- Jerry Forrest dreams of Olympic and professional success
- He dabbled in football and basketball at Woodside
- Forrest reached the Golden Gloves national tournament
Jerry Forrest was an aspiring architect. He earned good grades at Woodside High, sketched habitually and made friends easily.
Four years, two children and a bloody fistfight later, Forrest is a promising amateur heavyweight boxer.
"I'm like an adrenaline junkie, and I'm not afraid of anybody," he said before a recent training session. "I think my power is unmatchable. … I don't think anybody in the country can beat me.
"I believe in my heart that I can go 15 rounds with the best in the world. I don't mean to sound arrogant. That's just how I feel."
When read, Forrest's words sound boastful, indeed. Typical brash boxer, you might think.
But Forrest's words ring differently when heard. He's exceptionally well-spoken and, 230-pound frame aside, seems almost gentle, not what you'd expect from a 22-year-old dreaming of Olympic and professional success.
That different vibe is a primary reason why Moton Community House coach Bilal Muhammad agreed to tutor Forrest, a national Golden Gloves qualifier in 2009 and quarterfinalist in 2010.
"I took him because he was serious about what he was saying," said Muhammad, a 70-year-old boxing lifer who's worked with champions such as Mike Tyson, Pernell Whitaker and Lennox Lewis. "I thought he was exceptional. You don't find many young people (like him)."
You don't find many young people gravitating to boxing at age 18.
Forrest dabbled in football and basketball while at Woodside, but in February 2006, four months shy of graduation, he discovered his natural punching power.
A fellow student attacked Forrest from behind in a classroom, assistant principal Carl Williams said, and Forrest defended himself.
"He beat the crap out of (that) boy," Williams said. "That other boy chose the wrong boy to pick on. There was no doubt when I walked in who the man was in the classroom. Whoa."
The son of a Navy recruiter, Forrest served a mandatory 10-day suspension, returned and graduated on time.
"He kept up with his work while he was out of school," Williams said, "and he came back and didn't get into any trouble. … He was always conscientious and hard-working, always extremely polite and respectful. I knew he was going to do good things and be a credit to Woodside."
While suspended from Woodside, Forrest encountered other challengers, out to avenge their friend's whipping.
"I never lost," Forrest said. "I was knocking them down and dropping them."
Goodbye architecture, hello boxing. At least for now.
Forrest approached Muhammad and began working out at Moton, a gutted theater in downtown Newport News with two rickety exercise bikes, some free weights, dumbbells and heavy bags. For ring work, the two head to a gym in Denbigh.
But this is not a full-time pursuit. Forrest is married, and the couple has two sons. He works for a contracting outfit that digs trenches for fiber optic cable.
No mechanical aids, mind you. Just serious manual labor, after which Forrest might ride his bike from the Patrick Henry Mall area to downtown for a workout.
"I wouldn't dare try to take him from his livelihood," Muhammad said. "He's training 2-3 days a week. Others they eat, train and sleep.
"I would like to have him out there at first light, as soon as you can see where to put your feet. I'd like to have him (running) on the beach, when the sand is smooth. Then have him tear it up, to where the beach looks like it's been crowded."
For someone with limited training time and experience, Forrest has built an impressive record, a disappointing defeat at last weekend's East Central USA Regional tournament in Maryland notwithstanding.
Forrest has won regional and/or state USA and Golden Glove crowns three years running. He's displayed not only raw power but also ring instincts.
"He's got a fine future," said Robert Matney, a Virginia Beach-based boxing coach who's seen Forrest fight. "He's a hard-working man, a family man.
"For a guy his size, he's very athletic. A lot of guys his size, I don't want to use the term brawler, but they don't use as much skill. He does. He fights like a middleweight. He's still on a learning curve. But a lot of guys who've been in the game four, five, six years, they've never been to nationals. He's been twice."
Forrest's signature performance to date was at May's Golden Gloves nationals in Little Rock, Ark., a trip he earned by winning the state and regional titles. Forrest advanced two rounds before losing a split decision to California's Dustin Enriquez in the quarters.
That effort fueled Forrest's hopes of making the 2012 Olympic team, turning pro and fighting on a casino riverboat down New Orleans way, where Forrest spent much of his youth with his grandmother and other kin.
"I started boxing three years ago, very late," Forrest said. "So my body is fresh. I don't have half the bangs a lot of guys have.
"The Olympics? Why not? Ali, Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard, Roy Jones: There's nothing better than being an Olympic and world champion."
It's a long way from Muhammad's gym at 21st and Jefferson to the London Olympics or the world heavyweight championship. Forrest understands the reality, and Muhammad has lived it.
Yet if Forrest could find a sponsor and subsequently train full-time, who knows? Until then, he fights for his family and his name.
"I was a good kid in school," Forrest said. "I never got in trouble. I don't want to be remembered (at Woodside) for that (fight)."
Jerry Forrest wants to be remembered as a champion boxer who designed his own home.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltimeCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun