A very fine, take no prisoners welterweight who never once looked to pick and choose his opposition, the late, great Vernon Forrest more than made his mark on the sport despite his shocking and untimely passing.
Forrest, a superb amateur, was so good that twice, with both men in their prime, he beat – and beat up – Sugar Shane Mosley. These two had met at amateur level, yet despite his Sugar, Mosley never was able to get to grips with Forrest’s poison. Fast, dangerously powerful and in possession of a great chin, Forrest could have been a superstar. He wasn’t, in large part due to how one man avoided him: Floyd Mayweather Junior.
Forrest, who like Floyd would move up to win a world title at 154 pounds, bounced back from his upset losses to the unorthodox fists of Ricardo Mayorga (being stopped and then losing a razor thin decision in the return) and Vernon was desperate to get it on with Mayweather.
This writer had the privilege of speaking with Vernon (at ringside at the Mayweather-Carlos Baldomir fight in Vegas; this not long after Forrest had scored a controversial decision win over another avoided fighter in Ike Quartey) and he made it clear he wanted that shot at “Money.” He never got it. But what would have happened had he done so, say right after Mayweather had scraped past a faded Oscar De La Hoya at 154?
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 (something Mayweather never gave us) 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 now, but it really does take a very strong argument to convince many fans that Floyd would have been able to overcome a peak Forrest.
It’s a fight that could have happened and in no way should ever have failed to happen (same as a Paul Williams fight, a Manny Pacquiao fight – years earlier than it did happen – and a Kostya Tszyu fight and a Winky Wright fight should have brought out the very best of the so-called TBE; who, let’s face it, has some list of ‘what ifs’ next to his spotless numbers) but Mayweather wanted no part of Vernon.
Look it up. It’s a fact.
RIP Vernon Forrest.