Dearborn boxer, 19, dies from injuries in 1st pro fight

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

A 19-year-old Michigan man boxing in his first professional fight has died from head injuries sustained in that bout in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday night.

Hamzah Aljahmi was laid to rest on Thursday in his hometown of Dearborn, with more than 1,000 family, friends and members of the boxing community paying their respects.

"The biggest funeral I've ever seen," said Brian Mihtar, Aljahmi's second cousin and his boxing coach from age 14 to 15.

Aljahmi was knocked down three times in the opening round against Anthony Taylor of Warren, Ohio.

The fight went on, and Aljahmi won the second and third rounds, according to judges' decisions, even knocking down Taylor at least once.

"I feel he fought with tremendous heart," Mihtar said.

At the end of the fourth and final round, Taylor was declared the winner of the match, just as Aljahmi collapsed in the ring. He was rushed to nearby St. Elizabeth Health Center, slipped into a coma and underwent brain surgery. He passed away Tuesday.

"If I was handling the fight, I feel it should have been stopped in the first round," said Mihtar, walking into the funeral home when reached by The News on Thursday. "For a professional debut fighter to get knocked down three times in the first round is unheard of, really, but it's up to the people that were handling him to make that decision.

"Unfortunately, their decision cost him his life."

Mihtar, a longtime member of the boxing community, said it's up to the trainer or referee to stop the fight. The boxer always will want to continue, he said.

The fight, a 114-pound flyweight bout, was sanctioned by the Ohio Athletic Commission. Executive director Bernie Profato pointed out to the New York Daily News that after the first round, Aljahmi did rally to win the next two rounds. Profato did not return a message from The News.

"It's always better," said Mihtar, "to stop a fight one punch early than one punch late."

Aljahmi became fascinated by boxing as a kid and was making his first professional fight Saturday, after 20 fights on the amateur circuit, Mihtar said. The difference between amateur and professional fighting: Pro fights have longer rounds and more rounds, and the gloves are lighter.

Mihtar said he believes Aljahmi rushed into turning pro, and was fighting for $400, "if he was lucky."

Taylor, who visited Aljahmi and his family in the hospital, also was making his pro debut.

The fight was one of 14 on the card Saturday night at Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Banquet Center.

Aljahmi is survived by his mother, father and several siblings.