It is with great sad­ness and shock to an­nounce that ‘ The Fight­ing Cow­boy’ Dwight Ritchie sadly passed away to­day do­ing what he loved.

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - SPORT - —Ritchie’ s pro­moter Jake El­lis—

AUS­TRALIAN box­ing is in shock af­ter the sud­den death of fighter Dwight Ritchie.

The 27-year-old col­lapsed dur­ing spar­ring with Michael Zer­afa at a Keilor East gym in Mel­bourne yes­ter­day.

It’s un­der­stood Ritchie took a body shot, walked back to his corner and col­lapsed. He could not be re­vived.

Ritchie was pre­vi­ously the Aus­tralian middleweig­ht cham­pion and most re­cently fought Tim Tszyu, los­ing a de­ci­sion that was only his sec­ond de­feat in a 21-fight ca­reer.

Ritchie was in the mid­dle of prepa­ra­tions for a fight against Tommy Browne on the un­der­card of Tszyu’s De­cem­ber 6 fight against Jack Brubaker in Syd­ney.

Prior to his fight against Tszyu, Ritchie, who hailed from Shep­par­don in coun­try Vic­to­ria, re­called he’d bat­tled can­cer since birth.

A proud Abo­rig­i­nal man, Ritchie known as “The Fight­ing Cow­boy” was one of the true tal­ents of this gen­er­a­tion of Aus­tralian box­ing.

Ritchie’s pro­moter Jake El­lis con­formed the tragic news on Face­book, writ­ing: “It is with great sad­ness and shock to an­nounce that the fight­ing cow­boy Dwight Ritchie sadly passed away to­day do­ing what he loved.

“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”.

In a col­umn Ritchie penned for Play­er­sVoice in the lead-up to his fight against Tszyu he ex­plain how box­ing saved him from a life of crime and in­car­cer­a­tion.

“If I wasn’t a boxer I’d be in jail, 100 per cent. The things I was get­ting up to as a kid …” Ritchie wrote back in Au­gust. “We just had no di­rec­tion and we were fol­low­ing that same cy­cle that was around us then, the same traps every­one else was get­ting caught in.

“I was lucky I found box­ing, be­cause with­out it there’s no doubt in my mind that I’d be locked up right now in­stead of in the gym pre­par­ing for a fight against Tim Tszyu, still work­ing on my dream of a world ti­tle shot. Box­ing gives me struc­ture, and rou­tine. A bloke like me re­ally needs struc­ture in my life and some­thing to work to­wards.”

Box­ing pro­moter Will Tom­lin­son said he was deeply sad­dened by the loss and said Ritchie was a re­spected fig­ure on the Aus­tralia box­ing cir­cuit and a “re­ally nice guy”.

“Dwight was a very smart, crafty, slip­pery and hard-to-hit type of boxer, that’s why this is shock­ing,” he said.

“He’s the type of guy that doesn’t nor­mally take pun­ish­ment. It high­lights the volatil­ity of the sport. You’re one shot away from a dis­as­ter.”

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ex­act cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing Ritchie’s death has be­gun and po­lice will pre­pare a re­port for the coroner. Ritchie’s fighter pro­file on the Ever­last Box­ing web­site stated he be­gan box­ing at the age of 12.

“Yeah it was all pretty in­no­cent re­ally,” Ritchie told Aus-Box­ in May, 2015. “Like most kids back then that were my age, you played footy of a Satur­day with all your mates.

“I think from me­mory I was around 12 or 13, and I went to a mate’s place in Shep­par­ton and we were out the back mess­ing around and I put a box­ing glove on. That was pretty much it for me — I was hooked. I then started train­ing from that point on and be­gan my ca­reer in the am­a­teurs when I was 15.”

Ritchie turned pro­fes­sional in 2009 and won all four fights that year be­fore go­ing on to claim the Aus­tralian middleweig­ht cham­pi­onship in 2014 and the OPBF middleweig­ht ti­tle in Ja­pan in 2016.

A Go­FundMe page has been set up his to raise money for Ritchie’s three chil­dren as trib­utes be­gan pour­ing in on so­cial me­dia last night.

“I can’t be­lieve the news of Dwight Ritchie’s pass­ing. RIP” box­ing great Billy Dib posted on Twit­ter.

Dwight Ritchie and Tim Tszyu dur­ing their WBO Global and IBF Aus­tralasian su­per-wel­ter­weight ti­tle fight in Syd­ney in Au­gust. Pic­ture: Getty

Michael Zer­afa.

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