Tragedy struck the Australian boxing community over the weekend with the news that junior middleweight Dwight ‘The Fighting Cowboy’ Ritchie passed away suddenly during a sparring session. He was just 27.

Former national and regional champion Ritchie was sparring Michael Zerafa in Melbourne on Saturday when he collapsed in the ring and could not be revived by paramedics.

During a decade long professional career Ritchie amassed a record of 19-2 (2) with four no contests. He leaves behind a partner and three daughters.

The news was broken on Facebook by Ritchie’s promoter Jake Ellis.

“It is with great sadness and shock to announce that the fighting cowboy Dwight Ritchie sadly passed away today doing what he loved,” Ellis wrote.

“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.”

Ritchie was in camp helping Zerafa prepare for his rematch with former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn in Brisbane on December 18. He was due to face Tommy Browne on the undercard of the Tim Tszyu versus Jack Brubaker fight in Sydney on December 6.

“It’s tragic for the sport,” Zerafa told Channel 7 News. “It was such a hard day for me, probably one of the hardest days on my career.

“He rocked up, as fit as ever, getting great preparation for our fights.

Midway through the sixth round of sparring Ritchie was hit with a body shot to his left side.

“He just took a few backwards steps, held his chest and just collapsed. We did everything we could to try to save him but unfortunately it wasn’t enough,” Zerafa continued.

“There was nothing out of the ordinary, no shots landed that were really different. Something happened.

“There’s not a bad word you could say about Dwight. He was a gentleman.”

In his final fight Ritchie gave rising star Tim Tszyu the toughest fight of his career before losing a competitive 10-round points decision in Sydney in August.

Tszyu posted of picture of Ritchie with himself on Instagram along with a touching tribute.

“Today we lost a champion both in and out of the ring,” he 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 started a Go Fund Me page to help raise funds to support Ritchie’s family.

Contributions can be made at:

Source: Anthony Cocks