Urbane and good looking with an appearance more commensurate with that of a real estate broker than a professional prize fighter, Dan Sherry was once hailed as a future world champion.
The 1986 Commonwealth Games gold medallist ultimately decided to pass on the opportunity to replicate that feat in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, opting instead to sign a managerial deal with no less a fistic deity than the great Sugar Ray Leonard.
Undefeated going into a 1991 WBO middleweight title challenge vs Chris Eubank, Sherry has arguably been remembered by the bulk of British fight fans for the wrong reasons.
With a little coaxing from your humble narrator he resolved to set the record straight on a cold Canning Town afternoon juxtaposed with a late morning in Ontario at his end of our transatlantic conversation.
With pleasantries duly exchanged, I asked him how it all began?
“I started boxing when I was 10 years old. I weighed 85 pounds and I fought Robbie Hill in Welland, Ontario. That was my first fight and, it’s funny, 2 years ago, I ran in a charity event for St. Joseph’s hospital and Robbie came to cheer me on.
I joined the Canadian national team at 13 and started travelling, right up until 1984 when I broke my hand which stopped me going to the Los Angeles Olympics.
Shortly before the 1988 Olympics I went to the North American championships and beat the Cuban (Eresto Solano) who was the world number one light middleweight . My room mate at the time was Lennox Lewis.
Sugar Ray Leonard offered me a contract, so I went with the sure thing and turned pro.”
When reminded of his debut on the undercard of the Ray Leonard – Donny Lalonde fight in Las Vegas in November ’88 versus one Johnny Apollo Deutscher he responds, “Great name ! I ended up fighting in Vegas 17 times. As a boxer coming up, you couldn’t help but admire Sugar Ray Leonard. I actually got to meet Ray when he came to our gym in Toronto to get ready for the Hagler fight.
So we knew him and his people before his comeback and had a great relationship.
The guy that really made him, Mike Trainer, was a real estate lawyer who allowed Ray to basically own his own contract.”
On the subject of the major influences on his decidedly silky ring style, Sherry expands, “I very much liked to be a student of the game and ,when I look back upon my career, I had two trainers of ten who really taught me how to fight. They were Mike Murphy, an Irishman and Tom McGrory, a Scotsman. They both taught me the science of fighting. With a boxer you want your guy to fight with a fighter you want him to box. You’ve got to be able to adapt. I didn’t want to be pegged as a fighter or a boxer. If I had to fight, I could fight and if I had to box I could box.”
After 17 straight wins in North America came a world title opportunity against newly crowned WBO middleweight champion, Chris Eubank, in his native Brighton.
“It wasn’t intimidating at all. Although I hadn’t fought anybody of that level in my pro career, I’d been in the ring with Ray Leonard, I’d been in the ring, stupidly, with my good friend Lennox Lewis who toyed with me but I’d been around world champions so I had no reservations about taking the fight with Eubank.
Although Sherry appeared to outbox the defending champion with consummate ease in the early rounds, he admits, “When he hit me in the first round, I knew I was in a fight. That was key for me because , after I got hit by him I said to myself , ‘There’s no way I’m getting hit again!’ Because Eubank packed a hell of a punch and I wasn’t going to be anyone’s whipping boy.
Early in the first round, I noticed his footwork sucked. He was phenomenal if I went to him, he’d have knocked me out in a heartbeat but he had no footwork moving forward…and then I started talking to him!”
In fact much was made of the Canadian’s verbiage ‘on the job’ when the controversial ending came.