Bloody end for the boxer who beat Ali

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The Independent US

He was credited with ending the career of Muhammad Ali and fought and lost to Mike Tyson, but no one could have predicted that he would meet such a violent end.

The body of the former heavyweight boxing champion Trevor Berbick was found slumped over a wall at the Norwich Baptist Chapel near his home in Port Antonio, Jamaica, at about 5am yesterday. He was thought to be 52.

According to police reports, the retired boxer suffered four blows to the back of his head. The wounds were consistent with those left by a machete. Police arrested a suspect yesterday, but no charges have yet been brought.

It is understood that Berbick left a nightclub shortly before 2am and was close to his home when he was attacked. Kenneth Bailey, of the Port Antonio police, ruled out robbery as Berbick still had cash on him.

In 1976, Berbick represented his country of birth, Jamaica, at the Montreal Olympics. He failed to win a medal but fell in love with Canada and remained in the country to launch his professional career the same year, despite having fought just 11 times as an amateur.

From the outset of his career, the boxer suffered from bizarre mood swings and even claimed to have spoken with God when he was 16. But he was extremely talented and overcame his emotional problems. By 1981 he was in a position to challenge the best heavyweight of his generation, Larry Holmes, for the World Boxing Council heavyweight title.

In the weeks before the fight, Holmes and Berbick brawled in public after Berbick "heard a voice" telling him that Holmes and an unidentified woman had conspired to wreck his marriage. At the fight, Berbick went the distance but lost on points. A few months later he travelled to the Bahamas to fight Muhammad Ali in a contest billed as the "Drama in the Bahamas". It was a sad night in the Caribbean when Berbick beat Ali and finally forced him to retire. Berbick said at the time: "It was like beating my father and my hero at the same time and it was not very enjoyable.''

In March 1986 Berbick won the WBC title from Pinklon Thomas. But, just eight months later, he lost the title after being hit by a left hook from Mike Tyson. Tyson said: "Trevor was a man constantly fighting the demons in his head. He had some rough years and some hard times, but he was a good fighter."

After the Tyson fight, Berbick's career and life span out of control. In 1991, he was accused of assaulting his manager by pushing a gun into his mouth. The following year Berbick was convicted of raping a babysitter in Florida and sentenced to four years in prison. He served 15 months and was then deported. He continued to fight, but his career ended in 2000 after a small blood clot was detected on his brain during a routine CAT scan. He retired at 45 as the unbeaten heavyweight champion of Canada, with a career record of 62 fights, including 50 wins.

The former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis said: "Trevor did so much for Jamaican and Canadian heavyweight boxing, but he had a lot of problems in his later life. He was an underestimated fighter."