Sam McGill

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Name: Sam McGill
Alias: Diamond Ray
Birth Name: Samuel T. McGill
Born: 1947-03-04
Died: 2005-07-11 (Age:58)
Hometown: Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Height: 6′ 5″   /   196cm
Boxing Record: click

Former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston. On Novermber 1, 1978, lost an 8 round decision to up-and-coming heavyweight contender, Gerry Cooney.


By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Samuel T. McGill, a professional heavyweight boxer from Wilkinsburg who once sparred with Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston, died Monday of colon cancer. He was 58.

Mr. McGill won the Pittsburgh Golden Gloves championship in 1968 and turned professional in 1969. In 10 years as a professional boxer, he was 16-7-1.

In 1971, Mr. McGill beat Terry Daniels, a top 10 contender in the heavyweight division. A year after the fight, however, it was Daniels and not Mr. McGill who got the chance to fight champion Joe Frazier for the World Boxing Council title.

"At the time he was fighting, Pittsburgh didn't have a lot of pull in boxing," said Ted Chernoff, a former boxer and friend of Mr. McGill's. "His management didn't have a lot of pull. If he had better management, he would have been a top 10 fighter. He didn't have the management to move him up to better fights after that victory."

The Daniels victory is considered Mr. McGill's biggest achievement in boxing, but he had a few other memorable fights.

After taking five years off from the sport, Mr. McGill made a comeback in 1978. He won two of his first three fights before a showdown with up-and-coming contender Gerry Cooney.

Mr. McGill lost in a decision, one of few opponents that Cooney was unable to knock out.

"Sam told me that Gerry had a tremendous left hook," Chernoff said. "He said, 'I'll tell you, Ted, there's nothing in training that gets you prepared for his hook.' It was hard."

Shortly after the Cooney fight, Mr. McGill traveled to Rimini, Italy to face contender Alfio Righetti in his hometown. The bout was broadcast on ABC's Wide World of Sports.

According to Chernoff, Mr. McGill dominated the fight but was a victim of inept judging and hometown favoritism.

"Sam won every round of the fight," Chernoff said. "In the 10th round, he had the guy knocked out on his feet, and the bell rang after only two minutes. They cheated. They didn't want [Righetti] getting knocked out in his hometown. Then they gave him the decision. It was very controversial back then."

Like Daniels and Cooney before him, it was Righetti and not Mr. McGill who went on to fight in a championship bout.

Mr. McGill's son, Damien, of Wilkinsburg, said when his father talked about his career he first spoke of his sparring matches with Ali and Liston. Damien McGill said his father knocked Ali to the canvas during a sparring session at the Civic Arena.

After retiring from boxing, Mr. McGill sold insurance for Penn Mutual.

In addition to his son, Mr. McGill is survived by his wife of 36 years, Darlane; sons Samuel T. Jr. of Wilkinsburg and Michael of Turtle Creek; a daughter, Carmen, of Laurel, Md.; a brother, Cliff, of Wilkinsburg; and seven grandchildren.