Former boxing champion and U.S. Olympian shot in Atlanta

Sunday, July 26, 2009 10:15 AM
Last updated 9:36 PM
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ATLANTA — Vernon Forrest, a former two-division champion who gained stardom when he became the first boxer to defeat Shane Mosley, was shot to death in what police are calling an attempted robbery.

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Vernon Forrest  Michael Holahan/Staff
Michael Holahan/Staff
Vernon Forrest

Atlanta police Sgt. Lisa Keyes said in an e-mail Sunday that the 38-year-old Forrest was shot several times in the back late Saturday night on a street just southwest of downtown. Keyes said there were no suspects.

Fulton County medical examiner Michele Stauffenberg confirmed the case was a homicide and that the autopsy showed Forrest died from "multiple gunshot wounds involving the torso and thigh." Keyes said a police report on the shooting was not immediately available.

Charles Watson, the boxer's manager, said police and witnesses told him that Forrest had stopped at a gas station to put air in his car tire when a man approached asking for money.

"Somehow, Vernon had his wallet out and the guy snatched his wallet and started running," Watson said. "Vernon pursued after him. The guy turned the corner and Vernon didn't see him. He turned around to go back to the car. That's when he started firing."

Watson said Forrest's 11-year-old godson was with him, but had gone into the convenience store and did not witness the shooting.

The death quickly sent a ripple through the close-knit boxing world.

"Vernon was one of the few decent people in boxing," his promoter Gary Shaw told The Associated Press. "I don't know what to say. I'm still in disbelief, I'm still in shock."

Forrest, a native of Augusta, Ga., who lived in Atlanta, was a member of the 1992 Olympic team along with Oscar De La Hoya. The popular fighter later won welterweight and junior middleweight titles and compiled a professional record of 41-3 with 29 knockouts.

"He was one of the most gracious and charitable fighters in boxing and he will be missed by the entire boxing community," said HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg, who helped put on eight of Forrest's fights. "Maybe Vernon's lasting legacy will be for Americans everywhere to rise up and end this kind of senseless violence."

Those who knew Forrest praised his role in launching the Destiny's Child group homes in Atlanta, which work to provide homes for the mentally disabled.

Longtime publicist Kelly Swanson called him "a caring humanitarian who always stood up for what he believed to be the fairness of life."

"It was truly his calling," Swanson said of his work with children. "When he wasn't boxing, this was his full-time job. ... When they would see him, they would just light up, and some of them couldn't even talk. Vernon was very much involved. He'd have some of the kids over to his house on Sundays. They were part of his family."

Swanson said Forrest was not married and had one son, Vernon Jr.

Forrest turned pro not long after the Barcelona Olympics, when he was stricken by food poisoning and lost in the opening round. He won his first world title by defeating Raul Frank at Madison Square Garden for the vacant IBF welterweight belt in May 2001, and less than a year later handed Mosley his first career loss to capture the WBC title.

The smooth-punching Forrest defended the belt against Mosley, winning by unanimous decision six months later, before losing to Ricardo Mayora in January 2003. It was Forrest's first loss, and he'd lose again to Mayorga in a close bout many believe he won.

After taking two years off because of injuries, Forrest embarked on an impressive comeback that included a win over Ike Quartey and a victory over Carlos Baldomir for the vacant WBC junior middleweight title. Forrest defended it once, before losing it in a stunning upset to Sergio Mora in June 2008.

Like a true champion, the soft-spoken yet hard-punching Forrest reclaimed it when he won a lopsided decision last September in what ultimately was his final fight.

"He was a great fighter, a great champion," said Ken Hershman, vice president in charge of boxing at Showtime. "He was coming to the end of his career, but wasn't ready to hang 'em up. He still had a lot of life ahead of him."

There were tentative plans for a title fight against Sergio Martinez, perhaps in October, Shaw said. Plans for an August fight against Martinez were pushed back because of a rib injury, and the delay led the WBC to strip Forrest of his title.

His trainer Buddy McGirt told the AP that he spoke to Forrest last week, and the two were planning to return to the gym on Aug. 1.

"I've been in a daze. I'm at a loss for words," said McGirt, who was awakened early Sunday by the call with the bad news. "When I answered it was his assistant and she was crying, and I knew something happened, man. I just feel so bad."

This is the third high-profile death of a boxing champion in recent weeks.

Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, the mayor of Managua, Nicaragua, was found dead at his home on July 1 in an apparent suicide. Two weeks ago, popular brawler Arturo Gatti was found dead in a condominium in Brazil. Gatti's wife remains the prime suspect in that case.

"If the saying is bad things come in threes, hopefully we're done with that for a long time to come," Hershman said. "I hope that's the case. I mean, ironically three great people, three great human beings, too. Not a good few months."

McGirt was especially shaken by the death of Forrest, whose wins over Mosley earned him the 2002 Fighter of the Year award from Ring Magazine, and whose kindness outside of the ring earned him the Good Guy award in 2003 from the Boxing Writer's Association of America.

Previous Story:

Columnist Scott Michaux interviewed Vernon Forrest after he won undisputed welterweight championship in 2002.

Vernon Forrest's dreams have come true

Photos: Vernon Forrest Remembered

Comments (44) Add comment
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farfrompuken 101
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farfrompuken 101 07/26/09 - 10:29 am
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sad

sad

TheChairman
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TheChairman 07/26/09 - 10:36 am
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Here's to a wonderful guy who

Here's to a wonderful guy who I had the chance to meet a number of times. Coach Moraetes and all the young men at the Augusta Boxing Club have lost a Hero, as has the City of Augusta. RIP, Vernon...

imjustplayin
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imjustplayin 07/26/09 - 10:48 am
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how very sad. a good man who

how very sad. a good man who was successful, cared about himself, and his community. still a victim of crime and violence.

disssman
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disssman 07/26/09 - 10:53 am
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The police need to focus

The police need to focus their attention on the European Caucasian community and only that community, until a suspect is found. To do otherwise would be racial profileing to professor gates. Wouldn't it? If they do that I wonder if the killer will ever be found. It is a shame that the young man was slain so viciously and for a car. I too have seen Forest in interviews on TV and found him to be a nice fellow. Such a shame that the colored community can't seem to police themselves and get rid of the vermin. Rather, they seem to relish in making vermin out as heros.

tmoh001
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tmoh001 07/26/09 - 10:57 am
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What are you talking about

What are you talking about diss? I am sick of all of this racial back and forth on here. A good man lost his life in a tragic way. Let's focus on that fact.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/26/09 - 10:58 am
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What a shame. Vernon is

What a shame. Vernon is probably the greatest athlete to ever come out of this area. He was going to fight in August. Unreal. He went down fighting. The thieves/murderers need to be brought to justice.

storiesihaveread
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storiesihaveread 07/26/09 - 11:15 am
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How gutless is it to shoot

How gutless is it to shoot somebody in the back. When are these senseless killings going to stop? A role model for young African Americans shot down in the prime of his life by heartless gutless idiots. Lets hope the police were able to catch the one(s) responsible

DEVGRU
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DEVGRU 07/26/09 - 11:22 am
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A sad day for the boxing

A sad day for the boxing world and the Augusta Boxing Club where Vernon honed his skills to become a champion.

angelletbetter
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angelletbetter 07/26/09 - 11:46 am
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Such a shame. I went to

Such a shame. I went to school with Vernon. He was sometimes a class clown.But he usually had a smile on his face.We just caught back up with each other and now i hear he was shot.For a car.How stupid and senseless.He was one of the few that got out and made something of his self.With us growing up in the hood, that really was great.Well he will surely be missed.We lost a good one.

tameka1
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tameka1 07/26/09 - 11:47 am
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dissman you sound like a

dissman you sound like a complete idiot! get it together....

sucram
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sucram 07/26/09 - 11:49 am
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R.I.P to Vernon, a great

R.I.P to Vernon, a great champion and an ambassador to our city. He never forgot where he came from.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 12:03 pm
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AC left out much of the

AC left out much of the story. He had his girlfriend's son in the car.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 12:05 pm
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Police said Forrest, 38, was

Police said Forrest, 38, was shot about eight times. Police said the gunmen had two semi-automatic weapons.

Police said Forrest had his girlfriend’s son in the vehicle at the time of the shooting. The child remains in police custody until his mother arrives from Texas.

Police are looking for two black males last seen leaving the scene in a Red Monte Carlo.

YellowHammer
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YellowHammer 07/26/09 - 12:16 pm
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Rose: you need to leave the

Rose: you need to leave the race of the suspects out of the description. Profiling is a no-no.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/26/09 - 12:17 pm
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Rose, I read that to mean he

Rose, I read that to mean he had to fight to keep the car from being hijacked because the child was in the car. Is that what you mean?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/26/09 - 12:19 pm
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By the way, he and Tom

By the way, he and Tom Moraetes had a major public argument, although Forrest was puzzled about it all, it appeared.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 12:20 pm
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I read the story and posted

I read the story and posted the link. Draw your own conclusions.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 12:23 pm
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Dang. I was trying to help. I

Dang. I was trying to help. I didn't know I would be asked to tell more than I know.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 12:24 pm
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12:05 is copied and pasted

12:05 is copied and pasted from that link.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/26/09 - 12:24 pm
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No problem. I think it shows

No problem. I think it shows he was acting heroically to protect the child.

Angela Quick
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Angela Quick 07/26/09 - 12:35 pm
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I would like to send my

I would like to send my prayers out to Vernon's family they were great people. I went to school with Vernon and his brother Levert. Vernon was a class clown sometimes but the people that really knew him can always say he always had a smile on his face just as well as his brother did..No matter how big Vernon became he never forgot about where he came from. I really do hope the police catch the people that did this. R.I.P. Vernon Forrest....YOU WILL BE GREATLY MISSED!!!

goldie53
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goldie53 07/26/09 - 12:51 pm
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I know the Forrest family.

I know the Forrest family. Our hearts goes out to them. They believe in educating their children and making something out of their life. This is a tragedy someone can be cut down in the prime of their life. For what! This is a example what is happening all around the world, We must stop these horrendous crimes for a car or a few dollars. These thugs are killing innocent people and then our tax dollars must take care of them for the rest of their sorry life. Now I will interject race into my post. Black men wake up you are no better than the KKK. You are taking more black men out then the klan did in the "30's". GET REAL! You street pushers (not drug dealers) turn those math skills into operating a legit business. The ones that want to shoot and kill join the military we have real enemies over in Afghanistan. As for dissman you must be ancient! First colored went out in the sixties. Yet you would not understand we have been a race of people with many names, Colored, Black , Negro and African-American. Your ancestors did that to us bringing us over on the slave ships and lost our culture had to take your family names. Last put your arm side white paper now are you white

marien
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marien 07/26/09 - 01:00 pm
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What a great loss to the

What a great loss to the community, may God be with his family. I hope whoever did this will be brought to justice.

Sandpiper
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Sandpiper 07/26/09 - 01:46 pm
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Its always sad to hear of the

Its always sad to hear of the death of a person who is trying to make the world a better place. I hope that the police catch your murderers quickly, RIP Vernon Forrest.

charliemanson
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charliemanson 07/26/09 - 01:55 pm
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Condolences to the family.

Condolences to the family.

Rose
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Rose 07/26/09 - 01:57 pm
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Riverman1 I agree with you. I

Riverman1 I agree with you. I think he was trying to protect the child. I am sorry if I was short to you earlier.

shootamonkey
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shootamonkey 07/26/09 - 02:37 pm
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How very sad to be cut down
Unpublished

How very sad to be cut down in the prime of life and he apparently gave his life trying to protect his child. I don't know the answer but we as a society have got to get a handle on this random violence. Thoughts and prayers to his family and friends.

Opinionated one1
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Opinionated one1 07/26/09 - 02:40 pm
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A very sad commentary on our

A very sad commentary on our society. I hope his killer (s) are caught and dealth with to the full extent of the law.

gagirl40
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gagirl40 07/26/09 - 02:58 pm
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YellowHammer...Rose wasn't

YellowHammer...Rose wasn't "profiling" she was giving the DESCRIPTION of the men seen leaving the scene. Don't try to be cute. It just makes you look like an idiot! This is sad on so many levels. A good man gunned down trying to protect a child! It's sickening! I am so sorry his family and friends must now live without him. My sympathies are with them and all of Augusta...we have lost a hero!

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