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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alfrrst4
18
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alfrrst4 07/26/09 - 03:05 pm
0
0
First and foremost, my family

First and foremost, my family has lost a son,brother, and a father and we are in a state of shock over this. Vernon would have protected that child with his last breath of air, and I know he did. Vernon loved God,his family, friends, Augusta,Ga and where he lived. For this horrible tragic to happen to him, hurts us all. Please understand our pain at this time, and understand that vernon was coming from the gym, after training for that day, and on his way to see our mother before he went home,as he always do. Please keep the bad things to yourself and let us grieve, and to the people who grew up with Vernon, thanks for your good memories at this time, we will need that to help us threw this sad time in our life right now, again Thank You. Alphonso Forrest sr.

voiceofconcern
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voiceofconcern 07/26/09 - 03:42 pm
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Vernon was a great man, a

Vernon was a great man, a nice young kid who developed into a wonderful professional of a person, who loved Augusta, GA.
A great boxer and equally great person. This is so tragic and so shocking. Such a young person who had so much to offer for many years to come. Condolences to his family and friends.

colcamp1
10
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colcamp1 07/26/09 - 04:02 pm
0
0
AL, please accept my family's

AL, please accept my family's sympathies. Vernon will be missed but definitely not forgotten. May you be able to find some comfort in knowing that Vernon is at peaceful rest, in GOD's loving arms.

reesiecup
0
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reesiecup 07/26/09 - 04:30 pm
0
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My thoughts and prayers go

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Forrest family at this very difficult time in their lives. Vernon was an outstandng young man and athlete. He will be greatly missed. May he rest in peace.

disssman
6
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disssman 07/26/09 - 04:40 pm
0
0
Tameka I am only satying what

Tameka I am only satying what your hero Mr. Gates said. Only now you have a problem with it. I absolutely liked Vernon and thought he was a fine role model for young people. My comment was that the police shouldn't get caught in the race problem and to do that they should only focus on European Causian neighborhoods until the guilty party is found. I am sure as are you that it wasn't a black person. Rose you are an idiot by making assumptions that the perpretators were black. your comments are only stiring up the black community. Why would you even suggest that just because you saw some black youths leave in a red Monte Carlo is no reason to jump on the black community.

redapples
660
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redapples 07/26/09 - 04:49 pm
0
0
So much tragedy in the world

So much tragedy in the world today and it's just senseless. God bless this family!

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 07/26/09 - 05:00 pm
0
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Just so I don't get jumped on

Just so I don't get jumped on for not saying anything, I did, I was the first one to post on the first story that came out, but when the story was updated a few minutes later, the posting shifted to the new story. Here is my post on the the 10:11am story: "This is a crying shame! There is a crime war going on right here in our country. My condolences to everyone that loved and cared about Vernon Forrest. There is no way to bring him back, but I hope that justice is served swiftly through appropriate means, that the murderer is caught and prosecuted accordingly. My prayers for his grieving survivors and friends and all survivors of violent crimes, God give us all strength to go on and try to turn this evil act into an impetus for something good for others.
Posted by baroness on Sun Jul 26, 2009 10:16 AM"

jerryyoung
1
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jerryyoung 07/26/09 - 06:31 pm
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0
I didn't know Vernon Forrest

I didn't know Vernon Forrest and don't know his family, but I have followed his career. Besides being a champion by all accounts he was a good man. My sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Forrest as well as to his extended family.

The Ode
2
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The Ode 07/26/09 - 06:32 pm
0
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So sad and

So sad and unnecessary.Violent criminals and 2 time convicted felons need to be dealt swift capital punishment if America is ever going to take crime seriously.

georgiapeach9848
4
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georgiapeach9848 07/26/09 - 06:42 pm
0
0
I to went to school with

I to went to school with Alphonso and Vernon. I am very proud to be able to call him my friend.He never forgot where he came from. He made it in this Life and made all that knew him proud.Even in the End Vernon protected someone he cared for. I am so sorry For the Lose his family is feeling right now.The Forrest Family is good people. You are in my prays Vernon was a very good man and will be missed deeply

nofrills
0
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nofrills 07/26/09 - 07:52 pm
0
0
This is a real lost for

This is a real lost for Augusta. A true role model for all young men. I had the pleasure of meeting him at the Augusta Boxing Club. He was never to busy to help the younger fellows out. Augusta has lost a gem

KSL
129067
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KSL 07/26/09 - 09:27 pm
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A huge loss. I'm so sorry.

A huge loss. I'm so sorry.

voiceofconcern
0
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voiceofconcern 07/27/09 - 12:12 am
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DID Y'ALL KNOW THAT AN

DID Y'ALL KNOW THAT AN ATLANTA CITY COUNCILMAN WAS ALSO CAR-JACKED EARLY SUNDAY, JUST HOURS AFTER VERNON WAS FATALLY SHOT. ACCORDING TO A SNIPPET FROM THE ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION ... Ceasar Mitchell, who is running for City Council president, said one of the men pulled out a gun, pointed it upward and fired the weapon. The councilman handed over the keys to his vehicle and the thieves quickly drove away into the night as Mitchell’s mother and other neighbors came out their homes on the 1000 block of Lena Street to find out what was going on. Police later found Mitchell’s vehicle nearby in another part of northwest Atlanta, near Joseph E. Boone and Joseph Lowery boulevards. No arrests had been made by Sunday afternoon. The councilman said police did not give him any indication if the thieves were part of the same crew that shot and killed former boxing champ Vernon Forrest late Saturday in southwest Atlanta. Mitchell was driving a 2003 Ford Expedition.

TakeAstand
13
Points
TakeAstand 07/27/09 - 12:38 am
0
0
My deepest sympathy for the

My deepest sympathy for the family, I'm so glad the boy with him didn't witness it first hand, but it still must have been horrible for him. I hope they find the [filtered word]'s who did this!

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 07/27/09 - 03:31 am
0
0
How very sad, another good

How very sad, another good person has to die at the hand of violent criminals. We must do something to put an end to violent crime and these liberal judges that are allowing these violent criminals back onto our streets. If you kill someone and are found guilty, you should be put to death, quickly. If you commit other violent crimes against persons, you don't deserve to walk our streets again and depending on the violence, you also should be put to death or locked away permantly. Those serving life wiithout parole deserve nothing but 2 meals a toliet and a bed - NOTHING ELSE, Period. They are not coming back out into society and therefore don't need or deserve anything. We need to reduce the costs of housing our prisoners in order to provide students with better educational opportunities. We also need to teach (since many parents don't) personal responsibility, acountability and very strict discipline. Students who are in school and wish to learn should not have to put up wiht those whe are there for other reasons. Finally, I hope to hear from Jessie, Al and the others through marching and protesting this death and placing blame where it belongs on these violent thugs.

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