A few years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting future world boxing champion boxing champion Vernon Forrest while working at radio station KLAC 570; which was then AM 1150. He was in training for a challenge to Shane Mosley’s 154 lb. championship and on his way in for an on-air conversation….
I’d heard he was a great guy and loved children, but nothing prepared me for his appearance a few minutes later….
He walked into the studio with a big smile on his face, called me by my first name and for an hour was the most gracious, friendliest, genuine athlete I’d ever met….
When he asked me for my prediction of his upcoming fight with Mosley, I looked him right in the eye and told him Shane was going to knock him out….
He challenged me to a bet on the spot and soon the stakes were agreed. If Shane won, Vernon would return to the studio, admit my genius and eat humble pie for an hour. But if he pulled off the upset, He would return, call me a jackass on the air and heap on the abuse for 60 minutes….
Sure enough, Vernon shocked the boxing world by not only winning the fight, but winning almost every round and sending Mosley to the canvas for the first and only time in his career….
A month or so later, Forrest walked into the studio with a big smile on his face and a gift wrapped present, which he made me open over the air….
It was framed picture of himself with his newly acquired championship belt. He also took the time to autograph it and it proudly sits atop my piano. And what did “The Viper” write on the picture? “To Dave Smith: I proved you wrong, you jackass! Ha! Ha! Ha!” And it wa signed, “Vernon Forrest, World Champion.”….
After that, I’d see him from time to time in Las Vegas and whenever he was in Los Angeles he’d drop by the studio for a couple of segments. And every time, he’d say the same thing to anyone who was in the vicinity: “Do you see this guy here.” he’d say, pointing at me, “he doesn’t know s*** about boxing.”….
He’d have a big smile on his face and it was all in fun, but I had to agree with him….
I then picked Shane to win the rematch and naturally Vernon won again, further proving Dave Smith doesn’t know s***….
So when I went online this morning and read that Vernon had been shot and killed in his native Atlanta, I was shocked, saddened and grief-stricken….
Evidently, Vernon stopped at a gas station to put air in his Jaguar’s tires and was approached by a man who wanted money. When Forrest said no, the guy grabbed his wallet and started running, while another man attempted to steal the car….
Vernon chased them down the street, pulled a gun but was unfortunately beaten to the draw, as the men had semi-automatic weapons and shot him to death….
So in the past 30 days, we’ve lost three great boxing champions: Vernon Forrest, Alexis Arguello and Arturo Gatti….
But Vernon hits a special chord with me, because of how much I liked and admired him. He was one of the truly good guys in sports and will be badly missed….
Resp in Peace, my friend, and my prayers are with you and your family….