Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Former boxer now caring for seniors at Morningside Meadows

Often seen throughout the halls of Morningside Manor with tools in hand and a big smile on his face, Ricky Reese has an interesting past that led him from a boxing ring in California to the maintenance department at Morningside Meadows. Like many in their youth, Ricky had dreams of fame and recognition. And he was able to achieve that dream in the sport of boxing. With determination and confidence, Ricky proved to himself and to others that a little hope can go a long way.

Ricky Reese was born in Bordeaux, France on June 9, 1957, while his father, Willie Reese, Sr., was serving in the United States Army. Ricky moved to the U.S. as an infant and settled in his mother’s hometown of Lawton, Oklahoma. In 1962, Ricky’s father and mother, Martha, relocated the close-knit family to Los Angeles, California in the hopes of giving his seven children a better opportunity in life.

Ricky developed an interest in boxing at a very young age. Growing up, he fondly remembers watching boxing matches on television with his father. When he was just 13 years old, he announced that he wanted to be a boxer and asked his father to buy him a pair of boxing gloves. His father did, and under his supervision, Ricky and his older brother, Andre, began sparring two to three hours every day after school. At the age of 14, Ricky started training with his father at the Hoover Street Gym for three hours every day, six days a week.

He graduated from Freemont High School in 1975 and attended college at Los Angeles City College, where he majored in gymnastics. He continued to train with his father, who also became his manager, and also enlisted the help of veteran trainer Cannonball Green, a middleweight fighter who was well-known in the 1930s.

“I learned that, by me training him, I’d have to approach him differently than I do at home,” said Willie Reese. “I’m the trainer here in the gym. At home, I’m the father. He’s the boss here because he’s got to be the boss in that ring.”

And he did become the boss in the ring, winning several titles including the 1973 Northeastern Police Championship and the Northeastern & Central Championships and was named the 1974 City Diamond Belt Champ, the 1975 Southern California YMCA Champ, the 1976 Southern California Golden Glove Champ and the Southern California SPA-AAU Champ.

Ricky also earned the distinction of the U.S. Western Regional Olympic Trials Champ. But his Olympic dreams were dashed by a one-point loss in the 1976 Olympic- qualifying match.

But, that didn’t stop Ricky from continuing on with a phenomenal career. In his words, “I have made it this far, and I will go the rest of the way.” And he did. Ricky gained the respect of many competitors and others in the boxing world with only three losses in 24 bouts and a total of five knockouts.

Ricky would later tell reporters, “I like the feeling of individual responsibility. When I go out there and I’m by myself, I know it. I’ve got helpers and trainers, but when I’m in the ring, I’m by myself and I’ve got to do it myself.”

One of his most notable wins was against Thomas Payne, one of history’s tallest heavyweight champions, and a professional basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks. With a crowd of more than 4,300 people in attendance at the Forum in Englewood, Ricky floored the 7-foot-2-inch tall giant in nine seconds. Payne did manage to get up but was quickly sent flying across the ring a second time. A referee stopped the fight at two minutes, nine seconds.

“Usually my style was more like Ali’s,” said Ricky. “I danced, I moved. This particular time I didn’t do that. As soon as that bell rung, I went at him.”

Another notable fight in Ricky’s career was a three- round split decision against Richard Sloss, a wrestler and boxer, in the Southern California finals at Long Beach City College. The fight provided a new kind of challenge – he had never gone against a wrestler before. Ricky drew first blood and wore Sloss down with regularity and control of his punches. By the final round, he sent Sloss spinning with a right hook.

Throughout his career, Ricky’s idol was always Muhammad Ali. Ricky sought to mirror a fighting style similar to Ali’s unorthodox “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” style.

“Ali motivates me,” said Ricky. “I incorporate some of his moves into my style and, like Ali, I am a boxer, not a slugger. My strategy is to hit and not get hit. I make the opponent come after me and that usually frustrates him.”

Ricky did get the opportunity to meet his idol, Muhammad Ali, on two occasions, but never got the chance to formally speak to him.

He was also a fan of many other noted boxers including Joe Frazier and George Foreman. He had the opportunity to train alongside known fighters Randy Tex Cobbs, Ken Norton and Andy Price.

His career highlights also include film industry credits as an extra in the boxing films “Rocky and “Let’s Do It Again.” He recalls meeting both Sylvester Stallone and Bill Cosby while filming. “Bill Cosby was such a nice, down-to-earth guy,” said Ricky. “He was so much fun to be around.”

“I really enjoyed the whole movie experience,” he continued. “It’s something that I may consider doing again at some point in my life.”

Ricky’s boxing career ended in 1985 due to an unfortunate injury to his left eye. During a fight, Ricky was poked in the eye by his competitor and was unable to finish the match. His doctor warned that if he continued boxing, there was a good chance he could lose sight in his left eye. Even though his career was on the rise, he didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize his health or family, so he chose to hang up his boxing gloves.

He dabbled in real estate for a while and has used his creative mind to come up with several inventions that he is awaiting patents on.

Ricky married his wife, Deborah, in 1980 and they now have five children. Looking for a slower pace of life than Los Angeles had to offer, Ricky and his family moved to San Antonio in 1994. He began his career with Morningside in the maintenance department nearly three years ago.

Ricky strongly believes in the Morningside mission of “caring for those who cared for us.”

“I am so appreciative of all my elders, those who raised me,” said Ricky. “This job allows me to give back to the older adults in our community and to help those who need it.”

This phenomenal story of a man who set out to achieve his dreams and managed to do so is an inspiration to all. His relentless ambition and determination lives on with the work he does for the residents here at Morningside Ministries.


  1. What a wonderful story! Ricky is truly an exemplary being. I know a few similar stories about caregivers in Charlotte retirement communities and other North Carolina retirement communities.

  2. This is a very well-written, informative story about Ricky Reese.

  3. Thanks for sharing this story about Ricky Reese. It is various story. I am very impressed from this story. It information is really information for us.

    Senior Living NY