Originally created 12/31/06

Boxer to fight for first time since his murder conviction



More than 20 years after his last professional fight, Bennie Heard will get a chance next month to resume a once-promising boxing career that was halted by a murder conviction in 1986.

The former Augusta Boxing Club member, who was released on parole in September, is scheduled to fight in Atlanta on Jan. 19.

It will be the first fight for Mr. Heard, now 47, since 1985.

He was given a life sentence after fatally shooting a man during an altercation at a card game in December 1985 in his hometown of Elberton, Ga.

Mr. Heard maintained throughout his incarceration that the shooting was an accident.

The murder conviction brought to a sudden stop a career some in boxing believed would include a world championship.

He was undefeated in two fights as a professional after a sterling amateur career that saw him become the nation's top-ranked light-heavyweight in 1982 and an alternate on the U.S. Olympic Boxing Team in 1984.

Since his release from the Augusta Transitional Center on Sept. 20, Mr. Heard has signed with a promotional company in Atlanta owned by Johnny "Yahya" McLain, the former husband of women's boxing star Leila Ali.

Mr. McLain said Mr. Heard's fight will be part of a boxing card at an entertainment venue on West Peachtree Street called Center Stage Theatre.

Mr. Heard, who now lives outside Atlanta, said the four-round light-heavyweight fight will be the beginning of a career rebirth, despite his advanced age as a boxer.

"I'm expecting to get my name back out there," he said. "I'm expecting people to start knowing that Bennie Heard is back."

Reach Mike Wynn at (706) 823-3218 or mike.wynn@augustachronicle.com.