoot, Texas, passed away at home yesterday morning. Older fight fans will know of Harris, while younger fans should take the time to look up his record if they are unfamiliar with him.

A good-looking guy who was blessed with an athletic build, Harris was born in June of 1933 and he was taught how to box by his father, who was a hog farmer by trade. Harris had a good amateur career, with him winning the Texas Golden Gloves four times, with Harris also winning the Joe Louis Sportsmanship award in 1954, this at the National Golden Gloves.

Going pro in April of 1955 and boxing in Texas, Harris, who wasn’t a big puncher but had good skills and a ton of heart, won his first 23 bouts. Along the way, as he worked his way towards a hoped for world title shot, Harris defeated some good fighters, including Bob Baker, future light heavyweight champ Willie Pastrano, and Willi Besmanoff, with Harris beating all three on points.

This saw Harris, at age 25, get a crack at Floyd Patterson’s heavyweight crown. The fight took place at Wrigley Field, Los Angeles in August of 1958 and Harris scored an early knockdown before being dropped multiple times himself, his corner deciding to pull a badly cut and beaten up Harris out after 12 rounds (interestingly, Patterson’s trainer/manager Cus D’Amato remarked after the fight how the gloves used had thinner leather than was usual). Afterwards, a bloodied Harris said humbly how he “tried my best” in the fight. A California record of a little more than $234,000 was generated by the live gate, this a huge sum for the time. The 21,000 crowd was fully behind Harris, but Patterson was just too good for him. The great Mushy Callahan was the referee.

Further fights with big names followed. Harris fought a peak Sonny Liston in April of 1960, with the rampaging Liston scoring a one round win. Harris was then stopped by Bob Cleroux, before he travelled to London to fight British hero Henry Cooper. Cooper won a close decision over 10 rounds. Harris was then stopped by Cleroux a second time, this in May of 1961, and he retired from the sport. After hanging up the gloves, Harris became a lawyer. Harris’s final record reads 30-5(9).

Harris remained lucid and in good health well into his later years and his popularity among those who knew him and followed his career never faded.

May he rest in peace.