Legendary breeder Ray Alexander passes away
Ray Alexander of Lincoln, Alabama passed away on July 3, 2019 at the age of 82.
Alexander was a cult figure to followers of the sport. One of the earliest supporter of the World Slasher Cup, known to many as the “Olympics of Cockfighting,” Ray participated in every WSC competition from the beginning.
The breeding partner and close friend of Nene Araneta, the pair met in Phoenix in the 1970s. That year saw Ray Alexander win the Copper State championship, and he would continue to win Sunset, Oklahoma, and every major cocking event in the United States.
On the local front, the partnership yielded many championships, including winning the WSC beginning in the early ‘70s, then again a solo win in May 1994 with Mr. Araneta, a three-way tie in January 1995 for an entry he fielded with Araneta and Buddy Mann, and most recently winning the WSC 2 this year.
Known to his family and friends as an ultimate sports man who loves Alabama football, it was in the world of cockfighting that Alexander found his ultimate calling.
Alexander has been breeding gamefowl for most of his life, a passion he stumbled upon at the age of 12, back in the early ’50s, when he met an old-timer who was “the best cockfighter on Earth,” and took him to see a fight. “He was a professional. I learned everything from him,” Alexander said in an interview. “It didn’t take me long to catch some of what you had to do. To most people it’s hard catching on because it ain’t nothing but common sense.”
He nurtured that passion until the day he died. The common sense he mentioned was what helped him earn a reputation for being able to spot the “gameness” in a bird—that unyielding will to win at any cost. His farm’s website carries the slogan “the winningest gamefowl in the world,” a seemingly accurate description judging from comments from buyers, breeders, fans, and fellow cockfight aficionados.
Alexander is an icon, and has earned the respect of cockfighting enthusiasts all over the world, in the US, Mexico, Hawaii, and especially in his beloved Philippines, which he had been visiting for nearly 50 years. Many top Filipino breeders had gone on to win many sabong titles because of his birds, and he had nothing but good words for Filipino fighters whom he described as “the best cockfighters right now… because they do it every day.”
Cockfight enthusiast Boy Diaz recalls meeting Alexander in the early ’70s when the latter “first came to the Philippines by himself and with his roosters,” which he had in a taxi, the former says. Diaz said he and Alexander joined tournaments at what was then considered the best cockpit at the time, the Roligon in San Juan – then called 7-Up. “That was the home of the United Cockers’ Club where the stalwarts of sabong used to fight.” He recalls forming a close friendship with Alexander because “every morning we’d join each other for coffee.” Diaz also stayed in Atlanta, Georgia in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and was about three hours’ drive away from Alexander’s farm in Birmingham, Alabama. “I would go there and we would talk chickens, and bloodlines,” he shares.
“Ray Alexander was the protégé of the greatest roostermen in the United States based in Alabama, namely Elmer Griffin, William McRae, and Blondy Rollan,” from whom he had rooster knowledge handed down to him, Diaz shares. Alexander’s reputation in breeding was legendary, and some would even offer to buy his broodcocks for up to $2,500 each, which he refused.
Diaz said the best and hardest bloodline he ever condition was his Griffin Claret, a breed that wasn’t always easy to know through outward signs when they are on or they are off for fighting. In addition, a lasting lesson he learned from Alexander was, “I always seem to have better roosters out of the Roundhead broodcock than any other.”
Armed with a great understanding of battlecocks and broodcocks, after about six years in the Philippines in the ’70s, Diaz notes, “(Alexander) went back to the States and won the biggest and the hardest cockers’ competition at the Sunset Recreation Club in Sunset, Indiana—he won Cocker of the Year back-to-back.”
But what has ingrained Alexander into the fabric of international cockfighting is his hand in setting up the World Slasher Cup derby, known today as the biggest international cockfighting championship. According to Diaz, Alexander was “at the forefront of organizing WSC in America in 1988, convincing fighters to come to the Philippines and join the competitions.”
Esting Teopaco, a multiple WSC champ along with perennial partner Peping Cojuanco, recalls meeting Alexander as a guest of their common friend, Nene Araneta. Teopaco and Araneta would often join derbies together and both were impressed with Alexander’s fighting cocks that were brought into the country. Teopaco shares, “I came to like Alexander’s chickens – I liked their style of fighting. We called it ‘Angat’ (or ‘Salto’ in Spanish).”
If it were boxing, ‘Angat’ would be called the counterpunches. Teopaco explains that Alexander’s birds didn’t really charge at opponents. They wait and when their opponent comes, they break – fly over the opponent – to counter. “All it takes is one correct strike, and the game is over,” he says. Teopaco noted the birds Alexander bred were really good, and combined with cutting skills – the bird knowing how to strike its opponent – that made his broodcocks among the best in the world.
Another cockfight aficionado, Eddie Araneta, remembers acquiring some cocks from Alexander sometime in 1987 or ’88. “Many people bought from him and did pretty good with them; I did quite well with them,” he says.
He knows Alexander to be “a good breeder of what he would call his Alexanders – they were basically Griffin Clarets and Lacey Roundheads; that was the bloodline.” He continues, “As far as I know, he was not a commercial breeder who would sell to every Tom, Dick and Harry, you know, to make money. Ray was an astute breeder…”
“I would say he was at par with the best of them, like Duke Hulsey. And he was hands-on with his chickens. If you were to order from him, we would send you something he bred himself. He was very honest, and would go out of his way to explain to you.”
He describes Alexander as a good friend with a light-hearted humor. “Everybody liked him. You know in cockfighting, there are a lot of intrigues; but nobody said anything ill of Ray Alexander.”
Rooster fighter and multiple WSC champ Nene Abello had been teammate to Alexander back in the late ’80s, recalling winning a cockfighting event not just in Sunset, but even the Mid-America, one of the biggest rooster bids then in the US, in Muldrow, Oklahoma around 1987.
“He was a very confident rooster fighter,” Abello said of Alexander.
Abello proudly says he still has some roosters of the Alexander bloodline, and shares, “He was the one that introduced me to Carol Nesmith,” with whom he also became friends. He won with birds whose bloodline is half- Alexander (Roundheads) and half-Nesmith (Sweaters). “After Ray, Carol was the one that was winning all of the derbies, so I was very fortunate to have known these two people.”
Teopaco, Eddie Araneta and Abello all recall the last time they saw Alexander at the World Slasher Cup at the Smart Araneta Coliseum about a year or so ago. Alexander may not have been seated at his usual spot overlooking the rueda, “but he was there at the back, in one of those tables, watching the fights from the giant LED screen,” Eddie Araneta adds.
Of the sport he was most passionate about, Alexander had said, “I really just liked it. I started to fight full time and I got to winning, and I never quit. I never had a job in my life. It’s just the best sport in the world.”
The gamefowl and cockfighting world has indeed lost one of its foremost champions and legendary breeders. His World Slasher Cup family laments this loss and wishes him peace in the afterlife.
Alexander is survived by his daughters Rayandra Seville and Leighanne Alexander; and sons Harold Ray Alexander and Andy Hayes.