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Boxer-trainer Greg Piper loses the ultimate fight

by: L.E. BASKOW, Featherweight Greg Piper celebrates a decision in his favor a few years ago at the Rose Garden. He died Sunday night after a week in a coma and on life support.

The local boxing and mixed martial arts community lost one of its own this week. Greg Piper, 29, died Sunday night at Providence Portland Medical Center after being in a coma and on life support for a week. The hospital would not confirm cause of death, but several sources say it was from an overdose of an opiate.

'He loved training and fighting,' says girlfriend Gwen Hall, who lived with Piper. 'Most of all he loved being a coach and working with people. If you knew him, he was the nicest guy that you could ever meet. He doesn't judge people, and always makes people feel really comfortable.'

The Portland native had a pro boxing record of 8-4-1. He trained under Fred Ryan at Grand Avenue Gym and fought as a featherweight and lightweight (135 pounds). In 2002 and 2003, he won matches at the Rose Garden. He last fought April 29 at Silver Reef Casino in Ferndale, Wash., winning a unanimous decision over Braulio Lopez.

Trainer Ray Lampkin traveled with and managed Piper in the fight.

'A real nice guy, the kind of guy you wanted to be around,' Lampkin says. 'He was always respectful.'

Piper also competed in amateur mixed martial arts events and had worked as a trainer at the famed Team Quest Fight Club in Gresham.

'He was the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off his back,' says Robert Follis, a co-owner of Team Quest. 'A very kind and generous man, very loving, quick to smile. He always had a positive outlook; you never heard him complain about anybody.'

Willow Ryan, Follis' wife (no relation to Fred Ryan), used to train with Piper at Grand Avenue Gym. As dozens of friends and family members held a vigil at Providence, they shared stories.

'He used to run the ladies' boxing program at Grand Avenue,' she says. 'He'd be there for so many hours, sparring with 20 to 25 people on any given day. After one day of sparring 23 rounds, he had tired everybody out, and he hopped out of the ring and started hitting the (punching) bag and jumping rope again. He was an amazing athlete with stamina and endurance, and he had a huge heart.'

Piper planned to attend culinary school and had been teaching kickboxing this year.

A memorial will be held 3 p.m. Saturday at Seventh-day Adventist Church of Beaverton, 14645 S.W. Davis Road. A memorial Web page is at www.greg piper.net.