Fire and Ice: The Troubled Odyssey of Vernon Paris

boxing By Ted Sares: I love him like a little brother. We stayed together in one of Emanuel Steward's houses when we were kids. It was just like camp. Me, Jonathan Banks, John Jackson, and Vernon are all pro boxers now. --Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage

I heard he was stabbed once and then someone else said five times… love the heck out of him, but he needs to distance himself from some of his problems. We're praying for him. --Michigan State boxing commissioner Al Lowe.

I don’t want to jump into something and make another mistake…I have to take it slowly. --Vernon Paris

Detroit’s exciting lightweight/junior welterweight prospect Vernon "Iceman" Paris, 18-0-0-1, fights with a bullet still lodged in his back and another in his thigh, after having been shot three times in the summer of 2006 in a murder attempt in which he was not at fault..

On that hot August 3, 2006 day, the headline and story read, in part, “Paris’s Amazing Survival Story!…When he regained consciousness, he had three bullet holes in his body while his assassins were making plans to roll his body in a carpet and dump it somewhere in Detroit. Vernon Paris ran for his life….

“…The details of an alleged premeditated murder plot by two “jealous” former gym rivals and two of their friends are unfolding, now that the victim, undefeated professional boxer Vernon “The Iceman” Paris (5-0, 4 KOs) has recovered sufficiently to give his version of events…..doctors are amazed Paris isn’t another casualty in a city often called the “Murder Capital”. “The doctors told me it’s a miracle he’s alive. The first bullet ricocheted off his head! They told me if a .22 penetrates the skull, it bounces around inside the brain and you are dead, but somehow the bullet bounced off of Vernon’s skull. That’s one of the things that saved him….

“…A young man’s life and promising career possibly ended before it really began. Vernon Paris wasn’t shot for something he did wrong. Talented, quick, and naturally more skilful than his peers, Paris was shot for something he did too right….

“…This is terrible. I wish this hadn’t happened. I’m in pain every day since I left the hospital. I hope I’ll still be able to box. I don’t know yet. They haven’t given me an answer. I wish I hadn’t gone and hung out with those guys. I wish I had gone to sleep instead. This will be a major setback, whether its six weeks or six months. But I do feel I will make a full recovery and come back stronger than before.” (Andre Courtemanche, Fight News, dated August 3, 2006).

Upon his miraculous and quick recovery, he launched a fourteen-fight undefeated streak until, incredibly, on 2008, another headline read, “Assaulted boxer moves to Florida BOXING.” In an article by Mike Brudennell, FREE PRESS SPORTS WRITER, dated May 16, 2008, the following appeared, in part:

“Detroit lightweight Vernon Paris has relocated to Florida in an effort to continue his boxing career and stay clear of trouble. Paris, 20, is recovering at his mother's house in Tallahassee from stab wounds that punctured a lung and kidney in an altercation in Detroit on May 4.

"I feel good, and I'm hoping to start serious training again in July," said Paris, who has 18 wins, no losses and 12 KOs as a professional. "I'm healing up really good. Coming down here is better for me; I've got too many haters, too many people against me in Detroit. I feel my life is threatened all the time there…”

“…."Vernon was a little confused when he spoke to police," Carlos Llinas, [his former promoter] said. "He thought the woman who stabbed him lived upstairs. It all happened so quickly….Paris said he knows his attacker and isn't sure if he'll press charges against her…” Detroit police reportedly are conducting an investigation into this latest incident.

In an understatement for the ages, the fighter said, "There are a lot of things I got to do with my life said Paris, whose girlfriend is expecting their baby.”I want to pursue my career. I don't think I want to go back (to Detroit). Someone there may try to do me some bodily harm. I've got to protect my family. I just met my father down here for the first time, and brothers and uncles. I was born in Tallahassee and I like the place."

Llinas chimed in with his own observation to wit: [Paris] would not return to live in Detroit…He's moved and will not be going back there…Perhaps he'll fight there, maybe, but not to live."

Inside the Ring

He was the product of an extremely difficult environment, but boxing provided an escape route. “I had no hot water, no light, no heat, no air,” said Paris, describing the abandoned house that was his home. “My mattress was on the floor with wires sticking out — roaches and rats coming out. I could barely lock my door.” (St. Clair Murraine, “Promising boxer fights to rebuild his life,” DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER, May 26, 2008)

However, the cocky youngster found success in the ring where he won 104 of 119 amateur fights and was touted as a prospect for the Olympics, but he turned pro a month after his 18th birthday. His rise was quick, as he fought seven times in one year to extend his unbeaten record through 19 bouts. A no-contest bout remains the only blemish on his record. In the process, he won two fringe titles and was ranked 16 in the World Boxing Association’s NABA rankings.

I watched him fight twice; first, a TKO win over Alain Hernandez in D.C. and then another stoppage against Ramon Guevara who had previously TKOd Jorge Paez, Jr. He quickly became one of my favorite young fighters and I included him in a short essay in my book, Boxing is my Sanctuary entitled "The Cutie." Specifically, I said:

“Vernon the Iceman Paris is only 19 years old and fights out of Detroit, but he has the slickest moves of any young fighter I have seen since a young Pernell Whittaker was doing his thing. In an article dated April 28, 2007 in maxboxing.

com, Doug Fischer describes Paris as a kid who exhibits good footwork, excellent hand speed and hand-eye coordination, as well as a variety of punches and combinations. He employs shoulder-roll counters with his left hand held low while in close like a poor-man’s Floyd Mayweather. When it becomes evident that an opponent is not going to be blasted out early or easily, he gets on his bicycleand ruthlessly pot-shots until the referee had seen enough. 1”

What Next?

But that was then and this is now. This is all about bad juju and Paris is lucky he is not another obituary in a city where murder-induced obituaries seem commonplace.

Now united and living with his familyin a small town near the base of Florida’s panhandle, Paris has new management to replace both his Detroit manager, David “Bing” Shumate, and his promoter, Carlos Llinas. Tallahassee, Florida businessman Jean-Christophe Courreges and former police officer Charles Gatlin now co-manage the prospect.

Their first order of business likely will be to deal with some regulatory troubles hanging over their fighter’s head. A hearing scheduled in Lansing, Michigan was set for June 18, 2008 to hear a complaint against him alleging he failed a drug test following his December 13, 2007 fight with tough Kevin Carmody. The hearing has now been rescheduled for July 28. Paris won the Carmody fight by TKO. In the process, he won the WBF All-America’s Welterweight title. If he is found responsible, it seems certain he would be stripped of that title. A third complaint was issued against Paris in March alleging that he failed to submit to a post-fight drug test the month before following yet another win, this time against Nasser Athumani. Paris has already had one win converted to a no-contest and could face the possibility of two more of his wins being negated with these latest allegations (See "Paris Hearing Postponed," Posted: June 21, 2008 (c) 2008,

At the July 28 hearing, it is anticipated that both the second and third complaints will be heard together. State officials report that a settlement may negate the need for that hearing. (c) 2008,

The possibility of a lucrative fall fight with lightweight Lanardo “Pain Server” Tyner seems to have vanished as the undefeated Tyner lost to rugged Mike Arnaoutis in May. It would have been a major Detroit attraction between two hot Detroit-area fighters.

But wait, still another twist in Vernon’s roller coaster journey has emerged. There is a rumor afloat that he is eyeing mixed martial arts and reportedly may go into the fight cage for the first time on "Live" Pay-Per-View for the XFC in a show scheduled for December 5, 2008 at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. While his current management denies the rumor, there is information on the WEB that suggests otherwise.

Now I don’t know what direction this story will take next, but I hope the next chapter will be about his successful recovery from injuries and his subsequent climb to top contender status. I want to write about a kid I saw who was capable of putting on mini-clinics inside the ring. But that chapter will not be written unless and until that kid, now two years older, resolves to position himself (physically and otherwise) so that trouble cannot find him again. Quite simply, he needs to become a stranger to violence outside of the ring.

It is said a cat has nine lives because it is more tenacious of life than most other animals. Perhaps, Vernon Paris needs a new nickname.

1. Doug Fischer. “Jimenez Blasts Anchondo in Three.” April 28, 2007,

Article posted on 10.07.2008

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