James “Quick” Tillis
“The Fighting Cowboy”
James grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma where he first dreamed of becoming a professional boxer when he watched the 1964 bout of, [then Cassius Clay] Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston.
He first trained under noted trainer Ed Duncan. As an amateur, he built a record of 92 wins
and eight losses, and won 3 State Golden Gloves and 4 State AAU Titles. He made it to the
National Golden Gloves Finals, but lost to future pro opponent Greg Page in 1976.
His Pro career started in 1978 with a first round KO of Ron Stephany. He soon had a record of
20 wins and no losses, including wins over “Omaha Butcher” Ron Stander, South American
Champion Domingo D’Elia, Walter Santemore, and Mike Koranicki.
By 1981, James was the #1 Heavyweight Contender. That year he fought for a World
Championship- the WBA World Heavyweight Title- against Mike Weaver, losing a close
James beat hard hitting Earnie Shavers in 1982 on points. A fight James refers to as, “The
toughest 30 minutes of my entire life”.
He next fought future World Champions Pinklon Thomas, Greg Page and Tim Witherspoon.
After getting a new management team and trainer in 1984, James put together 4 straight
He next fought top contenders Carl Williams, and Joe Frazier’s Son Marvis and lost in
decisions. Later in 1985, the decision was called in favor of South Africa by former WBA
Champ Gerry Coetzee, but James sent Coetzee to the hospital with stitches and missing teeth.
In 1985, James made his acting debut in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple, playingOprah’s
boyfriend Henry Broadneaux.
In 1986, he became the first boxer to go the distance against a 19 year old Mike Tyson, who
was 19-0 at the time, giving Tyson the fight of his life before losing a controversial decision.
James’ other notable opponents in 1987 included Joe Bugner, Frank Bruno and Johnny
James made one last attempt to win a World Title challenging Cruiserweight Champion
Evander Holyfield, but lost.
James later opposed Gary Mason (L), Tommy Morrison (L), Craig Payne (W), and Cliff Couser
(L). He concluded his career in 2001 (at age 44) against Rob Calloway (L).
His Professional record is: 42 wins, 22 losses and 1 draw with 31 KO’s.
Over the course of his career James trained under legendary trainer(s) Archie Moore, Dee Dee
Armor, Witt Lawry, Rory O’Shea, Harry Wilson, Angelo Dundee, Drew “Bundini” Brown, Bill
Slayton, Scrap Iron Johnson, and Walter Tyler,
James is always quick to give special acknowledgment to Sugar Ray Robinson and
Muhammad Ali for their mentorship during his career. In 1985 Muhammad Ali and Drew
“Bundini” Brown dubbed James- “The Fightin’ Cowboy” coining the phrase…
‘He don’t float like a Butterfly or Sting like a Bee, cause he ain’t Ali… He’s The Fightin Cowboy! ... He Rides ‘em, Ropes ‘em, corals ‘em and brands ‘em…. He’s The
FightinCowboy! Ole Dude! ... Rumble Young Man Rumble…. AAAhhhhh!”
In 2010, James received the catBOX Lifetime Sports Achievement Award in Oklahoma City.
Also, in 2010, Governor Brad Henry signed a Declaration making February 12th, - “James
“Quick” Tillis Day”- in Oklahoma.
On November 5, 2011, James was inducted into the Rochester Boxing Hall of Fame.
In February 2012, James was honored with induction into the New Mexico “Band of
In November 2012, James was honored with induction into the New Mexico Boxing Hall of
On November 4, 2016, James was honored with induction into the Illinois Boxing Hall of
On April 29, 2017, James was honored with induction into the National Boxing Hall of Fame.
On September 22, 2017, James was honored in Tulsa, OK by having the street section of his
childhood home renamed as "Quick Tillis Way". In additional, September 22 was proclaimed
by the City of Tulsa as "Quick Tillis Day".
On April 27, 2018, James was honored with induction into McLain High School Athletic Hall
of Fame, his Alma Mater.
James has written his Autobiography- “Thinkin’ Big- The Story of James “Quick” Tillis” - The
Fightin’ Cowboy”, and is looking towards bringing his story to film.
He spends his time serving the Lord, Cowboying, Personal Appearances and sharing his
expertise with aspiring Boxers.