WEST TEXAS MIDDLEWEIGHT
The Story of LaVern Roach(Sport in the American West Series)
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.”
PURCHASE FROM TEXAS TECH PRESS:
"A loss might end his dream of becoming a world champ and send him back home to Plainview, Texas, a road that he had traveled once before and wasn’t eager to repeat. Not now. Not until his goal was accomplished."
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I grew up watching boxers like Tyson, Holyfield, and de la Hoya. My knowledge of boxing subsequently declined as boxers like Pacquiao came up. I admit to knowing very little about current boxers today. When I got my copy of West Texas Middleweight, I did my best not to Google LaVern until after I'd read a few chapters. It didn't last long as I soon became engrossed in his story.
What I loved about West Texas and the LaVern Roach story was the determination of LaVern. LaVern was a hard worker who believed in himself and wanted so badly to succeed. I absolutely loved reading about his time in the US Marine Corps. There are times when I read about those that went into the military only to forget about dreams they once held or abandon those dreams for new ones. LaVern took on life as a Marine as proudly as anyone I've ever read about and still kept working towards his dream of being a boxer.
Author, Frank Sikes, gave me a lot of moments where I could connect with LaVern. While I've never ever dreamed of being a boxer, there were still so many life moments that LaVern experienced in which I thought "I know exactly what he's going through." Being able to relate on a human level to someone such as LaVern Roach was a priceless and unexpected surprise for me. That is probably why it was so hard when I read about his death and the way he died. I don't want to spoil it for those that don't know but I'll say this. If you ever get invested in people as I do, make sure you've got some tissues handy because I shed quite a few tears!
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. Connect with the author on FACEBOOK.
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June 1 - June 10, 2016
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