Vernon "The Viper" Forrest, 1971-2009 - The First Man To Beat Shane Mosley

By James Slater: Vernon Forrest was one of boxing's good guys. Down to earth, willing to fight the best and unable to boast about it when he defeated such, the former Olympian was a notable giver to good charitable causes. A fine human being and a fine boxer, the 38-year-old, as most fans will be aware now, was senselessly shot down and killed last night in Atlanta, Georgia.

Almost too much to take on the back of the tragic deaths of both Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti, Vernon's passing has equally stunned fight fans. Murdered, by thugs who attempted to steal the world champion's car, Vernon is yet another fallen warrior.

It's almost too much to be asked to set about writing another tribute to one more boxing great who has passed way before his time, but Vernon was equally as special as Alexis and Arturo, and as such he more than deserves the following (and hopefully adequate) acknowledgment.

Born in Augusta, Georgia in February of 1971, Vernon had obvious talent as a boxer and he fought a successful amateur career on his way to competing in the 1992 Olympic games held in Barcelona. Despite beating future great “Sugar” Shane Mosley in the trials for the ’92 games (the two would meet again), Forrest came home empty handed after losing his first bout in Spain. Upon turning pro in late 1992, Forrest began a quest to show how good he really was.

A stylish boxer who some experts said reminded them of the incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson (the way Vernon held his hands the same way as Robinson held his), Forrest punched his way to a 31-0 record. Boxing at 140-pounds early on, Vernon fought Raul Frank for the vacant IBF welterweight belt in August of 2000. The bout was declared a No-Contest due to an accidentally caused cut, and the two met again - this time Forrest won a UD over 12-rounds and captured his first world title.

Now looking to solidify his status as a real champion, Forrest, aged 31, fought the already established Shane Mosley for the WBC 147-pound crown in January of 2002 in New York. A big underdog going in (despite how he’d beaten Mosley as an amateur), Forrest hammered Mosley on the way to a UD win over 12-rounds. Almost KO’ing Mosley along the way, “The Viper” was now a big time player. Mosley, never having lost as a pro, was truly stunned by the loss.

Repeating his feat six months later in Indianapolis, Forrest destroyed Mosley’s aims of avenging his sole loss as a pro. Amazingly, now set for stardom, Vernon was to lose his next two fights.

Shocked in three-rounds by the wild and underrated Nicaraguan, Ricardo Mayorga, Vernon was upset in January of 2003. A rematch came in six months, and most people felt Forrest had done enough to have won the 12-round decision. Instead, “El Matador” collected the win in Las Vegas.

Despite the fact that this loss was some six years ago, Vernon would only box as a pro a further seven times - winning all bout one of his outings up at his new weight class of light-middleweight.

Serious shoulder and elbow injuries later, Forrest came back as a 154-pounder two years on from his second loss to Mayorga. Two easy KO wins were followed by a controversial points win over African great Ike Quartey in August of 2008. Some saw Forrest wining the fight with his greater punch output, others saw Quartey’s punishing jab winning the ten-rounder.

Regardless, another eleven month layoff followed for the 35-year-old “Viper,” and much fan interest faded as a result. Coming back in July of 2007, Forrest put on a near master class Vs. teak-tough Argentine Carlos Baldomir, in a bout that contested the vacant WBC light-middleweight belt. Looking a million dollars, Forrest won a veritable shutout in Tacoma, Washington. Receiving much praise, the new champion (Vernon’s second world title in different weights) went on to successfully defend his crown that December, with a 11th-round TKO over stylish Italian Michele Piccirillo.

Six months later, and overly-confidently and under-prepared, Forrest lost a close majority verdict to Contender winner Sergio Mora. Bitterly disappointed at how he had unnecessarily thrown away his belt, a 37-year-old Forrest threw himself into intense training and pounded out a clear-cut UD over Mora in a September of 2008 rematch in Las Vegas. Forrest had restored his reputation, but he would never fight again.

Injuries put paid to a number of scheduled fights, but Forrest kept himself in fighting weight at all times. Then, yesterday, in shocking and sickening fashion, the two-time world champion was taken from us.

Vernon had plenty of fight left in him, but now we will never know how much.

R.I.P Vernon Forrest - January 12th, 1971 to July 26th, 2009 - former IBF welterweight champion, former WBC welterweight champion and former two-time WBC light-middleweight champion. 41-3(29).

Article posted on 27.07.2009

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