It started in the early morning hours of April 27, 2009, when former WBA heavyweight champion Greg Page, 50, died at home in Louisville. His death was consistent with positional asphyxia, an inability to breathe because of body position. “He had a hospital bed at home, and he slid out, which he has done before,” said Jim Wesley, a Jefferson County deputy coroner. “His head was lodged between the rail and the bed.”
However, it really started back on March 9, 2001, when Greg faced Dale Crowe in a seedy nightclub in Erlanger, KY, and lost by 10th-round knockout. They were fighting for the Kentucky Heavyweight Championship, a title the Kentucky Athletic Commission invented only the year before. Page never recovered from the injuries suffered in that bout.
“It was a fight Greg Page never should have fought, in a broken-down nightclub somebody probably should have closed. The hot air stank. Blood smears stained the floor of the ring.”—Jim Adams. The Louisville Courier-Journal
Before he died, Page filed a lawsuit against the state of Kentucky and settled out of court for $1.2 million. As part of the settlement, boxing safety regulations the state enacted the previous year were named the “Greg Page Safety Initiative.”
Page’s record as a professional was 58-17-1, with 48 knockouts.
May 5, 2009
In 2009, promising Texas featherweight Benjamin Flores (19-4) fought Al Seeger for the vacant NABF super bantamweight title in Dallas, Texas. Seeger pressed the action in Round 8 and Referee Laurence Cole wisely stopped the fight at the 2:10 mark. After reaching his corner, Flores collapsed and was quickly taken out on a stretcher and then by ambulance to a nearby hospital, but sadly the 24-year-old passed away as a result of a brain injury
Trainer Aaron Navarro said, “I’ve been around him since he was 12, 13 years old…”He was a good kid
July 1, 2009
A major shock and attendant sadness occurred on July 1, 2009, when news reached the sports world that Alexis Arguello, 57, shot himself through the heart in Managua, Nicaragua. The death was ruled a suicide. First reactions were accentuated by doubt and disbelief. But “The Explosive Thin Man” was gone, his well-known death wish seemingly fulfilled.
The beloved but deeply troubled Arguello, a world champion in three weight divisions, is recognized as one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters in the history of boxing. The Nicaraguan was rated by Ring magazine as the 20th out of the 100 best punchers of all time. When he finally retired in 1995 after an ill-advised two-fight comeback, his record was 77-8 with 62 KOs.
The intrigue and suffocating political cross-currents finally claimed the great champion. Thousands of Managuans accompanied his coffin to his grave, mourning another cursed figure in their cursed city’s history.
“I almost killed myself,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1986. “That’s true. I felt bad. But I knew I would not have the guts to do it. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Let’s see what kind of man I am.’ ”
July 11, 2009
Just eleven days after the Arguello lightning bolt, another shocker hit the headlines when Arturo Gatti was found dead in a hotel in Ipojuca, Pemambuco, Brazil, where he was vacationing with his Brazilian wife, Amanda Rodrigues, and their 10-month-old son. Gatti, just 37, was to attend his sister’s wedding the same day.
A thorough account of the ensuing developments can be found at Wikipedia:
“Gatti’s widow was charged with first degree murder after the strap of her purse was found stained with blood. She could not explain how she spent more than 10 hours in the hotel room without realizing Gatti was dead. Former boxing champion Acelino Freitas, a close friend of Gatti, stated Gatti and Rodrigues were having problems and were about to separate. The Brazilian authorities initially ruled Gatti’s death a homicide, but after the coroner’s autopsy report was released, they declared it was a suicide, and his widow was set free.
On July 31, 2009, it was announced that the Canadian government would be seeking more information from Brazilian authorities. Gatti’s family confirmed that there would be a second autopsy done in Quebec. On August 1, a pathologist hired by the ex-boxing champ’s family said Brazilian authorities overlooked bruises on Gatti’s body in the initial autopsy. “There were definite injuries that had not been seen by Brazilian authorities,” said the pathologist. Almost a year later, in March 2010, the circumstances concerning Gatti’s death remained unclear, but finally Quebec coroner Jean Brochu said there was no hard evidence that anyone killed the Montrealer, suggesting suicide as a likely explanation. He fell short, however, of drawing a clear conclusion.”
Gatti fans refuse to believe that he committed suicide. In the end, noted Chris Jones in “The Odd Death of Arturo Gatti,” the police could never get past the murder physics: that this tiny woman could have overpowered and killed the former champion of the world.”
“… He was just a complex and loving soul from Italy, by way of Montreal, fighting out of hardscrabble Jersey City. He wasn’t the biggest or the fastest. He didn’t have devastating knockout power. He didn’t have all of the answers. But he took what he had and became the best. He was a regular guy with an enormous heart. He gave you everything he had both in the ring and as a friend. And now he’s gone…forever” – Dr. Johnny Benjamin
July 25, 2009
A vibrant and committed former multiple world champion Vernon Forrest was a considering a ring comeback from a rib injury while he happily toiled as the head of his thriving nonprofit organization in Atlanta, Georgia– Destiny’s Child. He had everything to live for and plenty more to contribute—both inside and outside the ring.
But fate intervened.
On July 25, 2009, Vernon stopped at a gas station in the Atlanta neighborhood of Mechanicsville with his 11-year-old godson. As the boy went inside the gas station, Forrest went to the back of his car to add air to a low tire. As this occurred, a man robbed him at gunpoint and fled. Forrest, who was armed, went after the man and shots were exchanged. After a short distance, Forrest gave up the chase and began talking to a second man. It was this man that shot Forrest seven to eight times in the back. According to police, the shooter and a second person left the scene in a red Pontiac. Forrest was pronounced dead at the scene and the death was ruled a homicide. Vernon was 38 years old. He was survived by a son, Vernon Jr.,
“The people I work with have been abused and neglected,” he said. “These are people that society turned their back on. Everybody needs help and everybody needs love.”
September 14, 2009
On this date, suicide claimed another boxer. This time, Darren “The Dazzler” Sutherland was found dead at his apartment in the Bromley district of London by his promoter, Frank Maloney (now Kellie Maloney) who suffered a mild heart attack upon the grisly discovery. Suffering from depression and lacking a support system, it was alleged Darren died by hanging himself.
One of Ireland’s brightest prospects, Sutherland earned a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 after losing to eventual gold medalist James DeGale in a thrilling semi-final. He was 4-0 as a pro.
DeGale, who went on to become the first British boxer to win both an Olympic gold medal and a professional world title, said, “….my heart went to the floor when I heard. He was a big part of my Olympic medal journey and it is just terrible. I just do not know what to say except that he was a brilliant fighter, in fact an excellent fighter, and he was a gentleman outside the ring as well. He had an Olympic bronze medal and his whole life to look forward to. He had a great future…”
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