Stylish, tough and in possession of an incredible heart, Vernon Forrest was also one of the sport’s genuine good guys. Down to earth, willing to fight the best and unable to boast about it when he defeated such, the former Olympian was a notable giver to good charitable causes. Tragically, Forrest lost his life ten years ago today, when he was senselessly gunned down. He was just 38 years old.
The death of Forrest came during a quite awful time for fans of great fighters; the tragic deaths of both Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti occurring within days. Murdered by thugs who attempted to steal the world champion’s car, Forrest’s passing was perhaps the most numbing of the three.
Born in Augusta, Georgia in February of 1971, 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 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 Forrest 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, Forrest 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 Sugar Shane Mosley for the WBC 147-pound crown in January of 2002 in New York. A big underdog going in, Forrest hammered Mosley on the way to a UD win over 12-rounds in a memorable battle. 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, Forrest was to lose his next two fights. Shocked in three-rounds by the wild and underrated Nicaraguan, Ricardo Mayorga, Forrest was upset in January of 2003. A rematch came six months later and, though many people felt Forrest had done enough to have won the 12-round decision, the verdict instead went to Mayorga.
A lesser fighter might have quit, yet Forrest fought on; winning all bout one of his outings up at his new weight class of light-middleweight. 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 masterclass against the seriously 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 went on to successfully defend his crown that December, with a 11th-round TKO over stylish Italian Michele Piccirillo.
Six months later, and overly-confidently and under-prepared, 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, on July 25, 2009, in shocking and sickening fashion, the two-time world champion was taken from us.