I would say that boxing can’t afford to lose good men like Vernon Forrest, but what I should say is the world can’t afford to lose good men like Vernon Forrest.
Forrest, 38, the former welterweight and junior middleweight champion, was shot and killed Saturday night when reportedly he was robbed of his wallet at a gas station. Reports out of Atlanta are that Forrest was chasing the robbers and shot at them when they returned fire and he was hit with mulitple gunshot wounds.
He was a terrific fighter, defeating Sugar Shane Mosley twice and compiling a record of 41-3 with 29 knockouts.
But what made him a good man were the good works he did for the mentally disabled outside of the ring, running his “Destiny’s Child” group homes in Atlants for the mentally disabled. At Forrest fights, you would often see many of those people who stayed at those homes in the crowd, cheering Forrest, their friend and hero, on.
I had the chance to talk to Forrest in 2003 about his work in Destiny’s Child.
“I spent a large part of my personal money to finance the home when we didn’t get the support from the state we were supposed to,” Forrest said. “A lot of our residents had been in other group homes where they had been abused beyond belief. They ate food that rats and roaches had eaten out of. Most of them had even been kicked out on the streets until we took them in.
“The state tells you not to get attached to the residents,” Forrest said. “Real quick, you realize that if you’re going to give them enough love, support and attention in order for them to grow, it’s impossible not to get attached to them. I feel as if they’re my brothers. We share holiday dinners together, we go to sporting events, we sit together at church, I teach them how to use the Internet and I will take their calls at all hours.”
Forrest had received the Thurman Munson Award for his efforts. He was among heady company for the honor, which recognizes people who have helped those with disabilities to lead richer, more productive lives. Previous recipients include Joe Torre, Bobby Valentine, Al Leiter, Bernie Williams, Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, Willie Mays, Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Willis Reed, Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, Jorge Posada and Wayne Chrebet.
A champion for the human spirit is now gone.
You can listen to me Monday through Friday from noon to 2 p.m. on “The Sports Fix” with myself and co-host Kevin Sheehan on ESPN 980 AM Washington and www.espn980.com.
For more information about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com