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Home Boxing 2009: A Deadly Year in Boxing
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2009: A Deadly Year in Boxing

arturo_gatti_poster_42009 was one the deadliest years in boxing history. In one of worst years for the sports, boxing lost fighters from every aspect of its family. Boxing lost legends and the latest, boxing lost retired fighters and returning fighters, boxing lost heart along with blood, sweat and tears. Boxing’s losses were felt all across the board this year, by the truest fan, down to the most casual of fans. Here is the chronological list of the fighters we lost in 2009.

January:
1/4 Jisselle Salandy
- Trinidad’s Jisselle Salandy won numerous world titles and was one of female boxing’s stars, when she died in a motor vehicle accident. At the time of her death, Salandy, 17-0 (6), held the WBA,WBC, IWBA, WIBA, WIBC and Global Union female light middleweight titles, and was on her way to boxing stardom. She was just 21 years of age when she lost control of her car and slammed into a concrete pillar, fatally injuring her. Salandy was given a state’s funeral that was attended by 15,000 people, including the President of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
                                                              
1/19 Jose “Chegui” Torres 41-3 (29) - Torres won the silver medal as a junior middleweight, at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games for the United States. Torres turned professional after the games and went on to win the WBA and WBC light heavyweight titles, defeating Willie Pastrano by 9th round TKO. He would defend the title four times, including a battle with Eddie Cotton, named “Fight of the Year” by Ring magazine. Torres lost the title to Dick Tiger in 1966 and then lost the rematch to Tiger in 1967. After retiring, Torres stayed busy. In 1984, he was appointed the commissioner for the New York State Athletic Commission, where he served until 1988. He also authored two books, Sting Like A Bee a biography of Muhammad Ali and the very controversial Fire and Fear: The Inside Story of Mike Tyson, which HBO turned into a movie. In 1997 Torres was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Torres moved back to his native Puerto Rico in 2007 and died of a heart attack on January 19th, at his home. He was 72

1/30 Ingemar Johansson 26-2 (17) - Sweden’s Johansson won a silver medal at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, after being disqualified for “running away” from his opponent. Johansson would build from that medal and turn pro, moving up to a title shot after knocking out top rated contender Eddie Machen in 1958. Machen was down three times before the bout was stopped at the 2:16 mark of round one. The bout took place in Sweden and drew a record crowd. In 1959, Johansson took on the heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson for the title. In a surprise, Johansson put Patterson down 7 times in the three rounds the bout lasted. Johansson became the first and only Swedish heavyweight champion of the world. Johansson would lose both rematches to Patterson, by KO 5 in 1960 and KO 6 in 1961. Johansson would never fight for a title again, retiring in 1963. He and Patterson became and remained friends until both fighters were incapacitated by Alzheimer’s disease. Johansson was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2002. Ingemar Johansson died January 30th from complications of pneumonia. He was 76.

February -
2/5 Chuck Bodak
- Cut man for 50 plus years. Affectionately nicknamed "Tapehead” because he would have the pictures of the fighter he was working with at the time, taped to his bald head while working that fighter’s corner. Bodak worked fighters from Rocky Marciano all the way up to Oscar De La Hoya. He was an inductee into the WBC Legends of Boxing Museum. Bodak died after a lengthy battle with physical ailments suffered due to a stroke in 2007. He was 92

March -
3/2 Chris Finnegan 29-7-1 (16)
- Great Britain Olympic middleweight gold medalist in the 1968 Mexico City games. Finnegan nearly missed the games after suffering an eye injury and not being able to compete in the tournament used to pick the British team. Finnegan’s trainer secured a box-off and he won a berth to the team. After winning the gold, Finnegan had a successful professional career, even fighting and being stopped by hall of famer Bob Foster for the WBA and WBC light heavy title, in a fight named the 1972 “Fight of the Year” by Ring magazine. Finnegan retired in 1975 after undergoing surgery to repair a detached retina. He died on March 2nd, at age 64, from complications of pneumonia

3/9 Vince Cervi 11-5-2 (8) - Vince Cervi was a little known fighter from Australia. His big claim to fame was not that he won the Australian heavyweight title, but that he lost it to the legendary Joe Bugner, who was in the first fight of his 90's “come back”. Cervi retired in 1997. Cervi was shot to death in Preston, Australia after a fight with another man. He was 41.

3/23 Raul Macias 41-2 (25) - Macias made the 1952 Mexican Olympic team, but was held out of the medal rounds. Turning professional, he won his first nineteen straight, including the NBA (now the WBA) bantamweight title in 1955, by eleventh round TKO of Chamroen Songkitra. He lost that title via stoppage three months later by Billy Peacock. He would win the same title two more times before retiring in 1962. Along the way Macias became a national sports hero in the mid 1950's, even drawing 50,000 fans to see him fight in a Mexican bullfighting ring in 1954. After he retired from boxing in 1962, Macias became a “telenovelas”, or short run soap operas actor. He also had his hand in training young fighters. He succumbed to cancer at age 74.

3/25 Giovanni Parisi 41-5 (21) - Italian Olympic gold medalist at featherweight in the 1988 Seoul games, Parisi went on to a very successful professional career. He won his first world title in 1992, winning the vacant WBO lightweight title by tenth round TKO over Francisco Javier Altamirano. After making two defenses of the title, Parisi vacated the title and moved up in weight to fight hall of famer Julio Cesar Chavez for the WBC light welterweight title. He lost that title shot by unanimous decision, but in 1996 he defeated Sammy Fuentes for the WBO light welterweight title. Parisi lost that title in 1997, but fought Daniel Santos that title in 2000, but was stopped in the fourth. Parisi retired in 2006. On March 23rd, Parisi was driving and was involved in a head on collision with a truck in Voghera Italy. He was killed instantly at age 41.

April -
4/16 Saensak Muangsurin 14-6 (11)
- In 1974, Muangsurin won the WBC light welterweight title in just his third professional fight. He defeated Perico Fernandez by TKO in round seven, setting a record for taking the shortest amount of bouts to win a world championship. He lost the title to Miguel Velasquez in June of 1976, only to win it back in the rematch 4 months later. He would hold onto the title until losing it for the final time in 1979 to Sung Hyun Kim. Muangsurin would lose four of five fights, including a third round TKO to Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns, and retire in 1981. Muangsurin also fought Muay Thai fights during his boxing career, including a world title in that form of martial arts. On April 12th, he was admitted to a hospital in Thailand, suffering from liver damage and intestinal blockage. Surgery failed to help Muangsurin and he died on April 16th at age 58.

4/27 Greg Page 58-17-1 (48) - Former world heavyweight Greg Page was a winner from his early days. He won the National AAU heavyweight titles in 1977 and then won both the National AAU title and the National Golden Gloves in 1978. After turning pro, he fought Stan Ward for the USBA heavyweight title in his 14th fight, winning by TKO in the seventh round. Page would defend the title six times until he found himself facing Renaldo Snipes in a WBC title elimination fight. He defeated Snipes in a close decision and was then presented as the mandatory challenger to the WBC champion Larry Holmes. Rather than risk losing a fight to Page, and the title, Holmes vacated the title in favor of taking on Marvis Frazier.

Page then stepped in the ring to fight Tim Witherspoon for the vacant WBC title, losing by majority decision. After another loss, this time to David Bey, Page found himself fighting for the WBC heavyweight title against Gerrie Coetzee, knocking him out in the eighth round of a very controversial fight. Page would lose the title in his first defense to Tony Tubbs and never fight for another major title again. Page’s career continued through the eighties and into the nineties, becoming somewhat of a “gatekeeper” for younger heavyweights looking to get a big name win on their record. It worked for fighters like Donovan “Razor” Ruddock, Francesco Damiani and Bruce Seldon, all of whom defeated Page.

Greg Page started to work as a trainer to fighters for Don King for a while, including being the head trainer for Oliver McCall when he upset Lennox Lewis for the WBC heavyweight title. Page decided he could beat most of the guys who he was training, so he stepped back up into the ring in 1996, winning fifteen of sixteen fights before dropping a decision to a prospect named Monte Barrett. Page kept going, defeating Tim Witherspoon in 1999, a rematch of their fight fifteen years earlier, but with a different result this time. On March 9th 2001, Greg Page stepped into the ring for the last time against a solid opponent, Dale Crowe, for the Kentucky State heavyweight title. Page would never walk out of the ring. During the tenth round of a fight that most say Page was winning, Page went down (some say was pushed by Crowe) and hit his head on the bottom rope and then the canvas. The officials at ringside delayed medical help getting to the ring for about ten minutes while the fallen fighter was suffering from a subdural hematoma and slipped into a coma. Page subsequently suffered a stroke which left him in a wheelchair. Page never fully recovered and suffered numerous ailments directly related to his condition. In 2006 the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority passed “The Greg Page Boxing and Safety Initiative”, which brought Kentucky more in line with the Federal guidelines.

This was part of a lawsuit filed by the Page family in which they also received 1.2 million dollars, hardly a drop in the bucket towards Page’s medical bills. On April 27th, Greg Page died in his sleep at age 50, from complication of his injury. On another note, Dale Crowe and Greg Page had become friends after this fight, but was convicted of murder in 2006 and sentenced to life in prison. Crowe blames the Page fight and it’s aftermath for his decision making.

May -
5/5 Benjamin Flores 19-4 (6)
- Super bantamweight who died from a brain injury (cerebral hemorrhage) sustained during his defeat on April 30, 2009 to Al Seeger in Dallas Texas. Flores was stopped in the seventh round a collapsed. He was 24.

July - (Death Month)
7/1 Hall of famer Alexis Argeullo 82-8 (65)
- Hall of fame champion, WBA featherweight, WBC super featherweight and WBC lightweight champion. Best known for his two battles with Aaron Pryor. Arguello recently had been elected mayor of his hometown of Managua. He had recently become disenchanted with his own political party. Arguello was found dead with a bullet wound to his chest. The local police, run by his political party, ruled it a suicide. He was 57.

7/11 Arturo Gatti 40-9 (31) - Blood and guts fighter, true blue collar guy and fan favorite. Gatti was a two time world champion, IBF super featherweight (95-97) and WBC light welterweight (04-05). Best known for his trilogy with Mickey Ward (Gatti-Ward 1 was one of the greatest fights I have ever seen and round 10 rivaled the greatest round ever). Gatti was found dead, hanging from a door handle with a wound to the back of his head, by his wife. The Gatti's were having severe marital problems and Gatti allegedly had become very inebriated and his wife attacked him. He was found dead at around 11 am and his wife called the authorities an hour later. It was ruled a homicide and a couple days later the police stated they made an error and it was a suicide. Gatti was 37.

7/22 Marco Antonio Nazareth 4-4 (3) - Welterweight fighter Nazareth died after a bout with Omar Chavez, son of hall of famer Julio Ceasr Chavez. He lost the bout via a 4th round TKO, and then he collapsed in the ring and had to be taken to the local hospital where he underwent a three-hour surgery to treat a cerebral hemorrhage. He died four days later. He was 23.

7/22 Mark Leduc 4-1 (2) - A boxer from Canada, who won a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympics. Very small pro career, retired in 1993. In 1994, after retiring, Leduc came out as gay in the TV documentary For the Love of the Game, one of the few boxers ever to do so. He had collapsed in the sauna of a local hotel, and doctors suggested that his death may have resulted from heat stroke. Leduc was 47.

7/25 Vernon Forrest 41-3 (29) - An acquaintance of not only the show, but mine. This is one of the two deaths that hit me personally this year. Forrest was the first man to defeat Shane Mosley. He held four different world title belts, IBF Welterweight Champion (Sept. 01 – Dec 01), WBC Welterweight Champion (Jan 02 – Jan 03), WBC Super Welterweight Champion (Jul 07 – June 08) and WBC Super Welterweight Champion (Sept. 08 – May 09). At about 11:00 pm EDT on July 25, 2009, Forrest stopped at a gas station in the Atlanta neighborhood of Mechanicsville. With him was 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 Monte Carlo. Forrest was pronounced dead at the scene and the death was ruled a homicide. Atlanta Police have arrested and charged 25-year-old Jquante Crews, 20-year-old Demario Ware, and 30-year-old Charman Sinkfield for his murder. Now, not only did boxing lose a great fighter, humanity lost a bright light.

Forrest was instrumental in the founding and opening of "Destiny's Child", which provides a supportive environment for servicing individuals with developmental disabilities such as mental retardation, autism and schizophrenia. This organization also helps people with disabilities learn how to live on their own. Vernon was very involved with the organization, providing funding to take yearly trips to Disney World for the residents. Boxing has truly lost a part of its heart with this death. I had spoken to Vernon (on Facebook) just a week or so before his death, and we were going to do an interview about his yet to be announced fight with Sergio Martinez. Sadly that interview never took place because of these inhumane animals that took Vernon’s life.

September -
9/09 Tony "The Punching Postman" Thornton 37-7-1 (26)
- This is the other death that hit me personally. Thornton was a Philadelphia area fighter. He worked as a postman in Glassboro NJ during the day and fought at night. He was the first main event fighter I ever saw at the Blue Horizon. I spoke to him after the fight, for about half an hour. Tony was the USBA middleweight champion twice (1989 and 1995). He fought three times for the IBF super middleweight title, first against James Toney (L UD 12) and then against Roy Jones Jr. (TKO 3) and once for the WBO super middleweight title against Chris Eubank (UD 12). Thornton was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a bus in Camden NJ. He was 50.

October -
10/3 Ernie Lopez 51-10-1 (6)
- American professional boxer. He twice fought for the world welterweight boxing title, losing title bouts to Jose Napoles in 1970 and 1973. [1] He was a missing person from 1992 to 2004 and was the subject of extensive press coverage in early 2004 when, after being selected for induction into the California Boxing Hall of Fame, he was found at a homeless shelter in Fort Worth, Texas. He was the brother of Danny "Little Red" Lopez. Lopez died in Pleasant Grove, Utah from complications of dementia at age 64

November -
11/2 Lou Fillippo
- Fight judge (including judging 85 world championship fights), referee and actor. Fillippo played a referee in four Rocky films and an announcer in a fifth. He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame and elected as its President in 1993. He died of natural causes at age 83.

2009 will never be considered one of my favorite years, but I am hoping that 2010 will usher in a change in fortune for not only boxing, but for all of us. 2010 has promise for some huge match-ups (Pacquiao vs. Mayweather?), but also some bad match-ups (Holyfield vs. Botha?). Here’s to hope in the coming year, for safety in the sport we love and that all of you reading this, and your families, to have a happy and healthy new year. I want to personally thank you all for taking your time to read our content, and promise you that we will continue to strive for excellence, so please stay safe. Without you, Convicted Artist is down one corner man.

(Writers Note: There may be some fighters I inadvertently overlooked. If so, please feel free to leave the names and comment about the fighter (s) below in the commentary section)

Bob Carroll
www.convictedartist.com

 

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Jon Crane  - Boxing Fan |
Though the entire list is sad, Alexis Arguello was my favorite. His battles in the ring as you mentioned with Pryor will never be forgotten. RIP warrior.

Great article paying tribute to some of the best, now may they lay and rest.
 
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