July 25, 2016
July 25, 2016
Vernon Forrest

Action Images/Reuters/Brent Smith

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1. VERNON FORREST was born in Augusta, Georgia on January 12 1971, and he began boxing nine years later. The pinnacle of an outstanding amateur career was expected to be a medal at the 1992 Olympics (he had beaten American countryman Shane Mosley in the trials) but he lost to Great Britain’s Peter Richardson in the first round. Forrest claimed he was weakened by food poisoning.

2. HE turned professional in 1992, halting an overmatched Charles Hawkins in the opening round. Forrest made steady progress over the coming years, picking up minor belts, but it seemed for a while like he might not get the chance to shine.

3. IN 2000, he eventually got a shot at a world title when he fought Raul Frank for the vacant IBF welterweight belt relinquished by Felix Trinidad who had moved up to the light-middleweight division. The sharp-shooting Forrest was a big favourite to triumph, but the bout ended in round three due to a cut from an accidental head clash, and it was called a no-contest. The return was set for May 2001 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Forrest dominated as expected and took the title via unanimous decision over 12 largely one-sided rounds. Further up the bill was the aforementioned Trinidad, by now up at 160lbs, who battered William Joppy into defeat to claim the WBA crown. Also appearing was heavyweight Chris Byrd, who decisioned Maurice Green to land the USBA championship.

4. FOLLOWING a non-title win over Edgar Ruiz, Forrest secured a date with one of the game’s elite, Shane Mosley, in January 2002. The WBC champion was regarded as one of the finest in the game, came into battle with a glistening 38-0 record, and was favourite to win. But Forrest made a mockery of the odds, splattering Mosley all over the ring in round two and scored two knockdowns. “Sugar” Shane survived the onslaught and lasted to the final bell, but Forrest was declared a wide winner on the cards.

5. MOSLEY was eager for revenge and the rematch was set for July the same year. A record crowd of 15,775 turned up at the Conseco Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana to watch Forrest repeat his success, and in turn confirm his place among the best boxers on the planet. “The Viper” earned a handsome $3.42million for his efforts.

6. IN January 2003, the WBC king put his title on the line in a unification showdown with maniacal WBA boss, Ricardo Mayorga. Forrest was anticipating victory when he was dropped in the opening round. Mayorga, a wildly effective unorthodox fighter, landed a crunching right cross in the third and Forrest went down again. Although he gamely regained his footing, the fight was called off when referee Marty Denkin ruled the favourite was in no position to continue.

7. MUCH like Mosley had thought after losing to him, Forrest believed his loss to Mayorga was a fluke and hastily organised a rematch. The sequel was much closer but the Nicaraguan won again, this time via majority decision. Vernon’s fall from the mountain top had been far quicker than his ascent.

8. HE opted to move up in weight to rebuild. He followed two stoppage wins with a controversial 10-round points victory over Ike Quartey in August 2006. The success secured a shot at the vacant WBC title the following summer, duly pocketed with a victory over the robust Carlos Baldomir.

9. MICHELE PICCIRILLO was ousted in Forrest’s first defence but he lost the title to awkward Sergio Mora in June 2008. The slippery Mora was able to dilute Forrest’s spidery attack to just single shots and claim a decision victory. The return came three months later, in Las Vegas, and this time Vernon got his tactics right en-route to a 12-round revenge. It would be his last fight.

10. FORREST was killed on July 25, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. After pulling up at gas station to put air in his tyres, three men parked alongside him and attempted robbery. Forrest gave chase, and as he walked back to his vehicle he was shot several times. The loss of Forrest, who gave up much of his free time to help disabled and underprivileged children, remains sorely felt to this day.