“It really felt good to achieve my dream of winning a world title.”– Milton McCrory
So many times today in boxing, you hear guys my age in their early 40’s reminiscing about the days when boxing was on ABC, NBC and CBS. Fighters we were able to watch on these networks during the late 70’s and mid 1980’s dazzled us with their brilliance, ring generalship and miles and miles of heart. One such fighter comes to RSR for the first time to break bread and share what can be defined only as a world class career.
That man, as the title of this interview says, is Milton “The Iceman” McCrory, former Kronk fighter and WBC Welterweight Champion of the World. McCrory is yet another fighter out of many that you can bestow words like class and dignity upon and who has a huge respect for a sport that saw him rise to the top.
That top came on his second try at the vacant WBC Welterweight Championship of the World that saw him face Colin Jones in a draw, back on March 19, 1983, but in his second attempt on August 13, 1983, Milt won a tough, close fight by a spilt decision over Jones, giving Kronk their third world champion.
Throughout this interview, McCrory laughed, looked back fondly on his career, was grateful for his time in the lights of the coveted squared circle and movingly talked about a baby brother (Steve McCrory), who also was a world class fighter that the McCrory family lost tragically back in 2000.
BB: You have been retired for over 15 years now from boxing. During that time, what have you been up to?
I currently work at the Chrysler Corporation for the last twelve years doing assembly line work. Also, I am still in boxing, teaching the amateur kids out of the Kronk Gym for about the last four or five years now.
BB: You turned professional (September 10, 1980) a little over a month after Kronk legend Tommy Hearns won his first of many titles with his 2nd round KO over Pipino Cuevas. What was it like for you to be at Kronk working with Emanuel Steward and being alongside world champions such as Hearns and Hilmer Kenty, the WBC Lightweight Champion at the time?
I truly came along at a great time in Kronk history, just perfect. We had great amateurs and professionals. When you sparred against some of the greats there, it was harder than a lot of our actual fights. To be honest, I would rather have a real fight than spar with those Kronk guys back then.
BB: I am always curious about the late Dujuan Johnson. What can you share with the readers about him?
We sparred a lot of hard rounds in the gym and actually fought twice as amateurs, with us both winning a fight. Dujuan could really punch.
BB: Looking at your record, you were tearing through your opponents via knockout in your first 17 fights and many by first round KO. Did it affect you at all when you faced an opponent who took you the distance wondering if it might cause you to have stamina or any other types of problems?
No, not at all. Manny saw that I was doing 6 – 8 hard rounds in the gym with grown men like Tommy Hearns and others. We knew I would not have problems because of my training regimen with these solid fighters that Kronk had at that time.
BB: In your 17th fight on January 23, 1982, you really step up in competition when you face the tough veteran Randy Shields, who was coming off a KO loss to Tommy Hearns for his WBA title. It took Hearns 13 rounds to get him out and you only 8 rounds. What are your recollections of this fight? What did the win do for your boxing career at that point?
It really wasn’t a tough fight, but it was my biggest fight till that period. Shields was my first top ten contender and I really was up for that fight.
What this win did for me was move me into the top very quickly, because I beat someone with a name. The other opponents I faced, they felt were just opponents, but this time around, I beat a contender.
BB: In your next fight on April 22, 1982, you face another tough as nails opponent in Pete Ranzany, who held the NABF title and had challenged for the WBA title as well, being stopped by Pipino Cuevas. Ranzany finally takes you the distance, but you pull out the fight via decision. How did it feel, finally, in your 18th fight to go the distance, and what are your recollections of this fight?
It was a good thing to go ten because it proved to the boxing world that I, in fact, could go ten hard rounds because before then, I was pretty much knocking everyone out. Ranzany was a veteran who hurt me a little to the body that caused me to pass blood in my urine for the very first time as a fighter. I knew right then and there, I was a professional fighter for sure.
BB: Your next fight out on July 10, 1982, you are matched tough again which makes three fights in row. In this match, you face Roger Stafford, who just months earlier in November 1981, was given the 1981 “Upset of the Year” by Ring Magazine for defeating Pipino Cuevas via 10 round decision. Stafford takes you ten full rounds, but in the end, you are the winner by decision. What are your recollections of this fight and at this point in your career, how do judge yourself as a professional fighter?
I shook him up a little in the first round, but I unfortunately broke my right hand. Stafford is someone I really wanted to stop and I feel had I not broken my hand, I could have.
If you look at my fights after that, a lot more went the distance because of hand problems. Stafford was a strong fighter, but not a smart boxer. I have always felt that I was very smart in there as well as strong.
With this win, I felt I was ready for the big time for sure. This was my first TV fight and the boxing world was able to see me beat a top contender easily.
BB: On March 19, 1983, you are fighting for you first title when you face tough Colin Jones of Gorseinon, Wales for the vacant WBC Welterweight title. After 12 hard fought rounds, the judges score it 113-116, 116-114 and 115-115, which was a draw. How did you feel about the decision and did you deviate from your strategy going into the fight once you mixed punches with Jones?
I really did feel it was a very close fight, but that I had won by a narrow margin. In this fight, I came out the gate very fast and wind up getting a little tired, which was even more affected by the altitude in Reno, Nevada.
My philosophy, which goes back to the early days, is you always win the first and last round, which I did in this fight and felt that I edged him overall.
No, I didn’t deviate from my strategy in this fight.
BB: Almost five months later on August 13, 1983, you face Colin Jones again for the still vacant WBC strap. In another tough fight that was very close over 12 rounds which was evident with the scorecards coming back: 114-113 for Jones, and 115-114 along with 115-111 for you.
It seemed that just as Muhammad Ali had Kenny Norton, who was his spoiler in three very close matches, Colin was yours. What was so tough about him that made these fights that close? After this win, you are the new WBC Welterweight Champion of the World and amongst the greats of the Kronk gym. How did it feel and did it change your life at all?
Yes, that is a good point because he was a spoiler to me because of his style of fighting. As they say, “styles make fights” and his would give my style of fighting a helluva time each time we would fight.
Jones was a very tough fighter and his biggest losses came to Donald Curry and me.
It felt so great to be a Kronk Champion and a World Champion as well because this is what I worked so hard for from the amateur ranks. To be alongside Hilmer Kenty and Tommy Hearns with belts was really an honor for me.
I wanted it fast, and it came fast to me. Winning the belt made me even a better fighter, and as they always say, “A fighter becomes better when he is a world champion.” I really did feel like this.
BB: On January 14, 1984, you defend your title for the first time against Milton Guest, who had a very big win over the late Dujuan Johnson, a stablemate of yours at Kronk, when he knocked him out in fifth round. You drop Guest four times and the fight is stopped in the sixth round. What are your recollections of this fight, and did you expect it to go so easily for you?
Well, he actually got the title shot against me because he beat Dujuan. Guest was an older guy who was strong, but not really skilled, which I think might have been because he didn’t have a deep amateur background.
BB: After your KO defeat of Guest, you tear through your opponents in title defenses against Gilles Elbilia (KO6), Pedro Vilella (W12), Luis Santana (TKO3), and Carlos Trujillo (KO3), which sets up a huge unification match with then WBA Welterweight Champion, Donald Curry.
You guys meet in December 6, 1985 at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. The fight is over before it really starts when Curry stops you in the second round. This is your first loss as a professional. Looking back on this fight, what went wrong for you, and how did the loss affect you mentally?
What we didn’t realize back then and should have, was that I had really outgrown the welterweight division, but kept making the weight by killing myself. Curry beat me fair and square, but I was so dehydrated going in, that my chances were slim.
It did affect me mentally and pushed me towards wanting to retire because it was my first professional loss and my very first knockout loss. That hurt my pride for a good period of time. I have never complained about any of my four losses in the ring because I did lose fair and square.
BB: Looking at your record, I noticed you actually fought one of the fighters who, back in the early 80’s, I fought on his undercards in the amateurs. His name was Keith Adams and you hold a ten round decision over him. For my own personal curiosity, what are your recollections of the fight and Keith?
Yes, he was a tough fighter and had a big crowd following.
BB: After the fight with Adams, you reel off three more wins to include winning the North American Boxing Federation (NABF) junior middleweight title. This win comes in a new weight class for you. In your very next fight you challenged then WBA Junior Middleweight Champion Mike McCallum, whom you had strong moments against early, but eventually you were stopped by him in the 10th round. What are your recollections of this fight and now with your second loss by KO, did you want to still fight?
We took the fight on two weeks notice and we found out during training that my nose was broken, but I didn’t want to back out of the fight. Nobody really knows about that, but it’s the truth. Mike was a very tough fighter and we actually sparred in the gym many times which were rough outings.
I actually lost some of the will to fight before this loss and because of that, I started shortcutting in training. I was doing that a lot, and the next couple of losses I had were because of that fact and my fault totally.
BB: After your loss to McCallum you go on to win most of your fights over the next four years and actually win the NABF strap again. On a winning note, you face Robert Curry on April 6, 1991 and stop him in the first round. This actually turns out to be your last fight as professional. What made you retire?
I never cared about breaking records, but just wanted to be a World Champion, which I achieved. During this time, I was living in California and wanted to be back with my family in Michigan.
BB: We have just discussed a stellar boxing career. However, I know that you never wanted to box, but play baseball. What forced your hand into boxing? Did you ever really enjoy any aspect of your boxing career?
Funny story. When we were kids, Jimmy Paul, another Kronk stablemate and the former IBF Lightweight Champion lived down the street from us. He told us that he was boxing and my brother Steve and I thought he was lying. Stevie wanted to go see Jimmy box, but Jimmy said, “In order to come see me box, you have to bring gym shorts and stuff to make it look like you want to box too”. We thought that was cool because we were going to get a chance to watch him box, but once there, we wound up boxing as well and never stopped.
Yes, I did enjoy many aspects of boxing career and none was better than when I was over in Monte Carlo sitting in my locker room, and you remember how they used to have those little TV’s in the room? Well, I saw the commercial saying coming up next you will see the WBC Welterweight Champion, Milton McCrory defending his belt against Carlos Trujillo. I really knew that I had made it and look back on that day fondly. It felt good to achieve my dream.
BB: In your opinion, in what fight did the boxing world see you at your very best?
In both fights with Colin Jones, because even though they both were very close, it showed I had a lot of heart. I got tired in both because they were tough, but I always won the first and last round. In boxing, I have always felt it’s important to make a good first impression and last.
BB: Were there any fights that you really wanted, but your team just could not get it made?
I always wanted to fight guys who beat my teammates from Kronk (Milton laughs). Hagler and Leonard because they beat Tommy. Roberto Duran and Pipino Cuevas turned us down.
BB: The RSR team really prides itself on having a lot of respect for the warriors that step into the ring on any given night for the entertainment of boxing fans worldwide. With that said, I know your family faced tragedy when your brother Steve McCrory died in August of 2000. From your heart as Steve’s older brother, how would you like him to be remembered by the boxing world?
I would like to have them remember him as a well spoken, outgoing man who liked to have fun. He really liked to have fun. Stevie was a very good fighter and a little guy as you know. He had the McCrory blood in his veins. (Milton’s voice had a very proud and affectionate tone when he answered this question about his baby brother).
(Side note: Steve McCrory was a Gold Medalist winner in the 1984 US Olympics and challenged once for the IBF Bantamweight Title against then champion, Jeff Fenech, who defeated Steve by a 14th round TKO, giving McCrory his first professional loss. Steve ended his career in 1991 with a professional record of 30-5-1, 12 KO’s. RIP Steve…)
BB: In a welterweight division today that is filled deep with talent, how do you feel you would have fared?
First off, with how they have you weighing in the day before a fight, I would be the champ for a long time. Back in my day, they weighed you in the day of the fight. Today, I could put on 10 to 15 LBS easy coming into the ring the next day.
BB: Do you favor a mandatory retirement fund for all boxers, and if so, how would you like to see it accomplished?
Yes, I do, but it would be very hard to do. There has to be set rules because a fighter could not just have two fights, and then get a retirement check. The money could come out of the fighter’s purse, promoters could pay in and maybe money from sanctioning fees. Then you need someone very honest to oversee it.
It will be very hard, but is badly needed. How they do it will be the catch for sure.
BB: With your boxing career behind you now, how would you like your fans that followed your career to remember you?
With me being retired now for many years, it’s such an honor for me to run into folks in the streets of Detroit who said they really enjoyed me when I was fighting. I am very proud of this and what I have heard from others who said I made Detroit proud especially from the older generation. I have gotten love from all over the world, but especially in my hometown of Detroit.
I want to thank all my fans for this from the heart.
BB: Finally, what is the saying you live your life by?
“Believe and Become.” This was my favorite slogan when I graduated high school, and I still go by it today.
Amateur Record: 120 fights; 105+, 15-
Professional Record: 40 fights; 35+ (25 KO), 1=, 4-
1983-1985: W.B.C. Welterweight
1987: North America Junior middleweight
– 1980 –
+ (Sep-10-1980, Detroit) Kevin Straughter ko 1
+ (Sep-20-1980, San Juan) Rodney Kennebrew ko 1
+ (Oct-16-1980, Toledo) Chuck Smith ko 1
+ (Oct-23-1980, Detroit) Billy Hodges ko 1
+ (Nov-8-1980, Detroit) Raul Aguirre ko 1
+ (Nov-22-1980, Cincinnati) James Dixon ko 5
+ (Dec-2-1980, Toledo) Doc Bryant kot 1
+ (Dec-12-1980, Detroit) Alfonso Hayman kot 3
– 1981 –
+ (Jan-29-1981, Detroit) Mao De La Rosa ko 1
+ (Feb-19-1981, Detroit) Santiago Valdez kot 2
+ (Apr-9-1981, Detroit) Eddie Marcelle kot 2
+ (Apr-25-1981, Phoenix) Alejos Rodriguez ko 4
+ (May-27-1981, Phoenix) Joey Robles kot 5
+ (Jun-25-1981, Houston) Steve Hearon kot 8
+ (Aug-13-1981, Detroit) Rafael Rodriguez kot 7
+ (Nov-19-1981, Detroit) Arcadio Garcia ko 3
– 1982 –
+ (Jan-23-1982, Detroit) Randy SHIELDS kot 8
+ (Apr-22-1982, Detroit) Pete RANZANY 10
+ (Jul-10-1982, Detroit) Roger STAFFORD 10
+ (Oct-10-1982, Detroit) Victor Abraham 10
– 1983 –
= (Mar-19-1983, Reno) Colin JONES 12 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
+ (Aug-13-1983, Las Vegas) Colin JONES 12 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
– 1984 –
+ (Jan-14-1984, Sterling Heights) Milton Guest kot 6 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
+ (Apr-15-1984, Detroit) Gilles ELBILIA kot 6 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
+ (Dec-4-1984, Atlantic City) Lloyd Taylor ko 4
– 1985 –
+ (Mar-9-1985, Paris) Pedro Vilella 12 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
+ (May-26-1985, Miami Beach) Luis SANTANA kot 3
+ (Jul-14-1985, Monte-Carlo) Carlos Trujillo ko 3 (W.B.C., Welterweight)
– (Dec-6-1985, Las Vegas) Donald CURRY ko 2 (World, Welterweight)
– 1986 –
+ (Apr-18-1986, Atlantic City) Keith Adams 10
+ (Jul-13-1986, Las Vegas) Doug DE WITT 10
+ (Nov-26-1986, Las Vegas) Jorge AMPARO 10
– 1987 –
+ (Mar-7-1987, Detroit) Rafael Corona kot 1 (North America, Junior middleweights)
– (Apr-19-1987, Phoenix) Mike MC CALLUM kot 10 (W.B.A., Junior middleweights)
+ (Oct-28-1987, Las Vegas) Herman Cavasuela 12 (North America, Junior middleweight)
+Nov-19-1987, Windsor) Jerome KELLY kot 2
1988-04-10 Lupe Aquino Atlantic City, USA L MD 10 1988-11-25 Joaquin Velasquez Auburn Hills, USA L TKO 7
1990-09-21 Mike Sacchetti Saint Louis, USA W UD 10