Vernon Forrest: A Special Kind of Person

By Ted Sares on July 24, 2017
Vernon Forrest: A Special Kind of Person
A man robbed Vernon Forrest at gunpoint. (Associated Press/Lisa Gardner/CMG-Atlanta)

“These are people that society turned their back on. Everybody needs help and everybody needs love…”

“If you sit there and watch a person take about an hour to tie his shoestrings, then you realize that whatever problems you got ain’t that significant.”—Vernon Forrest

Known as the “Viper” because of his uncommon hand speed, Vernon Forrest’s time on this planet was far too short, but his accomplishments will resonate for years to come as he used his time in a way that defines a hero. But let me digress.

Recently, I gave a motivational speech to a group of brain injured patients at a facility in Northern New Hampshire. The basis for the presentation was a famous Commencement Address that Arnold Schwarzenegger gave at the University of Southern California on May 15, 2009. In it, he laid down his six rules of success—Trust yourself, break some rules, don’t be afraid to fail, ignore the naysayers, work like hell, and give something back.

During the presentation, one attendee in a wheelchair took about six or seven minutes to say something. Patiently, we all gathered around him and finally he got it out; he said, “To hell with the naysayers.” The room erupted in cheer and a chill tingled down my spine.

I was immediately reminded of a quote from Vernon Forrest in which he said, “If you sit there and watch a person take about an hour to tie his shoestrings, then you realize that whatever problems you got ain’t that significant.”

Forrest

The Sniper, a native of Georgia, enjoyed a celebrated amateur career (that included a win over Shane Mosley). Upon becoming a professional in 1992, he eventually became a four-time, two-weight world champion (41-3). He was the first to beat a prime and top-ranked Mosley (38-0 coming in) in 2002 and he did it again six months later. Forrest had gained a spot on the United States Olympic boxing team for the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain, by defeating Mosley at the trials, prompting the January 2002 title fight at the Theater at Madison Square Garden to be hyped as “Sweet Revenge.”

In 2002 Forrest was the Ring Magazine Fighter of the Year.

Just as he had Sugar Shane’s number, a peak Ricardo Mayorga had the Sniper’s beating him twice in 2003. Reinforcing the notion that boxing logic is an oxymoron, Forrest won two 12-round fights against Mosley, but was KOd in 3 by Mayorga proving that styles definitely make fights.

Forrest rebounded to win the vacant WBC World super welterweight title by dominating Carlos Manuel Baldimir in 2007 but lost it in a shocking upset to Sergio Mora in June 2008. He regained it with a dominant beatdown of Mora three months later in what would be his final fight. The Sniper was forced to vacate the title because of a rib injury.

If Vernon’s time as a boxer was noteworthy—and arguably even Hall of Fame worthy—he was equally known for his humanitarian work in the non-profit and still thriving organization Destiny’s Child Inc. The organization, founded by Forrest in 1997 (he was inspired after a particularly profound experience with a disabled adult at a hospital), provides assistance to the mentally challenged, providing housing and 24-hour supervision by trained professionals. Reportedly, when he wasn’t boxing, this was his full-time job. When they would see him, the patients would light up, and some of them couldn’t even talk. Vernon was very much involved and would have some of the kids over to his house on Sundays. They were part of his family.

While a fierce competitor, Vernon was extremely well liked by his peers and coaches and was a born leader. “All the athletes looked up to him,” USOEC head coach Al Mitchell added. “[He had a] great personality.” He also became the first in his family to graduate high school, and then went on to graduate from Northern Michigan University with a degree in Business Administration. Here, he learned, among other things, the value of giving back.

“I really believe he’s not going to be known for his boxing skills…I think he’ll be known for the way he gave outside his sport. He was just an unbelievable person.” Said Mitchell who added, “He almost went broke…He borrowed money to make it work. He never looked for a profit out of it. It was just something he did. Vernon’s willingness to give back went beyond his former schools. He gave money to different gyms and boxing-related programs.

Thus, in 2009, a vibrant and committed Forrest was a considering a ring comeback from his injury as he happily toiled as the head of a thriving nonprofit. He had everything to live for and plenty more to contribute.

But it was not to be.

The End

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, while Forrest used the air pump, a man snuck up on him and robbed him at gunpoint before fleeing. Forrest, who was armed, chased him and shots were exchanged. He then stopped the chase and began talking to a second man who proceeded to shoot Forrest several times in the back. The killer and another man then left the scene, but the worst had happened: Vernon Forrest was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police would arrest and later charge 25-year-old Jquante Crews, 20-year-old Demario Ware and 30-year-old Charman Sinkfield for the murder.

Thinking Back

One incident I remember was that he took several Destiny’s Child residents to his second bout with Mosley at the Conseco Field House in Indianapolis. Right after winning the decision, he ran into the stands to embrace them.

Al Mitchell recalls it this way, “I still remember his first fight with Shane Mosley…two busloads of people from [Destiny’s Child], he brought them in and got them top seats. And I guarantee you; the cheapest seat was probably about $500. All of them called him ‘Uncle Vernon.’”

“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.”

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  1. Cupey Alto 11:11pm, 07/31/2017

    Happy Birthday Sir Ted. A great effort and milestone. ‘‘Tis a pleasure to know you.

  2. L.L. Cool John aka John 05:55pm, 07/27/2017

    LaRue Boenig : Amen!

  3. LaRue Boenig 03:24pm, 07/27/2017

    Happy Birthday Ted.  You not only look great, you are great Bull

  4. Kid Blast 10:23am, 07/27/2017

    Thank Cupy, Great to hear from Puerto Rico

  5. Cupey Alto 10:16am, 07/27/2017

    Man. You gotta love Sares. I’d forgotten the intricacies of this sad story. Mr sares always shoots from the hip. Love it.

  6. Kid Blast 09:43am, 07/27/2017

    Thanks buddy. That was my intent—to keep his legacy alive.

  7. FrankinDallas 09:41am, 07/27/2017

    His death was tragic beyond belief. A truly great guy, and a tough
    competitor. It’s nice to have him remembered once in a while

  8. Kid Blast 10:50am, 07/26/2017

    Spot on Nicolas and Your name.

    No torture was heinous enough for those rats.

  9. nicolas 10:33am, 07/26/2017

    When the WBC decided to change the year requirements for old time fighters, it was a shock when they expanded the selection they did not include Vernon Forrest in that selection. He was more hall of fame worthy than many of the boxers they had on the list. Also I though he was robbed in his second fight with Mayorga.

  10. Your Name 08:12am, 07/26/2017

    I hope the two S.O.B.‘s who were nailed for the murder of Forrest back in ‘09 get hung by the balls in the cooler and remain there in agonizing pain, etc… Carjackers are the lowest form of scum on the earth besides a child molester…

  11. MR.BILL--HARDCORE XXX 08:08am, 07/26/2017

    Testing 1, 2, 3….

  12. Kid Blast 06:10pm, 07/25/2017

    From time to time but I am committed on another site. Boxing.com is an excellent site that gets a lot of hits and views and has excellent writers. I enjoy it a lot. I also like to post on it and I note of late that the negativity that sometimes pops up has almost vanished.

  13. L.L. Cool John aka John 06:05pm, 07/25/2017

    Ted: I hope you continue on Boxing.com. Your insight was missed!

  14. L.L. Cool John aka John 06:00pm, 07/25/2017

    Well said, buddy! Happy birthday!

  15. Kid Blast 05:25pm, 07/25/2017

    John, It’s on August 1 and I’ll be 80. We have a special day planned in a town called Bethlehem, NH which has the cleanest air in the United States. We will rest and read and be thankful for what the Lord has given us. It’s kind of something I have been looking forward to because it means that all of my siblings were or are octogenarians as was my father. Thanks for remembering good buddy.

  16. Kid Blast 04:42pm, 07/25/2017

    Thanks so much Caryn. It’s great to see you on Boxing.com

  17. Caryn A. Tate 04:13pm, 07/25/2017

    It’s great to see a piece about such a wonderful person and fighter. He was indeed special. Great job Ted!

  18. L.L. Cool John aka John 03:51pm, 07/25/2017

    Ted: If my memory serves me correctly from the old Eastside Boxing days, you have a milestone birthday coming up. As I recall, it’s around the first.
    Yes?

  19. Kid Blast 01:31pm, 07/25/2017

    And mine as well.

    Why him of all people? What a loss.

  20. The Barker 01:26pm, 07/25/2017

    The Viper’s death broke my heart. I paid respects to him with a visit to his mausoleum in Atlanta, GA. Such a gentleman, such a damn, damn, damn shame:(

  21. Anonymous 09:26am, 07/25/2017

    Published on Jul 26, 2009 Some of the uplifting work by Vernon Forrest, highlighted by HBO. A great boxer, a great human being and ultimately, a great tragedy. Rest in peace. Vernon Forrest 1971 - 2009

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAG-p4VyYqc

    What a waste. What a shame.

  22. Kid Blast 08:05am, 07/25/2017

    I could not have said it better myself, Paul. Thanks for reading and responding.

  23. Paul Magno 07:55am, 07/25/2017

    Thanks for sharing that, Ted…Forrest was the very definition of a hero and, unfortunately, it was that hero’s instinct that led to his demise…guys like Vernon need to be remembered….

  24. Kid Blast 07:49am, 07/25/2017

    Thanks Kid. That uppercut the Vernon hit Mosley with defined “jarring.” He literally beat the crap out of Shane who was 38-0 coming in. Not sure Vernon did enough to warrant Hall of Fame possibilities but he seems to have done as much as Gatti and Boom Boom

  25. The Tijuana Kid 07:44am, 07/25/2017

    The first Mosley fight was an awesome display of taking someone to school. The old cliche of having someone’s number. And the first Mayorga fight was one of my favorite oh shit boxing moments from the 2000s.

  26. Kid Blast 07:33am, 07/25/2017

    His legacy speaks for itself.

    http://www.destinyschildinc.com/

  27. Ted Sares 06:54am, 07/25/2017

    Thanks Joe. Much appreciated. We need to contribute to his legacy at every opportunity.

  28. Joe Bruno 06:47am, 07/25/2017

    Great article. Forrest was indeed a great fighter, but an even better human being.

  29. Your Name 06:14am, 07/25/2017

    L.L., his fight with a prime Mayorga was a real shocker. He had Shane’s number but the Matador seemed to have his. However, I do think he was stiffed in the second fight. Once Mayorga stunned him, he closed fast and the Viper never had a chance to recover. Great action.

  30. Ted Sares 06:11am, 07/25/2017

    Thanks Gordon and Adeyinka, in a dark world, he was a ray of brightness and hope.

  31. Gordon Marino 08:24pm, 07/24/2017

    He was a very special person - a real human being. Thanks for the reminder of a post. We say we are never going to forget but oblivion is an ocean that is hard to keep back.

  32. Adeyinka Makinde 07:28pm, 07/24/2017

    A fitting reminder of a special man.

  33. L.L. Cool John aka John 06:45pm, 07/24/2017

    I still have the program from the event.

  34. L.L. Cool John aka John 06:43pm, 07/24/2017

    I was ringside at Pechanga in Temecula, Cali when he fought Mayorga. Originally, James Toney was on the main event, and Forrest/Mayorga was the semi-main. I was disappointed when the Toney fight was cancelled, but I attended anyway.
    The wild swinging Mayorga caught Forrest in the third round and dropped him. Wow, I was stunned!
    I was so saddened when he lost his life at such a young age to some thugs in Atlanta. It doesn’t make sense and never will.
    Great job, Ted. As always, you brought back some memories. This time, however, not so happy.
    Good to see you back on Boxing.com.

  35. Ted Sares 06:04pm, 07/24/2017

    Beau,
    He was special in many ways, He inspired people and that’s not easy. There are few heroes out there but Vernon was one IMO

  36. Beau Williford 05:45pm, 07/24/2017

    I worked a couple of fights with Vernon, as his cut man. The last time in Southern California. Vernon mailed me a check a few days later, and when I saw the amount I was stunned. I called him and said you have sent much more money than I expected. Vernon replied, “You did a great job, and I felt like you deserved that amount.”
    A very nice man and one hell of a boxer!!!!!
    May he REST in PEACE!!!!!

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