Berbick found dead in Jamaica

Police make arrest, say "chop wound" killed ex-champ.

Published October 29, 2006

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Former world heavyweight champion Trevor Berbick was killed Saturday by an assailant wielding a hatchet or machete, police said.

Police arrested a man and was interrogating him at the Port Antonio police station in Portland.

Berbick's body was found about 6:30 a.m. in his hometown parish of Portland, police said. Berbick, thought to be 51, suffered a gaping head wound in the attack in his native Norwich village, 146 miles east of Kingston. Officials said the assailant was carrying a machete or hatchet that cut a deep "chop wound."

Friends said they had seen Berbick at a party Friday night but police said it had few other details on his death.

Berbick, beset by legal problems after his retirement, lost his title to Mike Tyson and was the last boxer to fight Muhammad Ali.

After beating Ali in 1981 in a unanimous decision in the Bahamas, Berbick went on to win the WBC heavyweight title four years later in a decision over Pinklon Thomas. But Berbick's reign was short: A 20-year-old Tyson knocked Berbick out in the second round on Nov. 22, 1986, to become the youngest heavyweight champion.

Berbick fought from 1976 to 2000, finishing with a 50-11-1 record, including 33 knockouts. He fought for Jamaica at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.

Berbick's career soured after the loss to Tyson, and then he began running into legal trouble.

"We have our challenges in life, but Trevor seemed to handle his challenges very badly," said C. Lloyd Allen, former president of the Jamaica Boxing Board and a close friend. "Once he lost to Tyson, he just went down a slippery slope."

In 1991, Berbick was convicted of misdemeanor assault for attacking his former business manager, who testified he put a gun to her head.

The following year he was convicted in Florida of raping a family baby sitter and was sentenced to four years in prison. And he was convicted in 1992 of second-degree grand theft for forging his ex-wife's signature to get a mortgage on a home.

After serving 15 months in prison, Berbick was deported from the United States. He went to Canada, where he lived for a time after the '76 Olympics. He moved back to the United States but was deported again. He had been in Jamaica since 2002.