Born in Augusta, Georgia in February of 1971, Vernon Forrest had obvious talent as a boxer and he fought a successful amateur career on his way to competing in the 1992 Olympic games held in Barcelona. Despite beating future great “Sugar” Shane Mosley in the trials for the ’92 games (the two would meet again), Forrest came home empty handed after losing his first bout in Spain. Upon turning pro in late 1992, Forrest began a quest to show how good he really was.
A stylish boxer who some experts said reminded them of the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson (the way Vernon held his hands the same way as Robinson held his), Forrest punched his way to a 31-0 record. Boxing at 140-pounds early on, Vernon fought Raul Frank for the vacant IBF welterweight belt in August of 2000. The bout was declared a No-Contest due to an accidentally caused cut, and the two met again – this time Forrest won a UD over 12-rounds and captured his first world title.
Now looking to solidify his status as a real champion, Forrest, aged 31, fought the already established Shane Mosley for the WBC 147-pound crown in January of 2002 in New York. A big underdog going in (despite how he’d beaten Mosley as an amateur), Forrest hammered Mosley on the way to a UD win over 12-rounds. Almost KO’ing Mosley along the way, “The Viper” was now a big time player. Mosley, never having lost as a pro, was truly stunned by the loss.
Repeating his feat six months later in Indianapolis, Forrest destroyed Mosley’s aims of avenging his sole loss as a pro. Amazingly, now set for stardom, Vernon was to lose his next two fights. Shocked in three-rounds by the wild and underrated Nicaraguan, Ricardo Mayorga, Vernon was upset in January of 2003. A rematch came in six months, and most people felt Forrest had done enough to have won the 12-round decision. Instead, “El Matador” collected the win in Las Vegas.
Serious shoulder and elbow injuries later, Forrest came back as a 154-pounder two years on from his second loss to Mayorga. Two easy KO wins were followed by a controversial points win over African great Ike Quartey in August of 2008. Some saw Forrest wining the fight with his greater punch output, others saw Quartey’s punishing jab winning the ten-rounder.
Regardless, another eleven month layoff followed for the 35-year-old “Viper,” and much fan interest faded as a result. Coming back in July of 2007, Forrest put on a near master class Vs. teak-tough Argentine Carlos Baldomir, in a bout that contested the vacant WBC light-middleweight belt. Looking a million dollars, Forrest won a veritable shutout in Tacoma, Washington. Receiving much praise, the new champion (Vernon’s second world title in different weights) went on to successfully defend his crown that December, with a 11th-round TKO over stylish Italian Michele Piccirillo.
Six months later, an overly confidently and underprepared Forrest lost a close majority verdict to ‘Contender’ winner Sergio Mora. Bitterly disappointed at how he had unnecessarily thrown away his belt, a 37-year-old Forrest threw himself into intense training and pounded out a clear-cut UD over Mora in a September of 2008 rematch in Las Vegas. Forrest had restored his reputation, but he would never fight again. Injuries put paid to a number of scheduled fights, but Forrest kept himself in fighting weight at all times. Then, in late July of 2009, in shocking and sickening fashion, the two-time world champion was taken from us when a coward shot him as he attempted to steal Forrest’s car. A great loss indeed.
There was one big fight Forrest never managed to get his hands on, and fans often wonder what would have happened had he fought the so-called TBE himself – Floyd Mayweather.
It’s been said many times how Floyd was both a cherry picker and a very smart one in plotting his way through a 49-0 pro career. Floyd fought De La Hoya and Mosley, sure, but he waited until both were past their dangerous best – and he was still troubled by both. Trouble, plenty of it, is what “The Viper” would have given Mayweather.
No way would the 2007 onwards, safety first and punch conservative version of Mayweather have beaten the deadly combination of precise punching, killer instinct and punishing jab that belonged to Forrest. It might have been a truly great fight and it might have been damaging. For Floyd.
Mayweather deserves to go down as THE smartest, cleverest and most thoughtful prize fighter of his era, but he wasn’t the best. The hard fights, the testing fights, the defining fights – one of which at the least he would have had if he’d shared a ring with Forrest – are sadly missing from his still impressive CV. Would Forrest have messed up Mayweather and his shining record the way he did Mosley and his perfect pro ledger?
It’s down to debate and nothing more, but it really does take a very strong argument to convince many fans that Floyd would have been able to overcome a peak Forrest.