LAS VEGAS – A boxer critically injured during his first title defense died Thursday at a hospital after family members decided to remove him from life support, his doctor said.
Leavander Johnson (search) collapsed on his way to the dressing room after taking a beating in an IBF lightweight fight Saturday night. Doctors were operating on him within 40 minutes to relieve pressure on his brain, but he never came out of a medically induced coma.
"We had no further mode to improve his prognosis, so the family very correctly made the decision to withdraw care," Dr. William Smith said. "He passed away very peacefully."
Johnson's promoter, Lou DiBella (search), said Johnson's family members were present when he died. Johnson's father was his trainer and his brother was his manager.
"If there's any solace to be taken in this, it's that he died doing what he loved. He died a champion," DiBella said.
Doctors were initially unsure the 35-year-old Johnson would make it through the night after being injured during the fight at the MGM Grand hotel-casino, but the next day Smith expressed cautious optimism after tests showed improvement in brain function.
Johnson, who was from Atlantic City, N.J., spent 16 years as a professional fighter before finally winning a version of the 135-pound title in June. But, in his first defense, he took a beating from Jesus Chavez before finally being stopped by a flurry of punches in the 11th round.
Johnson walked from the ring. But on the way to the dressing room he began showing signs of an injury and was rushed to University Medical Center (search).
"There'll be a lot of people who'll take pokes at boxing for this. We can be better for protecting our athletes. But this was not a situation where anyone failed Leavander Johnson," DiBella said. "It was just God's will. It's a sport that's inherently dangerous."
Johnson's death was the sixth in the ring since 1994 in Las Vegas.