Born to Lose-Earl Atley
Many times when I work on a rating for this thread, a particular song sticks in my mind.
For Earl Atley, I kept hearing that old Ray Charles tune, "Born to Lose", in my head as I reviewed Atley's career.
"Born to lose, I've lived my life in vain,
Every dream has only brought me pain..."
But Earl's life was anything but a life lived in vain. There's nobody who matches my guilt when it comes to using terms of denigration towards the fighters I rate. Still, my interest is to look for the compelling stories behind the boxer, and often I'm taken aback from what I learn.
In the end these were real people who lived lives that were much more than just lacing up a pair of boxing gloves. Such was the case with Earl Atley.
I had the opportunity to locate his death notice which gave me some insight into what he was as a person...not just a boxer.
He served our country during the Korean War as a member of the United States Air Force. In the process, he won the heavweight title for that service branch.
He mustered out and turned pro at the age of twenty-five back in 1956 and fought for seven years, compiling a less than distinguished record of 8 wins (all by stoppage) 18 defeats (stopped 8 times), and two draws.
His Air Force title aside, Earl really didn't have the talent to make the big time. When you start your career with a four round draw against Hurricane Holly, you're in for some problems down the road.
From late 1957 until mid-1959, Earl lost six straight fights, culminating with an eight round decision loss to Rufus Handsome.That's gotta tell you something!
It seemd that Earl was destined to be little more than "red meat" for boxers on the rise who wanted to fatten their record with an easy win.
The loss to Handsome set the stage for Earl's greatest moment in the ring. He was matched against Terry Lewis, a Great White Hope from middle America (see above) who came into the ring with an unblemished record of 17-0 (all the wins via early stoppage).
Earl, however, rose to the occasion decking Lewis three times in the first round to win via a KO in the initial stanza of the fight.
A month later, Earl was in against tought Par McMurtry and was taken out in the third round. After that it was pretty much downhill. Earl picked up paychecks fighting in the major Philadelphia venures, dropped a decision to Tony Hughes in Madison Square Garden, was kayoed in the first round by Mike DeJohn in Miami Beach, and was beaten up twice in Boston by Tom McNeeley.
Besides the upset kayo of Terry Lewis, the other bright spot in Earl's career was a rather controversial ten round decision loss to Kirk Barrow in Spokane, Washington. He also trained with Sonny Liston during this period.
After the his second loss to McNeeley in 1963, the then thirty-one year old Atley called it a career.
Here's where you get a real appreciation of the quality person Atley was during his life. He worked closely with his former manager, Sonny Wiggins, to create a boxing program that would take kids off the street to keep them away from drugs and gangs.
He's quoted as saying, "I hope I made a difference." I'm certain he did! By all accounts he was a wonderful father, a loving grandfather, and a faithful husband to his wife, Eleanor, for over fifty years.
These are the sort of facts that you don't get by just looking at what's listed in BoxRec.
The photo below was initially posted by Rom