Obituary via Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
Junior middleweight prospect Omar Henry was just a few days away from the biggest fight of his young career, a Nov. 16 national television appearance in the main event of Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” series.
But shortly after arriving in South Florida for the fight against Juan Ubaldo Cabrera, Henry went for a run and experienced severe pain abdominal pain. He went to the emergency room, where he was diagnosed him with gall stones and an enlarged liver, and he was forced to withdraw from the fight.
As it turned out, Henry had gallbladder cancer and died on Friday in his hometown of Chicago. He was 25.
After withdrawing from the fight with Cabrera, Henry — who would have been 26 on Feb. 8 — recounted his visit to the emergency room.
“My liver was so swollen that the doctor asked me if I had been in a car accident,” Henry said. “When I told him I had not been in a car accident, he told me that I was very lucky to have not participated in a boxing match in this condition. He said I could have easily ruptured my liver if I entered the ring at this time.
“Looking back, I guess there were symptoms back in California (where he had been training), but when you’re in training there are always aches and pains that you try to ignore. As disappointed as I am right now, it does help that the doctors said I would have risked my life had I not learned about my ailments.”
Sometime between then and his death, Henry was diagnosed with cancer and he knew his situation was dire.
On Jan. 9, this post appeared on his Facebook page: “I got exactly less than 1 month left until my 26th birthday, February 8. Hopefully I live to see it. I really have been getting a lot of support with kind words and prayers from all over the world with this battle with cancer. Thank you and I will continue to fight for us!!!!”
On Sunday there was another post: “To all my friends and loyal fans I want to inform you all that I am fighting the fight of my life against a disease known as gallbladder cancer. While I’m in this current state I am fighting with my family by my side and I will not go down for the count. I am a champion who has chosen to fight.”
Henry (12-0-1, 9 KOs) did not win the fight.
“This is a real human tragedy for a young man of just 25 years and so much energy to have his life taken away. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord,” promoter Don King said in a statement given to ESPN.com.
Stocky and strong, Henry, 60-5 as an amateur, turned pro in 2008. Known for his punching power, Henry scored a string of sensational knockouts, including opening his career with five consecutive first-round stoppages. He was named to ESPN.com’s top-25 prospect list at the end of 2009.
After a falling out with promoter Top Rank and manager Cameron Dunkin, Henry, who had been living in Oakland, Calif., eventually signed with King in 2011.
Henry suffered the lone blemish on his record in December 2011 when he fought to a second-round technical draw with Lester Gonzalez in a fight that was stopped when Gonzalez suffered a cut from an accidental head butt and was unable to continue.
Henry, who was Puerto Rican, boxed just once more, a 10-round decision win against Tyrone Selders last June.