By Jackie Kallen
With all the emphasis on police brutality today and the troubled relations between law enforcement and the public, I can’t help reflecting on a wonderful heavyweight boxer I worked with in the early 1990’s. As we mourn the loss of Michael Brown, I want to take a second to tell people about Kermit Fitzpatrick.
Back in 1990, when James Toney was training at the Livonia Boxing Club, there was a big guy training there named Kermit. Naturally the other guys called him “Kermit the Frog” good-naturedly and teased him affectionately. He was a sweet guy and took it all in stride. He sparred fairly, helped everyone, and always had a smile for whoever walked into the gym.
In April 1990, Kermit turned pro on a card at The Palace of Auburn Hills. James fought Toby Tyler on the card and Kermit fought Eli Dixon, winning a 4-round decision. He fought again in June, scoring a first-round KO. I promoted a show in August and he racked up another 1st round TKO. He won again in September before running up against Marcellus Brown in November. That fight was Fitzpatrick’s first (and only) loss.
After regrouping, Kermit climbed back into the ring on June 11, 1991. He fought a game Robert Smith and had to settle for a draw. But he was back on track. He felt good and was looking forward to fighting more frequently. But it was not to be.
Kermit had a day job. He was a Michigan State Trooper. He was well-respected, had a good record, and was by all accounts–a wonderful officer. On July 7, 2011, it was business as usual. He pulled over a car for a routine traffic violation. As he approached the car, the driver (a white kid) pulled out a gun and fired 6 times. It was quick, unexpected, and Kermit never had a chance. He was hit in the jaw, the leg, twice in the chest, and two shots hit the bullet-proof vest.
There were no protests, no public outcry, no celebrities speaking at the funeral. But Kermit deserves to be remembered. He took his job and his career seriously. He took his marriage seriously. He was one of the good guys.
We’ll never know if Kermit Fitzpatrick would have gone on to fight for a world title. We’ll never know if he would have had a lot of kids. But one thing I do know is that he left a lifetime impression on those who knew him.