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