LAST EDITED ON 03-11-05 AT 05:37 AM (EST)
On Monday February, 14 the Contender family was
deeply saddened by the passing of one of our own, Najai Turpin.
Born and raised in a tough neighborhood in Philadelphia, Najai came from humble beginnings. From an early age, the soft spoken Najai saw boxing as an alternative to poverty and hardship. By becoming a successful boxing champion, Najai hoped he could provide a better life for himself, his family and especially his pride and joy, daughter Anyae.
At the young age of eighteen, Najai suddenly became the man of the house, when his mother passed away. He then had the additional responsibility of taking care of his younger siblings. In order to provide for his family, he not only juggled several jobs at once but with fierce determination, also managed to squeeze in time to train at his neighborhood gym.
The means streets of his Philly neighborhood had recently dealt Najai another obsticale when he was carjacked at gunpoint and robbed of several hundred dollars in cash. Frustrated and thinking of revenge, he suddenly had a change of heart when the acceptance package from The Contender arrived at his door. Seeing his participation in the show as an opportunity to prove himself, Najai strongly believed it was a sign from God and “He was letting me know he had my back the whole time.”
Against what seemed like insurmountable odds, Najai persevered and at the age of 23, had risen to prominence as a promising young fighter with a 13-1-0 record, that included 9 knock outs. Often called the “total package” he was respected by his pears for his dignity, his dedication to his family and his deep passion for the sport of boxing.
"Najai embodied the "Rocky" spirit as a Philly fighter from humble beginnings. In addition to being phenomenal fighter in the ring, he was a beautiful person outside the ring. My thoughts are with his loved ones." –Sly Stallone
"My heart goes out to Najai's family in this time of tragedy. Najai was a wonderful kid with alot of heart. He was a soft spoken young man who was both a talented boxer and also respected by his peers on the show. Everyone is highly distraught over this loss - he will be missed." –Sugar Ray Leonard
"All of us at Contender mourn the loss of a great fighter with tremendous heart and hearts go out to Najai's family in this time of courage. His death comes as a shock to all of us. We all came to love Najai and the episode in which he was most depicted will stand as a wonderful testament to who he was - it will not be changed. The Contender is about giving young men a chance to make a better life for themselves and their families. Our tragedy." –Mark Burnett
If you wish to donate to a fund for Najai's daughter, make all checks payable to the Anyae Chapple Trust
J.P. Morgan Trust Company, N.A.
1999 Avenue of the Stars, 26th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Attn: Fiduciary Services Dept.