The most publicized jailhouse boxer was James “Great” Scott, born in Newark, NJ, spending his jail time at Rahway, NJ. This writer met him after he was released to a halfway house in Trenton, NJ. He was being trained at the Goss & Goss Gym there ran by Sammy and Barry Goss.
Scott was also known in the prison as “Superman” when he met future world champion but then No. 1 contender in the light heavyweight division Eddie (Gregory) Mustafa Muhammad in 1978 over NBC at Rahway State Prison.
Scott had a 10-0-1 (4) record fighting out of Miami Beach, FL, from 1974-75, trained by Angelo Dundee and promoted by Chris Dundee. In his last fight he defeated future contender Jesse Burnett, then 9-0-1 (3), out of CA. In Burnett’s next fight he defeated Yaqui Lopez, 26-2. After losing to Lopez in his next fight, two fights after that he went to Copenhagen and lost a majority decision to WBA World champion Victor Galindez, 40-6-4, in a non-title bout. In a rematch some four years later he would end the then former champions career in a WBC eliminator match.
Scott had been put in various institutions from the age of 13 and finally ending up in Trenton State Prison in 1965. There he sparred with Rubin “Hurricane” Carter going the full three rounds which was a rare thing for any of the inmates to do. He would be encouraged by both Carter and fellow inmate Al Dickens to take boxing seriously. He was released in 1968 only to again be back in prison on a robbery charge to Rahway State Prison. He became the state of New Jersey’s champion of the prison’s.
Murad Muhammad agreed to promote fights out of Rahway. Scott won two fights by knockout when the Mustafa Muhammad bout came about over HBO in October of 1978. Harold Lederman was one of the judges and said “I thought Scott was the best light heavyweight I ever saw!”
In Scott’s next fight he stopped contender Richie Kates, 35-4, in the tenth and final round in March of 1979. Next he stopped former British champion Bunny Johnson, 52-11-1, in July. The following month he stopped the Italian champion Ennio Cometti, 30-4-3. In October he would defeat contender Jerry Celestine, 17-4-1, over ten rounds.
In December Scott defeated No. 1 contender Yaqui Lopez, 47-8, over ten rounds. In May of 1980 his winning streak ended losing to Philly contender Jerry “The Bull” Martin, 18-1, over ten rounds coming off the canvas twice. In August he reversed his draw with David Lee Royster, 15-15-2, by stoppage. Next his career would end losing to future world champion Dwight Qawi Muhammad, 14-1, over ten rounds. His final record was 19-2-1 (10).
Jeff “Candy Slim” Meritt, was in Missouri State Prison in 1968 after serving two years and five months when fellow inmate Charles “Sonny” Liston let people on the outside how good Merritt was. He was signed by a business syndicate. At the Miami Beach Gym he had a spirited sparring session with returning world champion Muhammad Ali. Ali had stated he needed this kind of work with Merritt to know just how his then ability was in order to comeback.
In March of 1969 in Philadelphia Merritt came in as the “opponent” to fight Philly’s future world contender Roy “Tiger” Williams, 9-0 (6), whom this writer was doing an article on. Merritt easily took an eight round decision. He would go onto win his next twelve fights before taking on contender Ernie Terrell, 46-8, at Madison Square Garden in September of 1973 winning in the first round earning a spot in the top ten.
Two fights later in March of 1974 Merritt in a rematch with Henry Clark, 28-8-3, he was stopped in the first round. He would go 1-1-1 after that and retire with a 22-3-1 (17) record.
The third boxer was Philly’s Art “Moose” McCloud, who this writer first saw in an exhibition with unbeaten Philly contender USBA champion Curtis Parker at the Arena. He was the uncle of Philly contender Willie “The Worm” Monroe. He won prison titles in Graterford and Camp Hill, PA. McCloud was 2-1 at the time in fighting Parker.
McCloud would go onto win his next seven fights before losing to Marcus Jackson, 10-4, by split decision over 8 rounds in Atlantic City, NJ, in November of 1984. He bounced back with stoppage wins over Mike Fisher, 17-4, and Donald Smith, 6-0. A month after this bout he was bombarding Eric Holley, 14-1, for four rounds but ran out of gas being stopped in the fifth round. In his next fight he would be stopped by future world title contender Otis Grant, 7-0. Grant would eventually win the NABF title defeating McCloud’s nephew Monroe.
After a fifteen month inactive period McCloud had his final bout losing to Keith Providence, 8-1-1, in January of 1982. His final record was 11-5 (8).