An amateur boxer who collapsed and lost consciousness seconds after the opening round of a bout has died in the first ring death in Minnesota in nearly 20 years and probably the second boxing match fatality in state history.
Jerimiah “J.J.” Moen, a 29-year-old super-heavyweight, died Wednesday at a Grand Forks hospital after his fight Saturday in East Grand Forks against Matt “Bubba” Fowler.
“There was no devastating punch, no knockdown that would alert you, where you’d wince with a blow,” said Eddie Obregon, Moen’s longtime trainer, who saw the round as slightly in Fowler’s favor.
“He was into his jab, moving around” during the first of what was to be a three-round bout, Obregon added. “When the bell rang, he stumbled to his corner and turned to the corner man.”
It was then, the Grand Forks trainer continued, that the corner man said to Moen, “ ‘Are you OK?’ ”
“ ‘I think I’m done,’ ” Obregon said his boxer responded.
While still on his stool, Moen’s legs started to quiver, Obregon said. “I called for the doctor” assigned to the bout, he added, and numerous other medical professionals came to the boxer’s aid as he lay sprawled on the canvas. A call to 911 was made within a minute of the fighter going down.
Moen, who captured the Upper Midwest Golden Gloves title last spring in Walker, Minn., never regained consciousness.
The boxer’s organs await removal for potential transplant before his autopsy Friday, according to the forensics department at the University of North Dakota, where the examination will be conducted and a cause of death determined. Results could take two to four weeks.
Obregon said his fighter was in great shape and having no problems that would have suggested such an outcome Saturday at the American Legion Club.
Moen weighed in at about 205-208 pounds, the trainer said, with Fowler carrying at least another 25 pounds. Obregon said such a spread in that weight class is not uncommon nor anything that would create any danger beyond those inherent in the sport.
As required for amateurs, Moen was wearing his headgear and a mouth guard for protection.
The next step is for Obregon to turn in a report to USA Boxing, the national sanctioning body of amateur boxing. “All the rules were followed,” he said.
The previous ring death in Minnesota occurred in February 1994, when 156-pound amateur Donell Lindsey took several blows to the head and collapsed in the third round of a bout in St. Paul. Like Moen, Lindsey never regained consciousness.
The Ramsey County medical examiner’s office ruled that Lindsey, 28, died from traumatic brain injuries. Boxing officials at the time said it was the first ring death they could remember ever occurring in the state.
Bobby Brunette, who has been in the fight game for decades in Minnesota as a boxer, trainer, referee and official at the professional and amateur levels, said Thurday the he could recall only Lindsey as the lone boxer to have died previously during a bout in the state.
“We know how dangerous contact sports can be,” said Brunette, who oversees all aspects of many bouts in the state, from lining up ringside doctors to the weigh-in to the boxers’ equipment. “It’s a sport we love, and we try to make it safe. We make sure everything is done by the rules. Everything is pretty much set up for the safety of the combatants.”
Moen, who worked on a farm in the Red River Valley and was engaged to be married this spring, had no designs on turning pro.
“He just enjoyed being in shape and working with the younger kids” at Obregon’s Forks Fighters gym.
The mood at the gym Tuesday night among the boxers was somber. No one was in the mood to train. They minds were only on Moen, who lost his mother at age 12 and was taken in along with his sister by an uncle.
“I thought of discontinuing” the business, Obregon said. “We’ll take a week off and remember J.J.”