Najai Turpin: The Fallen Warrior
By "Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. (March 26, 2005)  
Najai Turpin 1981 - 2005
Very seldom does a reality show get my attention, or for that matter capture the sensitive side that lurks somewhere inside of me. Usually I flip the channel and could care less what the wanna be actor with an agent is doing in the so called 'Real Life' situations, but with Mark Burnett’s new reality series on NBC that features the 'Sweet Science' I was a bit intrigued and began to make it a ritual to watch the real life boxers fight for their dreams and the million dollar grand prize, plus I was a Rocky fan as some were and still think Sugar Ray Leonard was one of the craftiest boxers of all time, so I tuned in. But this week was a bit different from my usual 'whoop his butt!' attitude. The reality series The Contender actually captured that part of me that appears only when ruffled, and this week my emotions were tugged at and at the amazement of my family of witnessing my teary eyed reaction, I was caught up in the moment.

Now watching two men beat the living crap out of each other in the ring doesn’t get me to bawling curled up in the fetal position, but knowing in the back of my mind that one of the fighters duking it out in the fight of his life already losing his life before the episode aired was a bit unnerving.

The twenty-three year old soft spoken Najai Turpin fought his heart out as did Sergio in this weeks The Contender extravaganza, but came up short in the end and was sent home packing as the others have done who lost in the ring in prior episodes. But Najai’s story wasn’t over yet, even though he was gone from the show his fatal decision impacted the series as much as any other event may do so in the future. Raised in the hardcore streets and growing up in the rough neighborhoods that Philly offered, young Najai looked to boxing as his escape from the poverty stricken life that possibly faced him. Forced to become the provider and take responsibility for his younger siblings when his mother passed away the eighteen year old Najai diligently took on the role as man of the house and wrestled with many jobs to put food on the table, and in the process still found time to chase his dream of becoming a future boxing champion.

The Contender was Najai’s way out, defeating all in this series would open the door to a better life that he himself wanted for his family, his darling daughter and for himself. The light middleweight who already banged out a 13-1 (9) record since his 2001 debut was set out to make his run for the top, but subsequently in the end came of short of his dream. We all know boxing is very tough physically and mentally on a fighter and all the hard work training and time spent away from the family can take its toll on anybody. Najai didn’t appear to be the type that would fold easily under any kind of pressure, he seemed to be a solid thinker determined to make a life for him and his little girl, it showed his love for her in the last episode. Even after defeat and realizing his dream appeared to be shattered at that time, he still ran around his dressing room cheerfully playing with his daughter, and that was what got to this writer.

To get into the ring and box for others enjoyment you got my respect, placing your health on the line for the art of entertainment isn’t for everybody, it’s one heck of a way to make a living. Ask any boxer that has ever laced up the gloves what it takes to be a true grit fighter in the ring and they will tell you, determination, dedication, discipline, and all these are linked with the mind and the way of thinking. So to pinpoint what Najai was thinking or feeling on February 14th when he took his own life we couldn’t say, was it the reality show, was it the loss, the life he had lived, dispute over custody, anger, depression, the future, all can speculate, nobody but God and Najai knew the answer to that. But the one thing that matters the most now, at least in my opinion is the ones left behind that has to cope with Najai’s decision, especially his daughter Anyae. Doesn’t matter what you think about this situation, if you can relate, if you get emotional, if you say it was the easy way out or whatever be the case, there is a little girl left behind that is fatherless, who doesn’t have her Dad there to provide for her as he wanted to do. Najai was a man whose problems in life took its toll on him and in that split second made the wrong decision that affected all left behind. His last words on the show is haunting, “In my future I see nothing but greatness”, he lost the toughest battle he ever faced, life, but he was a warrior while he fought in it, so I look at Najai Turpin as a 'Fallen Warrior'.

Whether you agree with this article or not, or with my thoughts on this matter or with the actions taken, one thing that we all can agree on is the fact that there is an innocent child involved who needs assistance, so if you can give please do so.

For more info on The Contender visit:

If you wish to donate to a fund for Najai’s two year old daughter, make all checks payable to the Anyae Chapple Trust

J.P. Morgan Trust Company, N.A.
1999 Avenue of the Stars, 26th Floor
Las Angeles, CA 90067
Attn: Fiduciary Services Dept.

Thank You,
The 'Big Dog'
Benny Henderson Jr.
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