10 Tragic Stories Of Boxers Who Died In The Ring

February 9, 2016 | No Comments » | Topics: List, main, Sports

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Duk Koo Kim

A superstar in South Korea, Kim had risen all the way to number one lightweight contender and earned a world title shot against the famed Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini on November 13, 1982.  The bout was extremely brutal, especially for Kim, who had begun to wear down in the latter rounds after absorbing tremendous punishment from the champion.  In the early part of the 14th round Mancini hit Kim with a crushing right hand that caused him to fly toward the ropes and hit his head on the canvas.

Kim managed to rise but the referee stopped the fight.  Minutes later Duk Koo Kim collapsed into a coma and was carried out of the ring and taken directly to the hospital.  Tragically the Korean star died 4 days later from severe brain trauma.  Out of the hundreds of recorded ring fatalities Kim’s death was one of the saddest.  Kim’s opponent Ray Mancini would never again be the same caliber fighter and it was widely reported that he blamed himself for Kim’s death. Kim’s mother committed suicide three months after her son’s death by drinking a bottle of pesticide.  The bout’s referee Richard Green, consumed by guilt, also committed suicide shortly after the fight.



Leavander Johnson

Leavander Johnson was an American Lightweight boxer who had a record of 34 wins, 5 losses, 2 ties. On September 17, 2005, Johnson fought Jesús Chávez to defend his IBF crown. The fight was stopped in the 11th round after Johnson received a series of punches from Chávez. 

He later collapsed in his locker room and was rushed to the hospital. He had emergency surgery and was placed in a drug-induced coma, but Johnson died as the result of his injuries on September 22, 2005.



Becky Zerlentes

College teacher and award-winning female boxer Becky Zerlentes died in 2005 and is believed to be the first woman to die in a sanctioned bout. The preliminary cause of death was “blunt force trauma to the head”, but results from an autopsy were not immediately available. Zerlentes, 34, was struck by opponent Heather Schmitz and, despite wearing protective headgear, fell unconscious during the amateur bout in Denver. Physicians at the Golden Gloves competition jumped into the ring, but Zerlentes never regained consciousness and died several hours later. Zerlentes had won a regional Golden Gloves title in 2002 before taking a break from boxing. She had told her coach before this fight, that this was going to be her last one since she was going to stop boxing because of her age.



Pedro Alcazar

In 2002, 26-year-old flyweight Alcazar entered the ring against Fernando Montiel and suffered a sixth-round TKO. In the video you can see that Alcazar was conscious and stable. Unfortunately, 36 hours later in his hotel room, Alcazar collapsed to the floor and was later pronounced dead.  



Benny "the Kid" Paret

Benny “Kid” Paret was a Cuban boxer who won the welterweight title for the first time in 1960, but lost it seven months later when Emile Griffith knocked him out. His last fight against Griffith occurred on March 24, 1962. In the twelfth round of the fight, Griffith hit Paret twenty-nine times in a row, and eighteen times in six seconds, when Paret was lying against the ropes before referee Ruby Goldstein stopped the fight. Paret went into a coma after the fight, and died ten days later.

The last fight was the subject of controversies. It is theorized that one of the reasons Paret died was that he was vulnerable due to the beatings he took in his previous three fights. New York State boxing authorities were criticized for giving Paret clearance to fight just several months after he was knocked out by Gene Fullmer in his second to last bout. The actions of Paret at the weigh in before his final fight have come under scrutiny. It is alleged that Paret taunted Griffith by calling him Maricón (Spanish slang for “faggot”). Griffith wanted to fight Paret on the spot but was restrained. The referee Ruby Goldstein, a respected veteran, came under criticism for not stopping the fight sooner. Goldstein would never be the referee for a fight again as a result of the controversy from this fight.

The fight was the centerpiece of a 2005 documentary entitled Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story. At the end of the documentary Griffith who has harbored guilt over the incident over the years is introduced to Paret’s son. The son embraced Griffith and told him he was forgiven. 



Roman Simakov 

Simakov was defending his WBC Asian Boxing Council light heavyweight belt against Seregt Kovalev in a match held in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg on December 5, 2011.

Simakov was knocked down in the sixth round but got up and was able to continue before receiving numerous blows to the head in the seventh when he was knocked out.

The bout was then stopped, with Kovalev being awarded a TKO victory and Simakov taken straight to hospital.

The doctors fought for the boxer’s life for three days, but he passed away on the night of December 8 without regaining consciousness.



Davey Moore

Davey Moore was an experienced fighter with an impressive 59-7-1 record and 30 knock outs. Despite his experience his life came to an end during a 1963 bout against “Sugar Ramos.” The boxer was killed after his neck and brain stem suffered damage. Moore fell to the bottom rope during a knockdown. The hard hit inspired the Bob Dylan song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”



Dennis Munson Jr

Amateur kickboxer Dennis Munson Jr. died after his debut fight in March 2014 at the Eagles Club in Milwaukee. Independent experts say there was a cascade of errors by fight officials.



Yo-Sam Choi

In 2007, the 35-year-old Choi defended his WBO Flyweight title against Hari Amoi. At the closing seconds of the 12th round, Choi was knocked down. However, he was able to beat the count and went on the win a unanimous decision.

Unfortunately, Choi fell to ground while still inside of the ring and had to be rushed to the hospital, where he had immediate surgery. Choi was pronounced brain- dead seven days later and passed away the following day after being removed from a ventilator. 



Frankie Campbell

Frankie Campbell whose real name was Francisco Camilli was born in 1904. His professional record included 40 fights, 33 wins (26 Kos), 4 loses, 2 draws and 1 no contest. His final fight was held in San Francisco, California, on August 25th, 1930. He lost his life against the infamous Max Baer, portrayed as a vicious killer in the movie Cinderella Man.

They said that Campbell knocked down Baer in the 2nd round, and this, enraged Baer bringing Campbell to an end. While other people talk about Baer losing the 3rd and 4th round in a row, and in the 5th round he couldn’t take it anymore and became enrage because Tillie “Kid” Herman -former friend and trainer of Baer who switched corners overnight – was taunting and jeering Baer. Campbell’s brain was knocked off loose from his skull and was pronounced dead the next day. Baer was charged with manslaughter but later was acquitted of all charges. He would give entire earnings to Campbell’s family from succeeding bouts

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