Uncle Wally Carr’s friends say he fought to the very end, but the former boxing great passed away overnight after a battle with cancer.
A giant inside the ring and out, Carr – who is counted among Australia’s best boxers – was born on 11 August 1954 in Wellington, New South Wales and lived a life of great struggle, but also great triumph.
He never knew his father, who had taken his own life, and as a boy Carr would be taken from his mother.
Growing up, he moved around often and would later tell others how he lived with six different families in six different towns.
Eventually he made his way from the cotton fields around Warren in western New South Wales to Sydney where he encountered racism but also solidarity. There, while staying with his aunt, he watched his first professional boxing match on the television.
After asking how much the fighters were paid, he jumped straight into the ring as a professional boxer at the age of 17 – something unheard of today – with his first fight taking place at the South Sydney Rugby League Club in 1971 and ending in a draw.
Over the course of his extraordinary 15-year career in the ring, the 184cm tall Carr would fight 100 professional bouts, winning 53, losing 38 and with 9 ending in a draw.
Of those who challenged Carr in the ring, 27 hit the floor and didn’t get up. Over time, Carr ended up taking 12 titles in six divisions sometimes fighting twice a week. He was also among the last to fight 15 round bouts before the rules changed to limit fights to 12 rounds.
His willingness to fight anyone, no matter their weight or reputation, along with his endurance and steely-eyed ability to watch and predict an opponent, would take him to Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Indonesia.
Former boxer turned trainer Terry Fox remembers fighting Carr twice, once in June 1979 at Victoria Park in Dubbo and then again in June 1980 at the Balmain Rugby League Club.
Fox said Carr was a “legend” and “not far behind the Mundines”.
“As a man, he was straight down the line. No bullshit,” Fox said.
“The second time [I fought him], I went the distance and it was war. We took each other the full twelve and he wouldn’t give me anything and neither would I give him anything …He took me down.”
The pair remained close friends the rest of their lives.
Carr would go on to be inducted into the Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame in 2010. As an elder within the community, he served as a mentor, helping to train young boxers and speaking to young people in corrections facilities about hardship as a way to show them a better life was possible.
Gaele Sobott, who helped Carr write a book documenting his life, described him as a “very, very loving person. And kind.”
“He really loved his children,” Sobott said. “That’s something that’s been with him all along and really evident. They’re the most important thing in his life.”
Carr is survived by his four children and two grandchildren, one of whom is Josh Addo-Carr, who currently plays NRL with Melbourne Storm.