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 from Manvel, N.D., 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 said. "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 said, 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.
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.
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 Thursday that he could recall only Lindsey as having died previously during a bout in the state.
"We know how dangerous contact sports can be," Brunette said. "It's a sport we love, and we try to make it safe."