Forgotten Legends: Oba Carr

By: Steve Gallegos

The legendary Kronk Gym in Detroit, MI has produced it’s share of good fighters and world champions. The Kronk has produced some A-class fighters such as Tommy Hearns, Milton McCrory and Donald Curry, all of which were world champions. There was another A-class fighter to come out of the Kronk who was every bit as as good, however never could quite get to the top of the heap. That fighter was ObaMotor CityCarr.

Carr was a very skillful, exciting boxer-puncher who was a top contender in the welterweight division for most of the 1990’s and he mixed it up with some of the best fighters of his era. Oba Carr was born and raised in Detroit, MI and he began boxing at the age of six. He had a very good amateur pedigree as he compiled an amateur record of 168-8. He turned pro in December of 1989 at age 17, joining Emmanuel Steward’s stable of Kronk fighters. He won his first 32 bouts, 18 by KO. One of his most notable wins in his early career was his 21st fight, which was against former world champion Livingstone Bramble. It was a bout televised on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights and it was a matchup that was chosen by the fans via a telephone poll.

They met on 10/08/91 in front of a huge crowd of 13,000 plus fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills in Auburn Hills, MI. It was the biggest test for Carr at that time and it was a chance to shine against world class opposition in his first main event. In the first round, Carr came out boxing well, using his jab as he was trying to set the pace, however Bramble’s experience would be a factor as he put Carr on the canvas with a right hand a little more than a minute into the first round. It was Carr’s first time being knocked down and he was up almost immediately. Bramble moved in, applied the pressure and would put Carr down again in the first round. It was a flash knockdown and Oba was immediately up on his feet again. Carr remained on the defensive for the remainder of the round to avoid getting knocked down again as the three knockdown rule was in effect.

Oba regained his footing and boxed very well in the second round as he used his jab and avoided dangerous exchanges. Carr began to find his rhythm as he began to land combinations in the third, particularly the right uppercut. The fourth round was much of the same as Carr continued to box well on the outside. In the fifth round, Carr landed a hard left hook that buckled Bramble. Oba began landing hard rights and lefts as he was going for the KO. Bramble however weathered the storm. Carr had thrown everything he had at Bramble and seemed to punch himself out. Bramble would regain his composure in the final 20 seconds of round five and began to land some good shots of his own, causing Carr to hold on.

Round five was one for the time capsule as it was a USA Tuesday Night Fight’s “Remarkable Round” and it was one of the greatest rounds in TNF history. Carr slowed down his attack in the sixth round as he still appeared to be spent from the fifth, however he dug deep and was able to land some good hard combinations to both the body and head. In the seventh, Carr was able to get an extra rest as Brambles corner repaired some loose tape on his gloves which took almost two minutes. Carr was able to box smartly and appeared to have gotten his second wind.

It appeared Bramble’s game plan was to fight in spurts. Bramble would attempt to steal the rounds in the last 30 seconds, however Carr was adapting well, tying Bramble up on the inside while keeping him at bay with his jab. Round eight was much of the same, however Bramble stepped up his attack in the final 10 seconds and appeared to have stolen the round. The last two rounds were close as both men had their moments. As the final bell sounded, it was any man’s fight as the fate was in the judge’s hands. The final result was a close split decision for Oba Carr. It was a very tough fight and a learning experience for the young Carr.

He would win his next 11 bouts and would get his first world title shot against Felix Trinidad. Carr and Trinidad would meet on 12/10/94 in Monterry, Mexico for the IBF Welterweight title. Carr came into the fight very confident, feeling Trinidad was vunerable and taylor made for him. By this time, Carr had had many issues outside the ring with managers and trainers. For this fight, he had the very controversial Carlos “Panama” Lewis in his corner who was banned from working a corner in the U.S. Due to an incident in the 1980’s when he stripped padding from a fighter’s gloves.

In the second round, Carr landed a good, straight right hand that put Trinidad down. It was a solid shot, however Trinidad was up almost immediately. Carr stayed on the outside, using his jab and avoiding exchanges with the very dangerous Trinidad. Carr controlled much of the third round in the same fashion as he used his jab effectively to offset Trinidad as well as making “Tito” miss some big, hard shots. Trinidad started to come on in the fourth round, however Carr remained elusive and rolled with the punches very well while continuing to land his jab. Carr was game as he was able to hang in there with the very hard punching Trinidad, however Trinidad would drop Carr twice in the eighth round; hard shots which caused referee Robert Gonzalez to stop the bout.

It was a tough loss for Carr, however he showed courage, heart and resiliency. Carr would bounce back winning his next seven bouts, five by KO and he would once again get a crack at another world title. This time against Ike “Bazooka” Quartey. They met on 10/04/96 at the theater at Madison Square Garden. Carr fought a game, determined fight, however he would once again come up short against the very skilled Quartey as he lost a 12 round majority decision.

Carr would once again bounce back, going 9-0-1 over the next two and a half years which included a decision win over former three-time champion Frankie Randall, which set up the biggest bout of his career; a welterweight title shot against Oscar De La Hoya. The “Golden Boy” was at the top of his game and Carr was supposed to be a tuneup fight for a huge, mega showdown with Felix Trinidad. They met on 05/22/99 in the first main event at the brand new Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV for the WBC Welterweight title. Prior to the bout, Larry Merchant complimented Carr by saying cars need tune ups and that Oba Carr was no tune up.

Carr would once again give a great effort, surviving an early knockdown to give De La Hoya a run for his money before getting caught in the 11th and getting stopped. It was another heartbreaking defeat in a bid for a world title and it would be Carr’s last shot. He would go 6-3 with three KO’s over the next three years before calling it a career in 2002. His record stands at 54-6-1 with 31 KO’s. He was definitely in the class of his Kronk predecessors Hearns, McCrory and Curry. Possessing all the tools to become a world champion, however coming up slightly short of glory.

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