WEST TEXAS MIDDLEWEIGHT
The Story of LaVern Roach
(Sport in the American West Series)
by Frank Sikes
Genre: Biography Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: June 30, 2016
Number of Pages: 288
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LaVern Roach, a skinny kid from the small town of Plainview, Texas, rose from obscurity to become one of boxing’s most popular figures during the 1940s. Roach’s rise to prominence occurred during an era when boxing shared the spotlight with baseball as the nation’s top two professional sports. As a result of Roach’s death—which marked the first nationally televised fight during which a boxer died from injuries received in the ring—the sport of boxing came under closer scrutiny by the general public than ever before.
West Texas Middleweight is the story of Roach’s all too brief journey from a West Texas amateur, to enlistment in the US Marines, where he captained the nation’s most successful military boxing team, to becoming a Madison Square Garden main eventer. He received the distinction of being named The Ring Magazine’s “Rookie of the Year” for 1947 and was considered a top ten contender for the middleweight championship of the world. This book chronicles Roach’s road to his final fight—and it explains why, as noted by legendary boxing trainer Angelo Dundee, “boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
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By Frank Sikes
If you don’t know who Angelo Dundee was, let me put it like this: talking to him was like interviewing the Pope while writing a book on Catholicism. His name and association with boxing and personally with LaVern Roach speaks volumes. My interview with him was priceless. He died 6 month later, before he had a chance to write a foreword for the book which he had agreed to write. The photo is of Angelo and me; Angelo was 90 years old at the time and his mind was still sharp as a tack.
Excerpt from West Texas Middleweight: The Story of LaVern Roach
August 16, 2011, Clearwater, Florida
“Boxing changed because of LaVern Roach.”
These were the first words spoken to me by Angelo Dundee as we sat down for lunch at Anthony’s Coal-Fired Pizza, one of his favorite eating places in Clearwater, Florida. What a remarkable statement coming from one of boxing’s most knowledgeable and respected authorities. Those six succinct words from Angelo Dundee provided me with the best reason to write the LaVern Roach story.
At the end of the interview, Angelo presented me with a signed boxing glove which read, “To Frank: Keep Punching,” signed Angelo Dundee. This prized keepsake is on display in the LaVern Roach exhibit located in the Llano Estacado Museum on the Wayland Baptist University Campus in Plainview, Texas.
Frank Sikes, a third-generation West Texan, grew up in Plainview, where LaVern Roach, along with Jimmy Dean, were hometown heroes. Sikes graduated from Texas Tech in 1967, then was a US Navy Officer proudly serving aboard the USS Little Rock stationed in Gaeta, Italy from 1968-1970. He attended the University of Houston School of Business, from 1973 to 1975, and got his master’s degree in religion from Wayland Baptist University in 2011. Frank and his wife Nancy have been married for 50 years and have two grown children out of the house, and two Boston Terriers, Molly and Maggie (or as some suggest Boston terrorists) who rule the house. Lubbock has been home for the past 30 years with stops in Newport, RI; San Francisco, CA; Gaeta, Italy; Houston, TX; and Albuquerque, NM. West Texas Middleweight is his first book.
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