Vernon Forrest regularly ran to the top of the very dangerous Georgia Stone Mountain to strengthen his legs and fortify his spirit for the endurance test of a world champion boxer.
One sunny afternoon, he invited his then-girlfriend Kitoy Johnson to join him on this rigorous hike. He held her hand firmly to calm his fear of dizzying heights and turned to her at the top.
“There’s nothing you and I can’t do together,” Forrest told him, divulging an emotion he had felt so often lonely and now wanted to share.
“Since that day, I had such a mad love for him,” she said recently. “He was so generous and caring. There was nothing he wouldn’t do for you.
The kind of love Forrest displayed atop Stone Mountain should have continued deep into the future. He had so much more to give. But unfortunately, it did not happen that way.
Next month marks the 12th anniversary of Forrest’s death, and those close to him intend to recall that his professional accomplishments are enough to spark further reflection on the two-division champion’s credentials in the Hall of Fame.
Forrest was the first man to be defeated then-No. 1 pound for pound King Shane Mosley, reiterating the unanimous decision victory later in 2002.
While he was twice defeated by mad strongman Ricardo Mayorga and edged out by a majority decision from Sergio Mora, Forrest avenged that loss to Mora by unanimous decision in 2008, reclaiming the WBC 154-pound title in what would turn out to be his last fight.
“I think Vernon would have been the first guy to beat Mayweather – at 154 pounds, not 147,” said Forrest final trainer, Hall of Fame fighter Buddy McGirt. “Against Floyd, mentally, Vernon would have been on a whole new level. He had that style. This long range.