Forrest defined ‘champion’ in a sport that needed it

We lost more than a great champion when Vernon Forrest was killed Saturday night.

We lost more than a great champion when Vernon Forrest was killed Saturday night. (Las Vegas Sun photo)

A sport often is defined by its stars. So it follows that boxing’s reputation has been soiled for decades. Too many champions have ended up destitute or on the police blotter. Or both.

Vernon Forrest was different. It doesn’t seem right that we just lost a great champion — not merely in boxing, but in life.

Forrest was killed Saturday night. It was a random, senseless act, and the wrong guy was caught in the middle of it. Forrest was shot during a robbery, which led to an exchange of gunfire.

“Here’s a guy who did everything right,” Al Mitchell, his long-time trainer and friend, said by phone. “He didn’t take drugs. He wasn’t involved with gangs. He lived his life the right way. He was a gentleman.”

Forrest was one of the most engaging athletes I’ve ever come across. He did charity work. He started a foundation, “Destiny’s Child,” which benefited people with mental disabilities. He was a guy you pulled for. Boxing needed more like him.

Mitchell had known Forrest since he was 15. He brought him into the U.S. Olympic Training and Education Program at Northern Michigan University. He trained him through his amateur days leading up the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, then resumed working with Forrest as a pro in 2000. He was there when Forrest won the welterweight title 2001, then the super-welterweight belt six years later. He saw how Forrest lived his life, a contrast to so many others in the sport.

“I’m down,” Mitchell said. “Here’s a kid that did everything right. I trained a lot of kids in that program in Marquette (Mich.) and most of them are now teachers or doing something else. They’re all good role models. They understand what life is about. They take care of their family. Vernon was like that. He took care of his mother, his sister, his son. He took care of his friends. How can something like this happen? Just in the wrong place at the wrong time – that’s all it was.”

Mitchell said he last spoke to Forrest two days ago. “He had called me two weeks ago because he heard I was going back to Philly for something,” he said. “He knew I was from a bad neighborhood in Philly and he told me, ‘Hey, you better be careful there. Nobody knows who you are any more.’ I told him not to worry because I wasn’t bringing my rings or anything.’ Then he called me two days ago and said, ‘I see you made it back safe.”

Forrest lost, then reclaimed, the super-welterweight belt from Sergio Mora in 2008. He was scheduled to fight again in April, but suffered a rib injury and vacated his title. But he planned to have a comeback fight in September, leading to a possible title shot in December.

“He was excited,” Mitchell said. “He said he would call me back this week.”

A true champion is lost.

60 comments Add your comment

Reid Adair

July 26th, 2009
2:06 pm

I was shocked to hear the news about Vernon Forrest. He was a class act, to say the least. Boxing and professional sports in general need more people like Forrest.

Sport News | All Days Long

July 26th, 2009
2:13 pm

[...] Forrest defined 'champion' in a sport that needed it Atlanta Journal Constitution (Las Vegas Sun photo) A sport often is defined by its stars. So it follows that boxing's reputation has been soiled for decades. … See all stories on this topic [...]

Ceasar Allen

July 26th, 2009
2:50 pm

Is there any place safe on this earth? We have to pray for the shooter, that he find Jesus and turn himself in. Bless Vernon’s family, hope all goes well with them at this point. PEACE

The Grinch

July 26th, 2009
2:53 pm

The crime rate in Atlanta really is getting out of hand. You shouldn’t have to drive a crappy car just to feel safe in your own town.


July 26th, 2009
3:15 pm

Cesar Allen: “Is there any place safe on this earth?”

There wont be after the dumb liberals import more and more people from 3rd world countries into their countries. Now places like Switzerland and London are filled with Somali gangsters who gang rape white women. Europe has been taken over by idiot liberals who seek only to promote ‘diversity”, while ignoring the safety and needs of the original population! Austria and Italy have both went againt the mass immigration of Africans and muslims….. only to be called “racist” and “right wing extremist” by the EU.
RIP Forrest….. ill miss cheering for ya.


July 26th, 2009
3:20 pm

Im not surprised to hear about this tragedy because ive worked the streets of Atlanta and New Orleans and know how inner city thugs think.
Its always the good blacks that get killed by the black thugs. Yet sadly when the black thugs are killed by the cops even the good ones cry “cop Racism”! Where are the REAL Black leaders in America!!!

Mayor & Police Chief

July 26th, 2009
3:23 pm

Crime – what crime? Our city is safe. Hopefully the next mayor and police chief understand that following the model that Giulani established in NYC works.

Sorry to hear about this tragic murder – not far from some high-end lofts, The GA Dome, etc.

Shirley & Pennington get your heads out of the sand.


July 26th, 2009
3:58 pm

why oh why do we have to play the race card? It get us far away from the point that a good person is dead over an sensles act. If we stop worring about race and do something about crime itself, we stand to look like a 3rd world country. Bullets have no name or racial background. Instead of waiting for Al or Jesse to speak up, be your own leader or are u scared?


July 26th, 2009
5:06 pm

This is a sad day. Vernon was a great pugilist and an even greater human being. It is unfortunate that some of us want to turn this into a race issue. This is a crime issue. I live in Midtown and we are presently dealing with a situation where we do not have enough police on the streets. I am familiar with the area where Vernon was killed and I would not drive my Mercedes to that gas station to fill up my tire at night.

And what was the City Councilman that got carjacked doing out at 2AM on a Saturday night – in the neighborhood that he was in??


July 26th, 2009
5:11 pm

Jeff: this is a really nice piece, and I’m sad to see people inject their own personal political and other agendas into it.

RIP to a fine champion and even better human being.

ATL Steve

July 26th, 2009
5:35 pm

This is the most misguided post ever! Charlie, it’s not a crime issue, nor is it a black issue! It’s a freaking parenting issue! If you really want to get to the root of the problem, start there! There are entirely too many kids raising themselves without the guidance of someone who actually understands the responsibility of

Mayor & Police Chief

July 26th, 2009
5:38 pm

KP the city councilman was on a street right off Northside Drive near I-75 – a place you should feel okay driving your Mercedes too even at 2:00am. I agree that the boxer was in a sketchy place.

ATL Steve

July 26th, 2009
5:42 pm

Until we understand that we need to start coming down harder on the parents of these misguided souls, then we will continue to see senseless crimes like this. I don’t look for Rev. Al or anyone else to come to my rescue…I make the changes in my life. As a black man, I also realize where I come from and the mentality of some people. Therefore, if you threaten me or my family, I will not miss!! I want the criminals to be put under the jail just like most of my “gun-carrying, conservative” brothers…don’t get it twisted! Let us not look at this from 1 side of the aisle and look at it from the perspective that it is wrong AND WE ALL HAVE TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! As a Gulf-War Veteran and educator, I want what’s best for my country and not one facet of it. Meet me half-way!


July 26th, 2009
5:47 pm

WOW! How does an amazing article such as this get dragged down in racist, non-sensical banter? The fact that some of the above comments were even made (contrary to Ken Stallings dilusions) proves that racism still exists. If we truly, truly believed racism no longer existed, then we would look at humanity as one. We would look at one of us as no different, better, worse, or otherwise from the other. We would realize we are one and the same. We would no longer think that only blacks are “pathetic” and “thugs”. We would realize that if any one of us is “pathetic” or a “thug”, then we’re all “pathetic” or “thugs”. We would realize if we had “so-called leaders’ amongst us, that they represented ALL of us and not just a few (and maybe we’d want to do something about it). We would not look at Barack Obama’s election as “proof” of anything because it would not be a surprise (or an issue) that any one of us could rise to the top office in the land (even a woman). Racism exists, and will continue to exist, until we stop looking at ourselves as so being different from others. And start understanding that none of us can be better until all of us are better.

Vernon Forrest was murdered and it was sad occasion for ALL of us because he was a good man. We are ALL worse off for having lost him.


July 26th, 2009
5:50 pm

P.S. Charlie, you don’t have to do anything for the black community. They are not your responsibility (not sure who told you it was). You only have to do something about yourself. Be the change you wish to see in the world.


July 26th, 2009
5:53 pm

It’s going to take more famous people getting jacked to make this a priority in this town. Nobody cares as long as regular people remain the daily victims. You gotta get yours, but fool, I gotta get mine.


July 26th, 2009
6:02 pm

What a shame. RIP Vernon and I send a blessing and prayer request for your soul as you pass along to God.

rodney johnson

July 26th, 2009
6:05 pm

I am very saddened to hear about the passing of a great fighter and a better person i have known vernon for years but i have not seen him for awhile due to conflicting schedules; however i got to know him as a boxer and as a human being a long tine ago as a former georgia golden gloves boxer and champion we shared a lot of ring time and many conversations. He played with my children gave me rides and priceless boxing knowlege.Any one that really knew him knows he loved childern and would protect them if need be so i know that he was protecting the child that was with him.My prayers are with him and family R.I.P CHAMP.


July 26th, 2009
6:07 pm

Amen Ken Stallings and Charlie!!

KWD: your in denial kid….. i personally was a cable man in Atlanta from 1999-2006, and was a victim of violent crime 5 times. Including having assault rifles pointed at my head during a gasstation robbery (5 blacks), and outsmarting 2 carjackers off of Windy Hill Rd. You know what? EVERYTIME it was a Black man! This IS a BLACK thing!

And this isnt happening because of the economy… the economy was just fine back when i worked the streets and these type of people were just hanging out on the street…… No desire or drive to work, little morals or cares in the world. They just cared about “hustlin” and doing whatever was possible to avoid a real job.

Whites and decent blacks and decent people of ALL races should stop supporting black thug music like Piles and 50 that only promotes violence. Black leaders must get real about the issues facing America today like the lack of black fathers and the lack of morals in black society!


July 26th, 2009
6:17 pm



July 26th, 2009
6:24 pm

BravesFan 79. LOL! Not in denial. You must have misinterpreted what I wrote. I never said it wasn’t a “black thing”. I was simply stating that the idea that racism does not exist is false. And the “black thing” will continue to exist until we change our mindset and stop separating ourselves from others with our racist words and ideas – all of us. Racism is very much alive, BF79, very much alive. By the way – I know it must have been a Freudian. But you do realize there are whites who aren’t so “decent” either, yes?

The Grinch

July 26th, 2009
6:32 pm

Wow, this is intense. But I’m glad it’s happening; it needs to. This city’s on the verge of burning from within this time; no William T. Sherman needed. It’s time to get it all out in the open and get it hashed out, and figure out what to do. I seem not to be the only one tired of looking over my shoulder every time I go out and about around here. We need to band together and pressure local and national leaders into taking this kind of crime seriously. It’s total BS that the prison systems are full of people busted for misdemeanor possession of marijuana while all these cold-blooded thugs are loose gunning people down over gang initiations and “bling.”

It doesn’t matter what color the criminals are; prosecute violent crime correctly under existing laws and this problem will sensibly diminish.

[...] Read the original:  Forrest document.write(unescape(’%63%69%72%63%75%6d%73%63%72%69%62%65%64′)); 'champion' d… [...]

A. Nonny Mouse

July 26th, 2009
6:42 pm

WOW! Anonymity is the elixir of bigots.

“Whites and decent blacks….”

Like being white is definitively Decent
And Being Black is an indecent Stain to
White Out.

Sociology from the cable guy.
…too many people have computers
and no brain.


July 26th, 2009
7:23 pm

I think KWD is right, its like you talk about racism is dead and then you just contradict yourself, i mean do you even read what you post, this is about poverty and nothing else, it happens in the country and it happens in the cities, all over the country. but it just so happens that in the city, you have gangs and you have guns. get some opportunities in west atlanta, i mean some people don’t have the means right now, people are struggling. you don’t need more cops, you need more jobs. but who knows. i know not talking about these issues just creates more anger, like some talk radio type stuff, or some al sharpton type stuff.


July 26th, 2009
7:29 pm

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie… are you trying to put words in my mouth (I’m chuckling, just so you know)? I didn’t “say” any of those things. In fact, I never mentioned anyone being denied anything, or lacking any opportunities, and I certainly don’t want to make anything difficult on anyone. And what does that “people like you” mean, exactly? As far as I know – but I could be wrong – we’ve never met. Although, I do consider you my brother.

Ken Stallings

July 26th, 2009
7:30 pm

Charlie, you are going overboard.

Mr. Forrest wasn’t killed by racism. He was killed by criminal activity just because he stopped at a gas station to refuel his car. His car was a very nice one he earned through hard work. It was eyed by a street thug who wanted his property.

Now, let’s just agree the theft and subsequent violence against Vernon Forrest was wrong. Let’s not make any excuses for it. Let’s endeavor to call out all the contributing factors. Let’s support police when they desire and organize a counter-gang crack down. Let’s, when that happens, resist the temptation to label it “racial profiling.” Let’s resist the urge to paint gang crackdowns as police engaging in racial insensitivity.

The bullet that killed Vernon Forrest could have killed anyone. Point is we should be equally outraged if it kills someone famous as if it kills someone unknown outside their own families.

The last hurdle America has to cross in my opinion is to acknowledge that bad conduct has no racial component, nor does it earn any racial defense or excuse. When we discipline ourselves to accept those two realities then we complete ourselves and get own with the business of eradicating the type of gang evil that predates on far too many innocent people.


July 26th, 2009
7:31 pm

Don’t know why people say it’s not a racial thing. Atlanta used to be a nice city 20 years ago. Then you had all of these blacks moving down there. Have you ever TRIED to go downtown at night? There are thousands of thems, and thousands of fights.

If blacks want to be “equal”, I would say stop with the “black” things … “black voice on AOL” … Congressional Black Caucus” … Black Student Union … everything with black in it. Why? What would happen if we have the Congressional White Caucus? Little Alice Sharpton and Jessica Jackson would be wanting to burn the cities down, right?


July 26th, 2009
7:35 pm

OH! And I didn’t see your earlier post until just now. And when I read it – I didn’t quite understand it. I will say this, though. The”truth” is relative. Your truth is true to you, just as my truth is true to me. No one better than the other. That is why no one person can speak “the truth” about another. We don’t have all the facts – we only have what we “believe” to be true. I never asked you to change. I simply stated that you should be the change you wish to see in the world (completely different). And, once again… how do you know what I embrace (besides being against racism)? Have we met?


July 26th, 2009
8:01 pm

Never heard of this guy ??????


July 26th, 2009
8:18 pm

I hate to disparage someone I don’t know, but BravesFan79 is a bleeding moron. I moved from Atlanta to London four years ago, and there are not “Somali gangsters gang-raping white women” here on any kind of regular basis. I spend lots of time in some of the roughest neighbourhoods in South and East London, very ethnically diverse places, and I can assure you that I am not nearly so worried about what some darker-skinned resident of one of those areas will do to me as I am watchful when around a crowd of the typical, white indigenous Brit working class when they’re on their liquor. There’s nothing nastier than some snarky white yobbo who’s stupidly drunken far too much (which a large percentage of them do quite frequently) and won’t hesitate to pick a fight for any reason or no reason whatsoever, or who is even more eager to cowardly glass you from behind.

The meanest, dirtiest, most violent folks over here are quite often the white folks whom the BNP holds up as the salt of the earth, or at least of Britain. (Google Danno Sonnex for an example; this happened about a half-mile from my workplace.) And we won’t even talk about the Eastern European gangsters (who are white, and *not* from Third World countries) who can be just as vicious, if a little more discreet.

So don’t lay all that crap on skin colour, or country of origin. Poverty usually has a hell of a lot more to do with it. It just happens that in Atlanta, as in many parts of America, the poorest folks happen to be black. Change that and you may not get rid of crime, but you’d certainly change the demographics.

The most important thing here is that Vernon Forrest, a great athlete & champion and a most admirable human being–and who also happened to be black–has had his life taken away. That is a terribly sad event, for his family, his fans, our city, and for us. I for one feel empathy for his loved ones, and a desire for justice for his killer–not because of his race, but because of what he has done.


July 26th, 2009
8:46 pm

People with nothing going on want everybody else to have nothing going on. People with nothing will take your stuff so they have something. 18 year old kids with felony records have no real future. There is no such thing as a “gang crackdown” wtf does that accomplish? Nothing. Maybe a few people are in jail for a few hours. Ever talked to the cops on the street at 3am? It’s nothing short of war with no victory conditions. When the sun comes up the score is reset. You can be black like Forrest or Sean WIlliams, or you can be white. It does not really matter. The core story is the same… people with NOTHING to lose will step up and try you. Now, do we want to talk about real solutions to the intractable problem? The sun comes back up in about 10 hours.


July 26th, 2009
8:52 pm

I meant Sean Taylor… not Williams…

Davan S. Mani

July 26th, 2009
8:56 pm

This article and the comments pertutuate the myth that “you must be white to be right.”

Ken Stallings

July 26th, 2009
9:31 pm

count_schemula I disagree. It’s not that simple. There are far more people who come from low-income backgrounds who grow up well. If I had to point to one cause it would be lack of good male role models who can help raise a boy to manhood. But even that oversimplifies it.

Whatever “good” can come out of this, it won’t matter a hell of beans to Forrest’s family. Unfortunately, for every person who commits a crime, there’s a story behind it. But that doesn’t matter. No life lived provides a justification for crime — at least not in this country. I could excuse a starving person stealing food, but I’d far prefer someone with charity provide food and moreover a means to learn a skill to provide for himself.

Even the poorest person in America lives a life richer than the majority of people who live in third world countries. Was the thug who killed Forrest hungry? Doubt it. Just obsessed with greed and lacking any moral integrity or respect for fellow humans.

Poverty doesn’t cause crime else everyone poor would be criminal, or at least most. In truth, it’s a rare minority who’s raised poor who becomes criminal. Far many more rise from poverty to become independent, successful, and honored by thousands who know him and respect him for overcome the adversity in his life.

Knowing all the permutations of crime is beyond my knowledge level. But I do know it isn’t racial. It isn’t financial. And no matter the cause it cannot be excused.

And the reason it cannot be excused is because of the pain and anquish Vernon Forrest’s family is experiencing right now, and will experience for the rest of their lives.


July 26th, 2009
9:45 pm

But when you grow up with a combination of low income, no value system, poor or non-existent parenting – raised by other kids for the most part, a culture based on violence and gangs, a corner lookout at 12 and in and out of jail a dozen times before you’re 21… it’s not a feel good story in the making. I definitely did not intend to make it sound “simple,” but rather complicated and intractable.

My dad died when I was young, I’ve been arrested for stupid crap a dozen times, was not living at home when I graduated high school and did not go to college right away. I considered the criminal life and even gave it a short try out… But eventually, my value system took root and I’m a fine adult. Not everyone has that safety net, and when you don’t… you make the news. Individuals can rise above, unless they just don’t know any other way. I think a lot of the “thugs” that we love to chastise do not know any other way.


July 26th, 2009
10:01 pm

Why is it that when something like this happens, we have a blamestorm? . we try to blame the town, the skin color, the activity..some moron above wants to even blame music. There isnt a town in America that doesnt have an unsafe part of town. and the last time I looked, both white and black people were killing each other like there is no tomorrow.

Cant we just state how badly we feel, express our regret, and pray for his kids?

Jeff Schultz

July 26th, 2009
10:12 pm

Great comments. It’s clear Vernon touched a lot of lives. Al Mitchell just called me again a few minutes ago just to talk. He’s pretty shook up, and I can only imagine so is everyone who was close to Vernon. Something like this is so stunning. It just leaves you numb for a while.

Charlie – I thought your comments were uncalled for, especially in this forum, and I’m deleting them. If you persist on race-baiting, I will ban you from commenting.

Ken Stallings – I’m also deleting your comments. Again, it just serves no purpose other than to spark a race war in print. I won’t have it.

People – Let’s try to focus on what matters most here: the loss of a great human being.

Jeff Schultz

July 26th, 2009
10:13 pm

UGASlobberknocker — Well said.

Ken Stallings

July 26th, 2009
10:36 pm

Well Jeff, that’s fine. But I quoted Martin Luther King and I think I did it totally in context. If that can provoke a “race war in print,” then we’re a sadder culture than I thought, and I was already very concerned.

If all we do is lament the action and never get to an honest expose of the causes, then we do nothing but continue lamenting the action. This time it was Vernon Forrest. Next time it could be one of us. I personally think the issue deserves a full discussion.


July 26th, 2009
11:06 pm

I had the pleasure of getting to know Vernon while working at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon, GA. In 2002, I believe, we had a grand opening for a new exhibit on W.L. “Young” Stribling. He was a championship fighter from the 1920s and lost to Max Schmeling in old Cleveland Stadium (the mistake by the lake). We showed some footage from that bout vs. Schmeling and asked Vernon to be one of our celebrity commentators. He came along with Evander Holyfield and boxing historian, Bert Sugar.

I remember talking with Vernon in our rotunda, at length, about the facility and what was in it. The thing I remember most is him saying, with a smile on his face, “I want to be in here one day.” I hope it is sooner than later b/c he definitley deserves it. We spoke with his manager a few times before his destruction of Sugar Shane Mosley a few months later. After meeting him, you took greater pride in him winning the title!

I was stunned when a friend of mine called today and told me about it. Vernon made a lasting impression on me. Just a class guy who didn’t mince words on how much he loved the LORD. I hate he is gone, but I know I’ll see him again one day!

Jeff Schultz

July 26th, 2009
11:18 pm

Ken, there were other elements of your comments I objected to — and I guarantee you they didnt come out of an MLK speech.

Ken Stallings

July 26th, 2009
11:22 pm

You know what, Jeff. You are right. After reading the post immediately after my previous one (from this one) I have to admit you are right.

And that makes me all the more sad. It really does!

Ken Stallings

July 26th, 2009
11:29 pm

Poor timing. It was to the other comment I addressed. If you objected to what I posted then that makes you the sadder man.

What I posted was about fairness and evaluating events absent racial considerations. Since you removed it, no one who did not read it will have the option to evaluate it for themselves. You silenced the speech and I defy you to point out racist comments made in it.

Vernon Forrest is dead, and he’s dead because he traveled in a section of Atlanta rotten with crime the result of gangs too long tolerated. You brought this tragedy up and I take it you want to limit the discussion to sympathy to him and his family. I feel the same for his family that you do.

But I want to get beyond mere sympathy and help reshape our society so that we abandon race as a consideration for what takes place in society. And to get there from here the first requirement is we stop sweeping the problem under the carpet and walk on egg shells to tap dance around the issue.

Ken Stallings

July 27th, 2009
12:34 am

UGASlobberknocker, I respect your words, but here’s why we cannot do merely what you want us to do. Because if all we do is express remorse, regret and proffer prayer, then nothing changes and all too soon from now another innocent person is dead from a criminal action.

And I can guarantee the odds of it being mentioned in a sports column we can comment in are practically zero. But the person murdered won’t be any less dead, and the problem that caused the death any less solved!

Yes, we should do everything you mentioned and do it sincerely. But we must do far more. We must honestly explore the underlying causes, remedy the situation in the short term and long term, and whether people agree or not, I firmly believe what I posted here is an honest address of some of the underlying causes.


July 27th, 2009
2:44 am

You know, it is sooooo easy to call people racist. But damn people, deal in facts. Look at the people dying, I do. Every year in Jackson, MS they post murder victims pictures in the paper. 98 percent black. Perpetrators? 98 percent black. Are facts rascist? We have a problem with black society, for whatever awful cause, that has devalued raising children to respect life and societal values. People please, it aint’ rascist to talk facts and the facts are that blacks, in large measure, are not valuing education, taking care of the family unit, raising children to respect societal values that are core to living in a progressive and safe society.


July 27th, 2009
4:44 am

What’s the matter with the city of Atlanta? The whole damn thing is one big ghetto. Montgomery, Alabama is the same way except on a smaller version people just robbing and shooting each other like it’s the wild west.

The Dogfighter Returns

July 27th, 2009
9:13 am

I have no idea what Vernon was trying to prove. That’s why you pay car insurance. Let them have the car it is replaceable. You should also know where you are at night. It is sad but I believe it could have been prevented. The car is not important let them have it.

Once again nothing good comes from owning a gun. It never fails.

Jeff Schultz

July 27th, 2009
9:41 am

Dogfighter — I’m not going to jump into the whole gun-ownership thing. But I’m sure many of us are going to wonder why Vernon didn’t just let the guys go. But I wasn’t there so it’s impossible for me to judge the situation.

East Point's Own

July 27th, 2009
10:13 am

Jeff- When you come from the bottom and you work hard to get to the top its hard to let someone jsut walk away with something you worked so hard for. I read another article that said something to the effect of Vernon would give you the shirt off his back, but if you took anything he would fight you for it. It’s logical to think that most would not chase down a gunman, but at the same time the world needs more people who are not afraid(even though in this case it had tragic results).