Former world champion Rocky Lockridge, one of the fighters who helped make Atlantic City a boxing mecca in the 1980s, died Thursday at the age of 60.
According to a family statement issued to TMZ.com, Lockridge died of complications related to a stroke he had suffered a few years earlier.
Lockridge, a two-time super-featherweight champion, was a mainstay in Atlantic City and other New Jersey arenas during a 15-year professional career from 1978 to 1992. Thirty-four of his 53 bouts (44-9, 36 KOs) were held in the state, including 11 in Atlantic City.
“Rocky was a terrific fighter,” said State Athletic Control Board Commissioner Larry Hazzard, who was one of boxing’s top referees in the late 1970s and early 80s. “I learned a lot as an upstart referee working fights in Atlantic City and Ice World (in Totowa) with some talented young fighters, and Rocky was definitely one of them.”
Lockridge, who grew up in Tacoma, Washington, signed with Totowa-based Main Events Promotions in 1978 and fought in places like Ice World and Great Gorge Playboy Resort in McAfee.
He made his Atlantic City debut on April 6, 1981, winning the New Jersey featherweight title via 12-round, unanimous decision over Edwin Rivera at Caesars Regency Hotel Casino (now Caesars Atlantic City). He went on to have some epic fights on the Boardwalk at places like Harrah’s Atlantic City, Resorts Hotel Casino, the old Sands Hotel Casino and Tropicana Atlantic City.
Perhaps his best performance in Atlantic City came on April 2, 1988, when he defended his International Boxing Federation title with a 15-round, unanimous decision over Plainfield’s Harold Knight at the Sands’ Copa Room.
“Rocky was the first fighter we signed and the second one to win a world title,” Main Events President Kathy Duva said Thursday. “He was very special to us.”
Lockridge won his first world title in 1984, capturing the World Boxing Association super featherweight title with a stunning, first-round knockout over Roger Mayweather in Beaumont, Texas. He also suffered some controversial defeats against Eusebio Pedroza, Wilfredo Gomez and Julio Cesar Chavez.
Even while waging those memorable bouts in the ring, however, he was losing his fight against alcohol and drugs.
“This was back in a time when we didn’t know as much about how to deal with and treat addiction as we do now,” Duva said. “Dan (Kathy’s late husband and co-founder of Main Events) did the best he could by keeping him in the gym and keeping him active. It was really sad to see what happened to him.”
Lockridge broke ties with Main Events in 1989 and didn’t fight again until 1992, when he suffered back-to-back losses and retired. In early 1997, he was convicted of burglary and served 27 months in prison before being released in July of 1999. He quickly turned back to drugs and was homeless on the streets of Camden.
He suffered a stroke in 2006 and was forced to use a cane to walk. In 2010, his struggles were profiled in an episode of the A&E show “American Intervention.” In 2013, a video surfaced that showed Lockridge being harassed by a man in front of a grocery store and knocking him out with a two-punch combination.
“It’s really a shame what happened to Rocky,” Hazzard said. “It was a sad situation.”