Home Boxing History Puncher from the Past: Sugar Ray Seales

Puncher from the Past: Sugar Ray Seales

Sugar Ray Seales

Born 9 April 1952 Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Isles

Record: 68 fights, 57 wins (34 by KO/TKO), lost 8 (three by KO/TKO against Marvin Hagler, Alan Minter and Dwight Davison) 3 draws.

Division: Middleweight

Stance: Southpaw

Won Olympic Gold Medal at 1972 Games. The only USA fighter to win a gold medal at the Games. Was a gold medal winner at the 1971 US National championships and at the 1973 National Golden Gloves. In the US National championships in 1971 he beat Carlos Palomino in the semi-finals and in 1972 lost to Palomino in the gold medal bout. In the US Olympic Trials Seales beat Pete Ranzany who had eliminated Palomino.

Turned professional January 1973

1973-Had 14 fights winning them all beating 100-fight veteran Chucho Garcia and Britain’s Dave Coventry

1974-Had 10 fights winning 8 beating David Love and losing then drawing with Marvin Hagler.

1975-Had 7 fights winning 6 beating Mike Dixon, Mike Lancaster and Renato Garcia but losing to Eugene Hart.

1976-Had 4 fights beating George Cooper and Bobby Hoye but losing to Alan Minter

1977-Had 11 fights losing to Ronnie Harris in March then winning 10 in a row including victories over Tony Gardner, Vincente Medina, Mike Hallacy and Doug Demmings.

1978-Had 7 fights beating Sammy Nesmith, drawing with Willie Warren and losing a majority decision to Ayub Kalule in Denmark

1979-Had three fights including a loss against Marvin Hagler and a draw with Mike Colbert.

1980-Was 4-1 Beating 31-0 Art Harris but losing to Dwight Davison. Outpointed Jamie Thomas in a fight that eventually led to Seales retiring.

1981 to 1983– Won 7 of his 8 fights beating Sammy Nesmith and John LoCicero but losing to unbeaten James Shuler. He had his last fight in January 1983 stopping Max Hord in the first round.

The Story of Sugar Ray Seales

Seales was born in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands where his father was serving in the US Army. He was one of eight children and his father had been part of the US Army boxing team. The family moved to Tacoma, Washington in 1965.  He and his brother Wilbur joined the Tacoma Boys Boxing Club. Amateur boxing in the Pacific North West was booming at the time producing future champions such as Rocky Lockridge, Leo Randolph and Johnny Bumphus. Box Rec shows Seales starting out in 1966 in the 95lb division and working up through the weights winning the Tacoma Golden Gloves, Seattle Golden Gloves, Inland Empire State Golden Gloves, Oregon Golden Gloves and Western Region Golden Gloves.  He won a bronze medal at the 1970 Golden Gloves at 132lbs before winning the 1971 National title at 139lbs beating Carlos Palomino on his way to the final. He lost to Palomino in the 1972 National final but rebounded to win his way through the  US Olympic Trials, The Games were held in Munich and in his first bout Seales beat German hope Ulrich Bayer. Only 19 at the time and now in the US Air Force, Seales fought his way to the gold medal but the Games were overshadowed by the murder of eleven Israeli coaches and athletes and a German policeman by terrorists of the Black September group who invaded the athletes quarters. It seemed possible that the Games would be abandoned but they continued with Seales being the only member of the US Boxing Team to win a gold medal. Seales tuned professional but his signing on bonus was a mere $1000 (for winning a gold medal in 1976 another Sugar Ray-Leonard was paid $40,000). BoxRec shows Seales as having a 48-8 record as an amateur but this would omit his fights as a junior and club shows etc. and some sources, including Seales,  give his amateur record as 338-12.

He won his first 21 paid fights before losing on points to 14-0 Marvin Hagler in August 1974 in Boston. They fought again in November 1974 in Seattle and the result was a majority draw with one judge having Seales the winner and the other two scoring it a draw. Losses to Eugene Hart, Alan Minter and Ronnie Harris almost derailed Seales but he rebounded by going 15-0-1 in his next 16 fights. In November 1978 in Denmark, he lost a majority decision to future WBA light middleweight champion Ayub Kalule. Any dreams Seales had of a title shot ended in February 1979 when he was floored three times and stopped in the first round by Hagler.

In 1980 a stoppage loss against Dwight Davison was a further blow but an even more damage blow came in his next fight in August 1980. He scored a points win over very modest Jamie Thomas but was thumbed in the left eye and suffered a detached retina. Seales already had problems with his right eye but he successfully covered up both injuries and continued to box with very limited vision winning 7 of his next 8 fights before his problems were leaked and he was forced to retire. The eye damage was so serious that he was ruled legally blind.  He went through seven operations which resulted in a slight improvement in his vision in his right eye. The operations swallowed all the money Seales had and he was forced to file for bankruptcy with the judge in his case writing of Seales “he couldn’t even pay the bankruptcy filing fee”. Attempts were made to put on a benefit show for Seales in Tacoma but despite the attendance of Muhammad Ali, Hagler, Ray Mancini and others only 4,000 tickets were sold effectively raising no money. When Seales’ plight had first become known Sammy Davis Jr said Seales was suffering from three B’s, black, blind and broke, Davis had been a prime mover in getting the benefit show off the ground and after it failed Davis donated $100,000 to clear Seales debts. That gave Seales the chance to start his life anew. From 1984 he spent 17 years working with autistic children in schools in the Tacoma area before retiring and moving to Indianapolis so his wife could be nearer to her family. Inevitably Seales made his way to a local gym and began to work with young boxers there including the currently unbeaten WBA No 2 lightweight Frank Martin.

Seales was inducted into the Indianapolis Boxing Hall of Fame in 2018 and the US Virgin Islands proclaimed 14 April 1984 to be Sugar Ray Seales Day. After his wife died Sealers moved back to Tacoma where some of his siblings still lived. He is 71 now and proud that he never let his misfortune beat him down. Of one thing you can be sure Sugar Ray still carries his gold medal with him every time he leaves the house. He shows the medal to any young aspiring boxer he meets and not just to boxing people and he recognises the thrill it must give to be pictured with a gold medal. Life may have taken away most of his vision but no one can ever take away the gold medal he won in 1972.