If you ask people today, most would recognize Rocky Lockridge by face more than by name. A heartfelt outpour of contrition was made light of in a meme that proliferated throughout the internet for the better part of a decade.
Yet long before his infamy, Lockridge was building a reputation as a gladiator in the boxing ring, and he faced a huge challenge against WBA lightweight champion Eusebio Pedroza in his first career title bout.
On Oct. 4, 1980, Pedroza was riding high on a two-and-a-half year run as the top dog at 126 lbs, and woke up with no intention to relinquish his crown the morning of the fight.
Pedroza and Lockridge fought a 15-round fight in a tale of two halves, as a strong start from Lockridge was withstood and countered by a fantastic close from Pedroza. In front of a packed house in Vernon Township, NJ., Lockridge had his hometown fans behind him. But were the judges too?
The first five rounds sung a Lockridge song. Save for a second round that was very close to call, Rocky did not let his 5’6” frame hinder him from exerting his prowess against the 5’9” Pedroza. Lockridge led with his head both physically and tactically, burying his forehead into Pedroza’s chest and muscling him around the ring.
Lockridge took the inside early and began with jabs to the body that scored in waves. Pedroza tried to counter this with bounce to his step and ring movement, but one thing led to another and next thing you know, Lockridge found ways to box the Panamanian champion into the corners and show off his hand speed.
Pedroza showed good instincts while getting very low in his stance, dodging punches and not seeming to be bothered by the plethora of punches that Lockridg was landing. While he showed retaliatory hand speed, his punches did not have much behind them, whereas Lockridge was able to catch him flush with several straight rights and hooks in that span. While Pedroza began to show range with his punches in round five, it was a one sided affair heading into round six.
Slowly but surely, the tide began to turn. Flicking his jab with consistency and getting aggressive himself with shoves (some bordering on illegal) Pedroza woke up to his physical advantages and stole round six. Lockridge would not sit down while Pedroza caught a second win, convincingly earning rounds seven and eight behind a 1-2 combination in the seventh that prompted Pedroza to throw feints to try and get him off kilter.
From the tail end of round eight, a sharp vicissitude in fortune took place, as Pedroza started making the New Jersey native whiff on punches. Perhaps he was tired. Perhaps his combinations were starting to become predictable. One way or the other, Pedroza turned the fight around and utterly dominated from rounds nine to 14.
The ninth round was far and away the most convincing three-minute period of the fight. Pedroza found a new point of attack – sweeping hooks to Lockridge’s body. Soon, his wingspan advantage became plain to see, and Pedroza punished Rocky’s rib cages.
Additionally, Pedroza began fancying short uppercuts to the navel and chin, picking his spots and peppering the contender with shot after shot. Lockridge became very sloppy in round 10, and could not pick up the pace in round 11. After Pedroza outpointed Lockridge in round 12, the latter had pride kick in, and with it more zap to his punches.
Pedroza remained more active in round 13 but his punches were not connecting. They were thrown onto a shell of a defense. Lockridge did not take advantage with counters, but a strong right hand was quite literally enough to give him the round, as points were hard to come by.
The two split the last two rounds on my cards and their fate was left to the judges. All three apparently watched completely different fights, as Rodolfo Hill scored the fight 149-139 Pedroza. Harold Letterman had less cracks in his spectacles, giving a 144-142 nod to Lockridge and Stanley Christodoulou scored it 147-141 Pedroza, giving the Panamanian another successful title defense.
It would be easy to fall into the hypnotic fervor of the crowd and play-by-play announcers calling the fight in favor of Lockridge. However, objectivity leans toward a draw or slight favor to Lockridge. Either way, a Pedroza victory warranted no “this is a travesty” censure.
Pedroza defended the lineal featherweight championship nine more times over the span of five years after his fight with Lockridge. He would see the latter once again in 1983, securing a unanimous decision win and putting off any doubts about his first win at the start of the decade. He lost the titles in 1985 to Barry McGuigan and would never fight in a championship bout again, ending his career at 41-6-1 (25 KO) en route to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
Lockridge went 13-1 in between his first and second fights with Pedroza. After two failed attempts at featherweight supremacy, he would achieve a career feat, knocking out then-WBA and The Ring junior lightweight champion Roger Mayweather in one round, handing him his first-ever professional defeat.
However, his misfortune with the judges would continue after that, as epic battles against legends Wilfredo Gomez and Julio Cesar Chavez stripped Lockridge of his championships via two controversial majority decisions. He’d earn another title at 130 lbs — this time the IBF championship — in 1987 against Barry Michael before a string of four losses in his last seven fights ended his career at a respectable 44-9 (36 KO).
The subject of his viral meme cry came on a 2010 episode of the A&E television series “Intervention,” where his family attempted to help the former champion get back on his feet after battles with homelessness and substance abuse. He passed away on Feb. 7, 2019, but should be remembered for his days as a well-spoken, hard-nosed champion.