The year was 1958 and LeRoy Alexander had just completed the school year at Madison County Training High School.
He got a job in South Florida at the Hub in Miami as a janitor. One afternoon a man approached him and said, “I need someone to fight three rounds.” The money from that boxing match and other fights to follow was more than a week’s pay at his janitor’s job.
“So I started in Miami,” said Alexander, a 228-pound heavyweight nicknamed Big Roy: “That’s where I fought Willie Taylor and Jim Robinson. I lost to Jim Robinson and he fought Sonny Liston.” Big Roy was known for his wicked left hook.
“We went to Miami Beach to train at 5th St. Gym,” said Alexander, who met Frank Sinatra and Joe Lewis while waiting to see one of his heroes, Floyd Patterson getting ready to fight Ingemar Johansson.
“Patterson had a style of boxing I liked,” he said. Also on his list of boxing favorites: Meriweather’s style and Mike Tyson’s punch.
During the 1960s boxing flourished with the likes of a young boxer named Classius Clay, who later changed his name to Mohammed Ali. Alexander arrived in New York to try his hand in a bigger arena. “A straight jab was my best punch,” he smiled.
He unfolded the yellowed newspaper clippings that tell of his past as a Golden Gloves winner in 1962-1963 in Buffalo, New York. One New York headline read “Alexander Tops Champ on Buffalo Fight Card,” the day he surprised Tom Quick. In those days, Alexander said he was well known around Rochester and Buffalo. He even did a boxing exhibition with Sonny Liston for prisoners at Cook County Jail.
In 1963, LeRoy Alexander went to Chicago where he lost a fight. The same day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Nov. 22, Alexander joined the Army after being drafted. He continued boxing during his Army days and had six finishes – winning all of them.
He said he always felt being in the Army curtailed his boxing career.
“I won all of my championships as an amateur 12-0 and my pro record was 6 and 4. I had to quit because of trouble with my eyes,” said Alexander. The ringing in his ears also told him it was time to hang the boxing gloves up.
The last time Alexander got in the boxing ring was 1988 when he competed for the Central Florida Heavyweight Championship in Orlando against Solomon McTier, a grueling 10-round bout in which Solomon won by a TKO, knocking Alexander’s teeth out. He said it seemed like an eternity before the bell rang.
A friendly person willing to lend a helping hand, Alexander summarizes his success in life by saying, “I’ve lived a loving life. I’ve always had Christ and all. I’ve made good friends in New York, Orlando and Madison.” He said his mentors, including former Sheriff Joe Peavy, helped him stay out of trouble and lead a quiet life.
He enjoys going to the Madison County Senior Citizens Center on SW Harvey Greene Drive to volunteer and meet with other seniors, playing billiards and remembering the good times. He visits the sick and comforts them. He goes to church faithfully at Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, where his brother, Pastor Sim Alexander, serves a loving church family.
Having opponents in the boxing ring never bothered LeRoy Alexander: “All opponents are good when they’re picked for you,” he said. Perhaps this message applies to the tests of life – it’s possible to grow and learn from those who oppose you and other trials that arrive in life’s journey.