By Fred L. Jones, Jr.
Eagle Staff Writer
James “Quick” Tillis has received so many accolades and awards over the years as a professional boxer. Tillis, the only man ever to go 15 complete rounds with former great heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, will have his hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma honor him with a street renaming ceremony, Friday, September 22nd at noon.
As a young man, Tillis grew up at 550 E. Virgin Street and that’s where a section of East Virgin Street will become “Quick Tillis Way”.
Tillis’ niece Sheena Tillis stated, “He has been recognized in many places and I thought that it would be a great honor for James “Quick” Tillis to be recognized in his own hometown Tulsa, Oklahoma. Our family and all his close friends are so proud of him. I’m so thankful that you, Mayor Bynum and Fred Jones, felt that he deserves this honor I stayed persistent in making this happen for him. This is a very special historical moment that he will never forget.”
Tillis stated, “I’m the ‘Fighting Cowboy’ and Muhammad Ali gave me that name, ‘Ali is why I wanted to be a fighter ever since the age of seven.”
“I did base my style on Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Robinson; I made it my goal to be like those guys and move and move. Not a lot of heavyweights could really move on their toes like I did. I was even trained by Angelo Dundee and Bundini Brown. He used to scream at me ‘float like a butterfly sting like a bee’ like he had done for Ali.”
Quick Tillis greatest fight to many was the Mike Tyson thriller on April 3, 1986. Tyson landed solid right hands to the body early in the opening round and connected with a right hook in the final seconds as Tillis moved, worked behind a jab, and landed decently well himself including a good right uppercut near the two-minute mark. Tyson landed a left hook after the bell to end Round 1. At the recommendation of his corner, Tyson tried to jab while closing distance and landed a good right 53 seconds into Round 2 that caused Tillis to hold. He too occasionally stuck Tillis with a right hook to the body.
Tillis landed a left hook in the first half of the round and a good left uppercut to the body in the final minute. Tyson landed the heavier shots in Round 3 and caught Tillis with a combination, to which Tillis, who often traded punches, replied by exchanging with flurries while against the ropes.
Tillis landed well with the left hand in the opening minute of Round 4. In the final seconds of the round, Tillis lunged in with a left hand. Tyson dipped to his right, spun, and caught Tillis with a left hand that scored a flash knockdown sending Tillis to the mat. He was up at the count of three and was not hurt, but the knockdown cost Tillis what was his best round thus far in the fight. Tillis came out in Round 5 with added aggression and landed shots to the head of Tyson, who failed to throw punches on the inside. Tyson came on in the final minute of the round, with a pair of body shots that appeared to hurt Tillis and a flurry upstairs.
Tillis moved well and worked on the outside in Round 6, while Tyson landed a few body shots to close the round. Tillis outworked Tyson for much of Round 7 before Tyson came on in the latter part and opened a cut above Tillis’s left eye with a right hand. The cut was handled well by Tillis’s corner and did not affect him or bleed noticeably for the remainder of the bout. Neither man landed a punch of note in Round 8, as Tillis likely earned the round with output.
Tillis continued to outwork Tyson in Round 9. He moved well and landed from the outside, as Tyson did very little offensively. Tillis controlled much of the tenth round before Tyson came in the seconds. The two exchanged as the bell rang with each man landing a punch after the bell.
Tulsa Parks and Recreation donated the Tulsa Parks stage for the event Lucy Dolman Director for Parks and Recreation stated, “The Park and Recreation Department appreciate the opportunity to participate in the ceremony of honoring one of Tulsa’s favorite sons, James “Quick” Tillis. Mr. Tillis is another example of the positive role our Parks and Recreation Centers have played in the lives of many people in our city. Mr. Tillis began his boxing career by becoming involved in sports at Chamberlain Park.”
Tulsa Senator Kevin Matthews stated, “James Quick Tillis elevated from a small neighborhood in Tulsa to the largest stage in the sport of boxing. His flare, and quick wit quick hands and quick feet made him famous and amazing to watch as he made us proud to watch our own make a name for himself his family and the city he came from.”
The Street renaming ceremony begins at 12 noon September 22 at 550 East Virgin Street appropriately named “The Horseshoe”.