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|Famous People from Hale County Texas|
Born in the Cousins community just north of Plainview on February
22, 1925 to Stanley James and Rosa Inez Roach. He was a born athlete
from the beginning. Lavern was a high school football star and an
Roach first laced on a pair of gloves at the age of 10. At the age of 13, Roach answered the challenge at a county fair in Memphis, Texas, stepping into a makeshift ring against another youngster billed as an outstanding fighter. Roach tangled his way to a hard-fought, and very unofficial, draw, and his career path seemed all but set. He became a proficient boxer in high school and turned professional while still serving in the United States Marines.
Twice Roach reached the state Golden Gloves title match, falling short of a crown, but went on to win a national Golden Gloves title after joining the Marines in 1943. At Cherry Point S.C., his boxing skills were recognized to the point where he was assigned a berth on the Marine boxing team. While boxing in the Marines he was chosen, Best Fighter of World War II, by Major John Abood. In November 1945 Roach turned pro under the management of Abood.
During the next five years, Roach's career took off as he won 23 of his 24 fights and built an 18-fight win streak. As a professional, Roach rolled to enough victories to be named boxing's 1947 Rookie-of-the-Year by Ring Magazine.
Roach hit the big time when he defeated Tony Janiro in the main event at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 1948. Roach was given little chance against the more experienced Janiro but Roach was in top shape and picked apart Janiro in a lopsided victory by winning 9 of 10 rounds. Just two months later he was back at Madison Square Garden for the biggest fight of his life, a title match against the European middleweight champion Marcel Cerdan.
Roach won the first round, the 32-year-old Cerdan pummeled Roach to
a knockout victory, knocking him down three times in the second
round and four times in the eighth before a crowd of almost 17,000.
Roach crawled around the ring on his hands & knees as Cerdan's
sledgehammer blows smashed him to the floor seven times in eight
rounds. Thus Roach suffered his first loss in nearly two years which
put an end to his 18-fight winning streak. After that beating,
handsome Lavern Roach, a talented fighter who had been brought along
too fast, went back home to Plainview, Texas with his wife and
Roach's retirement didn't last long. 18 months later he was back in the ring. After a few easy wins Roach was scheduled to fight an exhibition bout on his 25th birthday against Georgie Small at the St. Nicholas Arena in Manhattan just two weeks before his scheduled fight against Sugar Ray Robinson.
For seven rounds, Roach fought rings around Small. Roach was so far ahead on points that he could not help winning, but in the eighth round Small let go a desperation right and it crashed flush on Roach's jaw. Roach's legs buckled; staggering, slack-jawed and glassy-eyed, he hung on. When the bell sounded for the tenth round Roach doggedly came out into the ring again. Small jabbed a soggy left to his mouth then a vicious right put Roach down for a count of nine but Roach wouldn't stay down. The referee had a quick look at Roach and resumed the fight but after just one quick jab to the face by Small, Roach was down for the count.
Roach muttered thickly. "I'm getting up." But it took two men to help get him back to his corner. Subconsciously, Lavern Roach seemed to know what was happening, saying "I'm all right," but then quickly lapsed into a coma. Fourteen hours later, in nearby St. Clare's Hospital, Lavern Roach, 25, died of a brain hemorrhage at 12:50 pm February 23, 1950. He was the first boxing casualty of 1950 and one of the first boxers ever to suffer a fatal blow live on national television.
Memorial services for
Lavern Roach were held on February 27, 1950 in Millburn, New Jersey
in front of hundreds of friends and family, including Georgie Small
who broke down in tears during the reception after apologizing to
Lavern's widow. Roach's Pastor Romaine F. Bateman's eulogy stated,
"Few Men in New York have ever had so many friends. Once you knew
Lavern you always felt you gained a friend." Thousands more bowed in
grief as they read what had happened in the newspapers. Roach's body
was then transported back to his home town of Plainview, Texas by
military escort where his closest friends and family laid him to
rest in the Roach family plot at Plainview Cemetery.
The Lavern Roach Memorial Award, is given as the highest honor bestowed upon a senior male student at Plainview High School by popular vote of the student body. It was established in April 1950 by his widow, Evelyn Roach, to promote clean living, good citizenship and sportsmanship. Through the years, the award has been given by his surviving family members including; his brother Bill, sister Beth, widow Evelyn, daughter Ronnie, son Richard, and three grandsons James, Kris, and Kyler Roach.
Texas History in the 19th Century (Amazon)
Vintage Texas Photos (eBay)
Strait Outta Plainview (Facebook)
|Famous People from Hale County Texas|
|Books about Hale County People and Places|