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Former champ was one of the best boxers Chicago produced

Boxer Eddie Perkins posing this Dec. 1 1962 phoChicago advance his junior welterweight championship match against Italy's Duilio Loi. Perkins

Boxer Eddie Perkins posing in this Dec. 1, 1962, photo in Chicago in advance of his junior welterweight championship match against Italy's Duilio Loi. Perkins was named to the 2008 induction class of the International Boxing Hall of Fame, (AP Photo)

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Updated: June 29, 2012 9:33AM

People said you could throw a whole handful of BB pellets at boxer Eddie Perkins, and not one of them would strike home.

That’s how elusive Mr. Perkins was in the ring. Old fight footage shows a supremely skilled athlete who appears able to anticipate where his opponents’ blows were coming from, before they had a chance to land.

With a quick dodge just an inch to the left or right, the two-time world junior welterweight champ usually avoided a fist finding his flesh.

Muhammad Ali used to watch Mr. Perkins and other lighter-weight fighters in order to mimic their fast reflexes when they trained at the legendary Coulon’s gym on 63rd Street.

One of the finest boxers Chicago ever produced, Mr. Perkins died May 10 at his Gresham home at age 75. He had suffered from dementia and diabetes.

The flags at New York’s International Boxing Hall of Fame, where he was inducted in 2008, flew at half-staff this month in his memory.

He was the world’s reigning junior welterweight in 1962 and from 1963 to 1965. He fought professionally from 1956 to 1975 in more than 20 countries on six continents, winning 74 out of 96 bouts — 21 of them by knockout.

His career was “an incredible feat,” said Mike Joyce, boxing coordinator at Leo High School, where Mr. Perkins coached student fighters.

Two of Mr. Perkins’ bouts ended in a draw, and he was knocked out only once in his career. He was such an artful dodger of blows that other boxers dodged the opportunity to challenge him.

“He couldn’t even get any fights in America because nobody could hit him,” said Joyce, who is married to Ali’s daughter, Jamillah.

“He was a tough fighter to fight, because he was moving on you,” said Ed Brophy, executive director of the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

“He was almost a dancer in the ring,” said Dan McGrath, president of Leo High School.Mr. Perkins faced off against seven world champions over the course of his career, according to the website His opponents included Jose Napoles, Kenny Lane, Nicolino Locche, Clyde Gray and Angel Espada, according to the hall of fame.

Mr. Perkins would tell those he coached, “ ‘A coward is the one who talks about fighting. A fighter is the one who fights, but he doesn’t carry it on the streets,’ ” said professional heavyweight Thomas “The Hitman” Hayes. Joyce recalled: “He would stand in the ring, plant his feet, and he’d tell the kids, ‘Go ahead, take your shot.’ He wouldn’t move his feet, but they couldn’t even hit him. It was all upper body movement. The kids would say, ‘How are you doing it? ’ ”

After his boxing career ended, Mr. Perkins operated a newspaper distributorship on the West Side and South Side. He supplemented his gym regimen of push-ups, jumping rope and speed-bag training by delivering the Chicago Sun-Times, jogging up and down the route.

“He would run around, in and out the car, delivering the papers,” said his wife, Annie.

Mr. Perkins was born in Clarksdale, Miss., and his family moved to Chicago when he was still a baby. Mr. Perkins attended Wendell Phillips High School and worked at U.S. Steel in his younger days.

Annie Perkins met the 5-foot, 5-inch “L’il Rooster” at a house party. She was 19, and he was 20.

“He was this l’il short guy with all these muscles,” she said. “He was always smiling. He was a boxer, but he was a Teddy bear, too.”

Mr. Perkins was a homebody. “When he got through fighting, he would make it home to his family,” his wife said. “He liked going to church.”

He liked listening to church music in his final days at home, where his wife cared for him with the help of their son, Lawrence, and a nephew, Kenneth.

Survivors also include his daughter, Labores Hollings­worth; another son, Eddie Jr.; sisters Bertha Barton and Elizabeth Carter; a brother, the Rev. Larry Perkins; six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation is 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Midwest Memorial Chapel, 5040 S. Western, with a wake at 10 a.m. Saturday at the chapel, followed by a service at 11 a.m. Burial will be at Mount Hope Cemetery.

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