John Shkor Jr., 82, pro heavyweight boxer

February 14, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

John Shkor Jr., who as a professional heavyweight fought some of the world's most notable boxers, including Joe Louis, Jersey Joe Walcott and Rocky Marciano, died Sunday of dementia at his Edgemere home. He was 82.

Mr. Shkor, whose name is pronounced "score," was born and raised in Edgemere, the son of Russian immigrants. He attended Sparrows Point High School, where he played soccer, football and baseball, and was working in a restaurant part time when he became friendly with Johnny "Kid" Williams, a former world champion bantamweight fighter from Baltimore.

Impressed with the agility of the 6-foot-4-inch, 200-pound 17-year-old, Mr. Williams suggested he try boxing.

Mr. Shkor started taking boxing lessons at the Central YMCA and had a brief amateur career. In 1938, he was crowned the News-Post, American Diamond Belt heavyweight champion, and sportswriters pointed to him as the "best thing the Baltimore amateur ring has ever uncovered."

FOR THE RECORD - John Shkor Jr.: An obituary in yesterday's editions on former heavyweight boxer John Shkor Jr. misstated his record. His career record was 50 fights with 29 victories, 19 losses and two draws. The Sun regrets the error.

In 1939, he was placed under the management of John Buckley, the fight manager who guided Jack Sharkey to the heavyweight championship, and he moved to Boston, fighting as the "Giant of Sparrows Point."

After turning professional in 1940 and compiling a record of 23 knockouts, one decision and one loss, Mr. Shkor joined the Navy as an aviation machinist. While serving in Hawaii, he won the Pacific Ocean Heavyweight Championship.

Discharged in 1945, Mr. Shkor went back into the ring professionally as "The Fighting Sailor."

"His many opponents were the Who's Who of his boxing era and would include Red Burman, Johnny Kapovich, Big Boy Brown, Joe Baski, Buddy Walker, Sid Peaks, Leo Matriccini and Sandy McPherson," said Ray H. Leonard Jr., past president of the Veterans Boxing Association International Ring 101, and a member of the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame.

"It would be these last 4 1/2 years of the heavyweight's career that he would be matched up against Louis, Walcott, and Marciano. But, ironically, it would also be during these years, that Johnny would painfully realize he could never be the heavyweight champion of the world," said a 1979 profile in the Signode Supply Corp.'s magazine, the newsletter for the Sparrows Point company he worked for after leaving boxing.

He fought two exhibition fights against Joe Louis in 1948 and in 1949, the latter a 10-rounder that Mr. Louis won by decision.

"That boy is as good a heavyweight as there is. There is none gamer," Mr. Louis told reporters.

His last two professional fights were against Walcott and Marciano. On March 12, 1950, Walcott knocked him out in 94 seconds in Philadelphia.

"The next thing he knew, he was waking up in his locker room, asking his trainer who won the fight," said the profile.

Some attributed his inability to become champion to a lack of a killer instinct in the ring.

"I never really liked to hurt anyone. I'm the guy who can't hurt a fly. The only time I'd get riled up would be if I was hurt or got fouled," he said in the profile.

He returned to the ring one last time in 1954 at the urging of Signode co-workers, knocking out James Wiley in a match at Baltimore's old Coliseum. He worked at the North Point Boulevard company from 1950 until retiring in 1983.

Mr. Shkor, who enjoyed tending grapes in the yard of his Edgemere home, was inducted into the Maryland Boxing Hall of Fame in 1984.

"He was a quiet man and not a braggart, even though he had a lot to be proud of," said Mr. Leonard who praised his career record of 50 fights with 19 victories, 19 losses, and two draws.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today at St. Luke's Roman Catholic Church, 7517 North Point Road, Edgemere.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Verna Dorfler; two daughters, Bertha Ann Murphy and Verna M. Patti; two brothers, Edward Shkor and Nicholas Shkor; two sisters, Sophie Wills and Helen Jacobs; and a granddaughter. All are of Edgemere.

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