Laney senior awarded 1st Vernon Forrest scholarship

DeMarcus Booker is just 3-0 in his amateur boxing career, but he has lofty goals.

The senior at Laney High School hopes to one day become a world champion. Thanks to a scholarship he received Tuesday, Booker's goal is more attainable.

Booker, 17, is the first recipient of the Vernon Forrest Memorial Scholarship award. He received the $500 scholarship from Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver in a ceremony at the Municipal Building.

The scholarship will go to a current member of the Augusta Boxing Club and honor the memory of the Augusta native who was a professional boxing champion.

Forrest was robbed and shot in Atlanta on July 25, and he died in the early morning hours of July 26. Three men have been arrested in connection with his killing.

Forrest won three major titles in the welterweight and middleweight divisions. Known as "The Viper" for his quick hands, Forrest amassed a professional record of 41-3 with 29 knockouts.

Booker never saw Forrest fight in person, but he's heard stories about him at the Augusta Boxing Club and liked his style of fighting.

"I would like to follow in Vernon Forrest's footsteps and become a world champion," said Booker, who is in his fourth year of training at the local club. "This motivates me."

The money will be used to outfit Booker from "head to toe" with new headgear, gloves, shoes and other equipment, Augusta Boxing Club director Tom Moraetes said.

Several members of Forrest's family, including his mother, Mildred, and brothers Alphonso and Levert, were on hand Tuesday.

"I'm glad to come down today and honor Vernon," said Mrs. Forrest, who also celebrated her birthday Tuesday. "He couldn't be with us, but he's still in our hearts."

Alphonso Forrest said the family will work with Augusta officials to keep his brother's inspiration alive.

"We all had a hard time coming up as young adults and trying to find our way," he said. "If we can stop the negatives from coming into kids' lives and pick them up and take them to another level, we're going to do that."

The mayor, who funded the scholarship himself, said more people need to emulate Forrest's example.

"It's just a shame. I wish that Vernon could be here to see it," said Copenhaver, noting Forrest's love for kids and giving back to the community.

"In this community, we need it more and more to set an example."

Reach John Boyette at (706) 823-3337 or john.boyette@augustachronicle.com.

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