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Vernon Forrest: Lost in the Trees

BY Joey Knish ON August 29, 2005
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For a fighter with a sparkling record of 36-2, and only having suffered those defeats at the heavy hands of current WBC junior middleweight champion Ricardo Mayorga, Vernon Forrest has somehow managed to lose himself in the crowded 154-pound division.

After successfully defeating “Sugar” Shane Mosley on two occasions to bring his professional fight record to 35-0, Forrest was supposed to reap the financial benefits that being the welterweight champion of the world would bring. Superstardom never came with the wins as Forrest made it to the top in 2002. However, after losing twice the following year to the strong but technically challenged Ricardo Mayorga, Forrest is back to square one – his undefeated record gone, and no one knocking on his door.

Injuries forced more than a year off from the sport and Forrest was officially lost in the trees. A July victory in his return over 8-2 Sergio Rios this year has done little to boost his value as Forrest made his debut at 154 pounds a successful one by way of second round TKO. The problem is that if you blinked, you missed it, and the result came and went without anyone taking note.

Looking back, a case could be made the Vernon Forrest should very well be an undefeated champion today, if not for lessons learned too late. In the first loss to the free swinging Mayorga, Forrest was high off the big wins over Mosley and simply forgot to do what he did best – box. Instead of boxing and moving, “The Viper” spent too much time trying to be macho, banging with the banger, and found himself out of the fight after just three rounds. Looking to avenge the TKO3 defeat, Forrest seemed a bit intimidated by the Nicaraguan in the rematch and ended up too far out of the fight by the time he started boxing again. This time it was a majority decision loss in a close fight, but the consecutive losses erased the memory of his golden moment as champion.

As Forrest never caught the eye of the general public, and hardly that of even the true boxing fans, he never made a financial splash either. Despite 27 of his 36 victories coming by way of knockout, the Atlanta, Georgia native often found himself in fights that were less than entertaining, sometimes rough around the edges, and had fans hoping they would end sooner rather than later. Outside of the ring the story gets better, as Forrest spends time operating a home for mentally challenged people, but that kindness never translated to a following inside the ring.

Victories over Ray Oliveira, Adrian Stone, Steve Martinez, Santiago Samaniego, Vince Phillips and Raul Frank, and consecutive wins over Shane Mosley, all prove what Vernon Forrest is capable of. The question now is whether he is capable of putting it all back together again.

At 34 years of age the time for rebuilding and making another run at a title is now. Mayorga holds a major title once again, fresh off his decision victory over Michele Piccirillo for the WBC trinket. Surely “The Viper” has the physical skills required if they were to do it a third time, but convincing himself that he can win may be a tougher battle than the actual act itself.

Since the losses to “El Matador” Mayorga, Vernon Forrest has spent more time out of the ring than in it. He was set back by a rotator cuff injury that has kept him out of the spotlight, losing precious time that can never be bought back. His return leads through a junior middleweight division devoid of a star, at least until Fernando Vargas proves he’s back to stay and/or until Oscar De La Hoya decides his next move.

The Alphabet Champions at 154-pounds consist of Mayorga, Alex Garcia, Roman Karmazin and Daniel Santos. Beyond WBC champion Mayorga those are hardly household names . . . unfortunately neither is Vernon “The Viper” Forrest.

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