The Australian boxing community is in mourning following the shock death of former national and regional champion Dwight Ritchie on Saturday.
The 27-year-old collapsed after a sparring session with Michael Zerafa in Melbourne and could not be revived.
In his last outing Ritchie was outpointed in a 10-round war at junior middleweight against rising star Tim Tszyu in August. He was preparing to face Tommy Browne on the undercard of Tszyu vs Jack Brubaker in December while Zerafa was in camp preparing for his rematch against Jeff Horn in the same month.
Known as ‘The Fighting Cowboy’, Ritchie amassed a record of 19-2 (2) with four no contests in a professional career spanning a decade. He leaves behind three daughters.
“It is with great sadness and shock to announce that the fighting cowboy Dwight Ritchie sadly passed away today doing what he loved,” Ritchie’s promoter Jake Ellis posted on Facebook.
“As Dwight’s promoter and friend it’s unbearable to accept the tragic news that’s just surfaced.
“Dwight will always be remembered by the boxing fraternity as one of the brightest talents in Australia who’s fighting style embodied exactly how he lived.
“RIP Cowboy you’ll be forever missed.”
Zerafa expressed his grief on Instagram, posting a picture of Ritchie along with the caption: “One of the hardest days I’ve had to face. Rest easy brother.”
Tszyu posted of picture of Ritchie and himself on Instagram along with a touching tribute.
“Today we lost a champion both in and out of the ring,” Tszyu wrote.
“As a group we are all shattered, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Ritchie family as we all take a moment to remember a great warrior and champion. Gone too soon.”
Manager Mike Altamura shared a memory on Facebook.
“I met a 15-year-old with a surly disposition 12 years ago at Keith Ellis’ gym, and had the box seat to seeing Dwight Ritchie evolve into an upstanding, honourable throwback man and a sublimely skilled boxer,” he wrote.
“It doesn’t feel real yet, and it may never. Thank you for enriching our lives, Cowboy. Till we meet again.”
Boxing commentator Ben Damon spoke to Fox Sports News about how Zerafa was dealing with the tragedy.
“Michael Zerafa is as or more devastated than anyone this evening because these two men were very close friends, they were preparing each other as all sportspeople do in training that’s all it was,” he said.
“For him to end a sparring session with a body shot and his partner to head back to his corner and then to collapse, it was just devastating for Michael and everyone else.
“To go on and see how this impacts the Australian boxing community, Michael and all the rest of the fighters, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“It’s an utterly tragic day and our condolences go to the Ritchie family, to the three young children he leaves behind and everyone else who’s devastated by this tragedy.”
Team Ellis Boxing has already started a Go Fund Me page to help raise funds to support Ritchie’s family.
Contributions can be made at: www.gofundme.com/f/rest-in-peace-dwight-ritchie