Q: In the early 1980s, a local boxer, Babs McCarthy, was found dead in a few inches of water in the American River. It seemed to have the sound of something sinister, but I never saw or heard a follow-up story. Could you elaborate?
A: The body of Eisenhower Babilah “Babs” McCarthy was found in the American River near Discovery Park on June 30, 1983.
His body remained unidentified in the Sacramento County morgue for a month, until his apartment landlord filed a missing persons report with the Sacramento Police Department, according stories in The Sacramento Bee.
McCarthy, 35, had fought as a welterweight and junior welterweight. He began his career in 1976 and continued fighting until 1981, when he won the U.S. Boxing Association welterweight title with a sixth-round technical knockout over Greg Stephens in Las Vegas. Within weeks of the victory, he was ranked No. 6 among welterweights by the World Boxing Council. Among junior welterweights, his WBC ranking was No. 4. But 1981 became a disappointing year when in a bout against Jeff Morgan he lost a controversial decision. His last fight was Dec. 10, 1981, when he suffered a fifth-round knockout against Bobby Joe Young.
Prior to his death, McCarthy had been active in seeking financial support for boxers.
According to accounts in The Bee, McCarthy was last seen alive on June 14, 1983. The cause of death was undetermined.
“We hate to leave it undetermined, but there’s nothing else we can do,” a coroner’s official told The Bee in August 1983. “The body was in such a state of decomposition that there’s not much we can tell. At that point, there aren’t tests we can run.”
McCarthy was wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants and tennis shoes when recovered.
The remains showed no signs of trauma indicating a struggle, according to the coroner’s report, and police said no evidence of foul play was found.