Once an integral part of HBO’s Boxing After Dark series, Derrick Jefferson is now in a fight of a different kind.
The former heavyweight contender was diagnosed with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and is currently in a medically induced coma while under observation at the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Royal Oak (Michigan) Beaumont Hospital. Jefferson, 52, was admitted on Sunday after showing symptoms of the disease.
“When they first tested him for coronavirus, it came back negative,” Jabari Jefferson, the 18-year old son of the former title challenger told Detroit’s WXYZ News. “So, I just thought it was a common cold or flu-like symptoms. But the second test came, he tested positive.
“That’s when it went really hit me.”
Despite the measures taken to treat the boxer, indications are that Jefferson continues to show signs of improvement.
Following the second test, Jefferson—who hails from the greater Detroit area—was placed in a medically induced coma and continues to breathe through the aid of a ventilator. According to a report from WXYZ, Jefferson remains in isolation, with family contact limited to updates over the phone from medical staff.
Jefferson enjoyed a 10-year pro career from 1995 to 2005. The 6’6” heavyweight was considered among the sport’s rising stars in the late 1990s, reaching the peak of his popularity following his November 1999 slugfest with Maurice Harris, whom he knocked out in six rounds. The instant classic aired live on HBO’s B.A.D. series, with Jefferson surviving a knockdown to score four of his own, including a final left hook which ejected Harris’ mouthpiece as he collapsed to the canvas.
The bout was hailed by Ring Magazine as the 1999 Knockout of the Year.
Jefferson was well on his way to emerging as a viable heavyweight contender in his very next fight, graduating to HBO’s World Championship Boxing series on the undercard of then pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. in a January 2000 doubleheader. Jefferson was ahead on all three scorecards through eight rounds versus David Izon before literally punching himself into exhaustion as he was stopped in nine rounds.
More bad luck came in his next fight, when Jefferson suffered a broken ankle following an opening round knockdown at the hands of Oleg Maskaev. Jefferson braved the injury until the fight referee Mike Ortega mercifully halted the May 2000 contest in four rounds.
The lone title shot of Jefferson’s career came in March 2001, when he was stopped in two rounds by Wladimir Klitschko. Five wins would follow before suffering a 2nd round knockout versus DaVarryl Williamson in April 2005, the final fight of his career as he retired with a record of 28-4-1 (21KOs).
Jefferson has spent much of his life after boxing dedicating his time to the local community. The heavyweight formed the Derrick Jefferson Foundation, and through it his own Detroit True Story group, whose primary function is to work “with communities to develop athletes physical and emotional well=being and social development” and “transform communities by inspiring youth to reach their full potential.”
Of crucial concern to Jefferson’s health was his medical history. The local hero underwent a kidney transplant in 2009, although an update from his son indicates that there is not cause for concern.
“His blood pressure is stable,” notes Jabari. “His kidneys are good.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox