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Forgotten Warriors: Julian Letterlough


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Now, this guy really can be called forgotten. Very few today know or remember him. Julian Letterlough was for a while a top contender in the light heavyweight division and one of it's hardest punchers. Known as "Mr KO", 20 of his 21 wins came within the distance. He was also called "Tyson" by some, due to a certain facial resemblance to Mike Tyson. Letterlough was mostly a light heavyweight but also fought for the IBF cruiserweight title against Vassily Jirov, then-champion. Tragically, Letterlough was killed at age 39, while still active but in the twilight of his career. He was one of the most exciting fighters of his time and this is a tribute to him.


He was born 25 December 1965, birthplace unspecified, and lived in Reading, Pennsylvania. He went behind bars at the age of 21 for assault and served seven years. Upon his release, he started boxing professionally, aged 28. Standing 5'10 and with a reach of only 68 inches, he was considered a small light heavy, but his power and tenacity made up for it. He scored 14 straight knockouts, also winning the Pennsylvania 175-pound title and the WBO NABO title, both by first-round TKO. In July 2000, he fought Demetrius Jenkins, a fringe contender who later stopped a washed up Frankie Liles. He was down twice but came back to stop Jenkins by TKO in round 7. He then suffered his first blemish when he fought to a draw with Sam Ahmad, 15-0-2 at the time, in September that year. He defended his WBO NABO belt with a come from behind TKO 6 against Max Heyman: after trailing on the scorecards, he put Heyman down with a right hand. Heyman got up at 8, but was in no condition to continue. He was then matched in a unification fight against the WBC Fecarbox champion and future WBO champion Julio Cesar Gonzalez. Gonzalez stood 6'2 and was undefeated at 25-0. He was a good technical boxer and durable too, as he later showed in the fight against Roy Jones jr, where he suffered three knockdowns and still made it to the final bell. The fight was 2 February 2001 in Columbus, Ohio and was a true slugfest, where Gonzalez was down three times and Letterlough twice. Gonzalez was by far the busier fighter however and so won by a unanimous decision after 12 rounds.


Letterlough made a comeback with a 2-round destruction of former Dariusz Michalczewski-challenger Ka-Dy King. The Detroit native was also 6'2 but was laid out by a single left hook at 1:34 in round 2. He remained on the canvas for several minutes. Letterlough ended the year by taking the IBF cruiserweight title fight against Vassily Jirov, a very hardy and durable, as well as hard hitting fighter. The 6'2 Jirov was simply too much for Letterlough, also being younger by 8 years, and won the first seven rounds before halting Letterlough in the eight by TKO. It was the beginning of the end for Mr. KO and he also lost his next fight, on points to contender David Telesco. Telesco was another tall and rangy fighter who could box and punch. He then scored two easier knockouts against Stacy Goodson and Lloyd Bryan before fighting Richard Hall, who at 6'3 1/2 was so far the tallest fighter he had faced. Hall had fought both Jones jr and Michalczewski and lasted long, giving them tough fights. It was 18 July 2003 in Hyannis and Letterlough said before the fight that he would like to be remembered as the guy who brought exciting fights. This one would certainly be that, as he caught Hall with a big left hook in round one. Hall was hurt but recovered and put him down at the end of the round by a surprise left hook. As the second round started, Hall flung himself at Letterlough and delivered a series of rights and lefts which put Letterlough out of the game on his feet, 47 seconds into the round. The fight was televised live on ESPN and was the last big fight of Mr. KO's career.


He was now almost 38 and obviously a spent force. He lost his next fight, surprisingly, to a 10-7-0 fighter called Faustino Gonzalez by MD6. In 2004 he first stopped the journeyman with a padded record, Tony Menefee, 77-17-1, by TKO5, before fighting then-undefeated Daniel Judah (19-0-2) in April. Letterlough put Judah down in round five and Judah got a point deducted for holding in round seven. In the end, one judge scored it for Letterlough 114-112 while the other two had it 113-113-a draw. Mr. KO's last fight was 1 October that year against journeyman Eric Starr and he won it by TKO2. It was 18 July 2005 when Julian Letterlough was leaving a bar with his wife and got shot in the back and killed by Kenneth Blunt, who was later sentenced to 12 to 25 years in prison. Letterlough was 39 and was survived by a wife and a son Julian jr, 15 at the time. He left behind a record of 21 wins, 5 losses and 3 draws.


Julian Letterlough was a man who lived to fight and fought for the love of the game. He always came to knock his man out and often he succeeded. That is why he is a forgotten warrior.

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