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.
Having been largely outmanoeuvred and outboxed for much of the completed 9 rounds, the stalking Eubank suddenly got Sherry under heavy pressure nailing him with several hard shots in succession.
The challenger gamely hung on and neatly span the champion around before allegedly whispering a racial epithet in Eubank’s ear. Hove’s finest responded with an innocuous looking headbutt in reverse which sent Sherry to the canvas apparently in much distress.
“It wasn’t his headbutt that caused me to collapse. What happened was that, early in the fight, my trainer Pepe Correa took my mouth guard out and left it out. So I boxed one round without it and Eubank proceeded to punch a nice hole in my lip.
I’m not a doctor but there was a doctor ringside and I lost a lot of blood which can cause a black out.
The next thing I remember was a guy putting a drainage tube down my throat to clear my windpipe. So that was the issue, nothing to do with the headbutt, I mean, he barely tapped me!
Anybody that actually knew me knows that I would never make a racial slur. That was ridiculous. I mean, I did kinda’ joke with him and say, ‘Your mother wears army boots’ but I was ‘goofing’ and being funny.
What I enjoyed, in between rounds, was watching his corner beat the living shit out of him. That guy (Ronnie Davies) got some better licks on him than I did.”
I ask him if there is anyway he can regard the ten round technical decision he lost that night as fair and just ?
“There was a bunch of my people there and what they witnessed was Barry Hearn going around to every f***ing judge and talking to them. How many minutes did it take before they announced the decision ?
TEN ? It was beyond the limit of understanding.”
After a rehabilitative win in his native Ontario over Gerry Meekinson and a retirement loss to future world champ Otis Grant, Sherry was back in the UK to face Eubank’s great nemesis, Nigel Benn, at Alexandra Pavilion.
“That was a wonderful experience. I had a lot of respect for Benn but unfortunately I didn’t have enough respect because I took that il fated hook when I tried to throw an uppercut from the outside. I left myself totally exposed and when I did he made sure that I paid for it.
I can remember that split second. One moment you’re up and the next you’re on all fours thinking, ‘Oh, Shit’ and you’re talking to the ref and he’s waving it over.”
It was inevitable that I should ask my affable friend which of his two legendary Brit adversaries he ranks more highly ?
“Oh, Benn, by far. It would have been nice to go more rounds with Benn but he was the better all round fighter. Benn was a smart guy, I don’t think Eubank was smart. “
Happy in retirement and enjoying his anonymity, the one time world class middleweight evaluates his distinguished journey in boxing with charming self deprecation, “
“I just think my career wasn’t meant to be you can want something so much but it’s just not on the cards.”