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Deaths of Arguello, Gatti and Forrest five years ago still stand out

Vernon Forrest is gone but never forgotten.
Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Five years ago at this time, the boxing world was mourning the sudden and violent deaths of Alexis Arguello, Arturo Gatti and Vernon Forrest.

Death is always on the horizon in the boxing world, yet the past five years have been remarkably devoid of that sort of thing.

Sure, there have been deaths, but few premature and none in the ring. We’ve lost Angelo Dundee and Gil Clancy, we’ve lost Emanuel Steward and Bert Sugar, Joe Frazier and Ken Norton, and Emile Griffith.

Bantamweight Z Gorres (late 2009) and heavyweight Magomed Abdulsalamov (late 2013) were badly hurt in the ring. Edwin Valero perpetrated a murder-suicide. Paul Williams suffered paralyzing injuries in a motorcycle accident.

Still,when it comes to mayhem, it’s the three July 2009 deaths that probably come to mind first even now.

The Gatti case, in particular, was adjudicated to nobody’s satisfaction in South America, so the case has made the news intermittently over the years. Gatti has been inducted into the Boxing Hall of Fame posthumously, and that induction was an important element of a documentary HBO aired last year on Gatti’s three fights with Micky Ward a decade ago. So Gatti’s memory lives on.

Forrest’s death has been written off as one of those senseless things that happen in gun-laden America. It is somewhat soothing that Forrest lives on in several legacies of his rich life, especially in Atlanta.

But the Arguello death remains most haunting from a boxing standpoint. He was the mayor of Managua, the principal city of Nicaragua, and at 57 was more than a decade removed from the ring. And yet he killed himself, seemingly because nothing post-boxing can equal the thrill and glamour of participating in the Sweet Science.

The sports is emotionally addictive. Fighters hang on too long, one way or another, and there’s no use pretending it isn’t a problem.