Former SD Boxer Looks Back On Career
by Jill Johnson
February 07, 2013 1:38 PM
He's one of the most distinguished boxers to come out of South Dakota. In his 12 year career, he participated in more than 200 amateur bouts, and represented the United States in international competition 11 times.
With a career record of 138-33, he was never knocked out. However, this former boxer is best known for knocking down one of the most well-known boxers of all time. That's why we think Jeffrey LeMair is 'Someone You Should Know'.
"Maybe, maybe I was, I guess I was a little bit lighter back then," said Jeffrey LeMair.
From old t-shirts and awards to old boxing gloves, most of LeMair's boxing memorabelia sits in a storage unit. But on this day, we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of his past.
LeMair said, "I was relentless, and I caught him with a shot going in the ropes and it literally broke his nose and his nose left me a memory."
For LeMair, those memories began at the young age of 13. But at the time, he wasn't even allowed out of the house for acting up, in and out, of the classroom.
"A boxing coach called and said, how would you like to box and I said I would love to get out of the house," said LeMair.
The rest was history. LeMair advanced in tournaments, and was soon boxing throughout the midwest.
From 1970 to 1978, he would take home nine district Golden Gloves titles and was the first boxer to win six consecutive Midwest Region titles.
LeMair said, "I boxed in Omaha six consecutive years, and they spelt my name wrong every year!"
LeMair would paricipate in the national tournament six years in a row. He would never actually take home a title, but the bouts he fought to get to the top, got him noticed. Like the one in 1974, when he fought world-famous Sugar Ray Leonard in the 139-pound semifinals. The 40-year-old footage is just as tired as LeMair was in that match. It was his fifth match in four days.
"By the time I got to him, I was so exhausted. I just said, let's get in there and do it. There was no time for rest, he was fast he was smooth and he danced me and spanked me in the first round," said LeMair.
He says in the second round, he settled down a bit and Leonard quote 'walked' into some shots.
LeMair said, "He's won the first. I've won the second and it's anybody's match. Now you decided for yourself."
In the third, Leonard got an eight count on LeMair.
"The ref stepped back and so did Sugar Ray and when he stepped in to finish me off, boom, boom, sleepy time, I went to the body, when he went down the ref was behind him so he thought I pushed him and didn't score it as a knock down," said LeMair.
LeMair was never credited for the knock down, if he was he would have beaten a future Olympian and pro champion.
LeMair said, "See I'm looking at the ref like I knocked him down and the ref says no it was a slip."
LeMair lost in a one-point split-decision, but says he has no hard feelings.
"I'm just proud to have been there," said LeMair.
But LeMair did his fair share of winning too. In 1979, he was a runner-up at the Western Olympic Trials and at the U.S. tryouts for the World Cup. The next year, he met with President Jimmy Carter to talk about the Olympic Games in Moscow.
"We boycotted the 1980 games. I was fortunate enough to one of those who was picked to go the White House to the president about it, didn't really do much talking, we did a lot of listening," said LeMair.
That year was full of heart ache for LeMair. He was scheduled to represent the USA in Poland in March.
However, a last-minute change enabled him to box in East Germany instead.
LeMair said, "They kept wanting me to identify that I was the right person because he was killed in a plane crash and I said no I'm right here."
The plane to Poland, which he would have been on, crashed, killing 22 members of the United States boxing team.
"The entire contingent, you know, some of my sparring partners, couple of my coaches that were at the Olympic athletic training center that I just been there a couple of months ago, were on that plane and they all parished," said LeMair.
Then, even more heartache. Hoping for an Olympic birth, a cut to the eye, ended his career altogether.
LeMair said, "I had a wonderful run in boxing, and I have no regrets."
A wonderful run in what is called 'The Sweet Science'.
"Proud. Proud moments, fun, you know, it's a good piece of time," said LeMair.
A piece of time, he'll never forget.
LeMair was inducted into the Great Plains Amateur Boxing Hall of Fame, as well as, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame.