Feature | Premium | Oct 30 2019

The tragic story of Sinan Samil Sam, the heavyweight who drank himself to death

Former heavyweight contender Sinan Samil Sam died at the age of just 41 when his liver and kidneys failed him
Sinan Samil Sam
Action Images

THE passing of former European heavyweight champion Sinan Samil Sam on October 30 2015 was not unexpected – rumours had been circulating for a number of days, particularly in the German and the Turkish media, that his health had deteriorated to such an extent that his death was imminent – but it was shocking nonetheless.

At the age of 41, his body ravaged by years of alcohol abuse and in desperate need of a replacement liver, Sam lost his final fight in an Istanbul hospital bed, surrounded by his family. Pictures posted on the internet revealed a grossly overweight figure, hardly recognisable from the fighter of a decade before. It was a tragic end for a man who, while never reaching the pinnacle of the sport, enjoyed a respectable career.

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, to Turkish immigrants, Sam relocated to Ankara at an early age. It was there that he embarked on a trophy-laden amateur career which included nine Turkish championships, a gold medal at the junior World championships in 1992 and silver at the European championships in 1993. After beginning as a middleweight, Sam moved up through the weight classes and signed off as a super-heavyweight with a gold medal at the 1999 World championships in Houston.


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