“I loved that guy, he really enriched my life and I’ll never forget him.”
By Bill Tibbs
Mike Altamura is struggling to move forward, but move forward he will. Ironically, he will face his grief and adversity pulling resolve from the memory of his friend and fighter who sadly is gone.
One of boxing’s best managers’, Australia’s Mike Altamura, was the man guiding the career of young Dwight Ritchie who tragically died on November 9th at the too-young age of 27. Ritchie collapsed in a sparring match with WBA #8 middleweight Michael Zerafa who was preparing for a rematch with former WBO welterweight champion Jeff Horn, which is scheduled for December 18 in Brisbane.
The two boxers were decade long friends and had worked together after both turning professional. Altamura had represented Ritchie with an ironclad contract solidified with nothing more than a handshake, as there is nothing more required between two loyal men whose word is their bond.
Altamura, also an International Consultant for MTK Promotions, is still reeling from the news of a young man that he watched grow from a hardscrabble street tough into a highly respected contender, partner to his lovely girlfriend, and his most cherished role as a father to his darling young children. Altamura, who works very closely with his fighters to see them succeed in all aspects of their life and career, both personal and professional, was thrilled at what a good man Ritchie had matured into – as loyal and good a man out of the ring as he was a successful boxer in it.
Ritchie had himself been preparing for an upcoming bout when he collapsed after a rather routine body shot. (Although nothing medical has been confirmed, it looks like the tragedy was related to a possible undetected cardiac issue).
Ritchie turned pro in 2009 was a superb boxer who was coming into his prime in his career, coming off an impressive distance fight with undefeated world super welterweight contender Tim Tszyu. Ritchie turned pro in 2009 and rattled off 18 straight wins, winning the Australian middleweight title in his 14th bout in 2014. In his 18th contest he added the OPBF middleweight title to his collection in June of 2016. While he would lose that belt in his first title defense 5 months later, he would then reel off 5 straight wins taking him to his last bout in his fight with Tszu this past August.
While Ritchie was iron-tough, both mentally and physically in the ring, Altamura remarked it should not be lost what a smart and skilled boxer he was.
“Dwight was a very tough guy, and a real brawler at heart. However, he was also a very skilled boxer and had a strong ring sense during a fight; he had a well-earned reputation as a tough guy but don’t lose sight of the fact that he was also a very skilled and smart boxer, I saw that right away after the first few times I saw him in the ring sparring”, said a still deeply-saddened Altamura.
While Altamura is devastated by the loss of his friend and fighter, he vows to keep his memory alive for his partner and children. And, it is the thought of Ritchie’s strong and loving family that have provided much of the strength Altamura needed to process his grief and find a way to move forward.
“I was really at a loss after he passed”, said Altamura. “Dwight was such a good and loyal man, and he loved his beautiful partner Samara, and he lived for his children”, he continued. “And, despite the sadness of this situation, I look forward to one day sitting down with those children and telling them, in detail, what a good man their father was, what a champion he was, both in and out of the ring”.
After a long pause, Altamura added, “I loved that guy, he really enriched my life and I’ll never forget him."