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Police arrest man in connection with Berbick slaying

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- A 20-year-old man was arrested in
connection with the killing of former heavyweight champion Trevor
Berbick, who was bludgeoned and left to die in a church courtyard
next to his family's home in a rural hamlet.

Several residents of the remote farming community in Norwich
district said the suspect was involved in a land dispute with the
troubled boxer.

Les Green, a Scottish detective who this year was appointed
assistant police commissioner of the violence-wracked nation,
refused to identify the man before his arraignment, which has not
been scheduled.

"We have some very good information from witnesses, and we have
recovered a weapon we believe was used in the assault," he said
Sunday.

Green would not say what kind of weapon was recovered or where
it was found. Forensic tests would be completed on the weapon
Monday, he said.

Police would not say if others were suspected of being involved
in the slaying of Berbick, who is best remembered as boxing legend
Muhammad Ali's final opponent in 1981. Green said detectives were
investigating whether a family conflict sparked the attack, but he
declined to provide further details.

"A domestic argument may be the root of the attack on Trevor
Berbick, and detectives have been working hard on this inquiry,"
Green said. "They have interviewed some significant witnesses."

Investigators arrested the suspect several hours after Berbick's
body was discovered about 6:30 a.m. Saturday in his hometown parish
of Portland, about 80 miles east of Kingston. Berbick, who was
believed to be 52, was pronounced dead by a local doctor in the
church courtyard next to the three-bedroom house where he was
raised.

Detective Sgt. Kenneth Bailey of the Port Antonio police station
in Portland told The Jamaica Gleaner that Berbick was last seen
alive early Saturday at a nearby bar.

"The body had four wounds to the back of the head, as he was
probably attacked from behind," Bailey told the newspaper. "The
impression and damage done to the skull have indicated that a
machete may have been used by his attacker or attackers to murder
him."

After beating Ali in 1981 in an unanimous decision in the
Bahamas, Berbick went on to win the WBC heavyweight title fours
years later in a decision over Pinklon Thomas. His reign was short,
however, as a 20-year-old Mike Tyson knocked out Berbick in the
second round Nov. 22, 1986, to become the youngest heavyweight
champ.

He fought from 1976 to 2000, finishing with a record of 50-11
with one draw and 33 knockouts. He also fought for his Caribbean
homeland at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

Following his retirement from the ring, Berbick was convicted in
the U.S. for sexual assault, grand theft and burglary.

"We have our challenges in life, but Trevor seemed to handle
his challenges very badly," said C. Lloyd Allen, former president
of the Jamaica Boxing Board and a close friend. "Once he lost to
Tyson, he just went down a slippery slope."

In 1991, Berbick was convicted for attacking his former business
manager, who testified the boxer put a gun to her head and accused
her of stealing money from him.

The following year, he was convicted of raping a family baby
sitter in Florida and was sentenced to four years in prison. He
also was convicted in 1992 for forging his former wife's signature
to get a mortgage on a home.

After 15 months in prison, Berbick was deported from the U.S. He
went to Canada, where he lived for a time following the 1976
Olympics. He eventually moved back to the U.S., but was deported a
second time.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced by Berbick's
family.