Story & Photos by Jeff Julian



Hung Jury in His Murder Trial

A week or so before that fateful summer night in July of last year, Julian Letterlough dropped off his teenage son Julian, Jr. at King's Gym in downtown Reading, PA.  His son was an aspiring amateur boxer, and Letterlough entrusted his old friend and trainer Marshall Kauffman and his son assistant trainer Jason Kauffman to guide and instruct him in the ways of the “sweet science".  Before he left that afternoon, “Mr. KO" stopped into a back room to say hello to Marshall and share with him stories of a recent vacation he took with his wife to Miami Beach.  Julian stated that it was one of the best vacations he had in a long time.  I happened to be in the room that day with Marshall, and it was evident that Julian was relaxed and happy and content with his life.  At the time Marshall observed, “He was the happiest I ever seen him".  Days later, after an evening at a local tavern with a friend, Letterlough would lie dying on a city sidewalk. He was shot multiple times – a senseless tragedy stemming from an argument at the tavern earlier that night.

On Monday, after days of deliberation, the murder trial of his suspected killer resulted in a hung jury.  The Berks County, PA jury failed to reach a verdict on first and third degree murder charges against Reading resident Kenneth Blunt, 25, who was accused of fatally shooting Letterlough on July 8, 2005. A retrial will take place in February.  Blunt, however, was convicted of aggravated assault against city police officer Roger Lehman.  Blunt had pointed a gun at the officer while fleeing the scene of the murder.  The officer subsequently shot Blunt in the shoulder.  Blunt was also convicted of the attempted murder of Donald Moore, the friend who was with Letterlough that night.  His untimely death last summer hit especially hard the local Reading boxing community where he was well liked and respected.  He was a big brother figure to many of the younger guys around King's Gym – guys like Kermit Cintron, Keenan Collins, Jeremy Stauffer, Travis Kauffman and others.  Julian already had years of ring experience and had fought in big fights.  He was looked up to by the younger fighters.

Letterlough, whose final record was 21-5-3 with 20 KO's, was an exciting fighter whose heart and courage in the ring gained him many fight fans across the country.  His classic light heavyweight bout with Julio Gonzalez in 2001 was considered by many as “fight of the year".  Though Gonzalez was eventually given a unanimous decision, the bout saw Gonzalez hit the canvas three times and Letterlough hit it twice.  The highly entertaining battle can still be seen occasionally on ESPN Classic.  Later that year, Letterlough fought in his only major world title bout when he moved up to cruiserweight to face Vassily Jirov for his IBF belt.  Despite a courageous effort, Julian lost by an eighth round TKO on the HBO televised fight.  His last fight was in October 2004 at The Riveredge in Reading, where he scored a second round knockout of Eric Starr.

No stranger to trouble in his younger years, Letterlough spent a bit of time in prison.  However, years ago he made a decision to change his life around, took up boxing without an amateur career, and worked hard at both boxing and in factory jobs to make a better life for him and his family.  Though he could look to be an intimidating figure, Letterlough was soft spoken, articulate, and friendly.  He survived the hell of prison and many tough battles in the ring, but he was no match for the violence of the streets.  He will always be remembered by both fans and the boxing community for giving it his all whenever he stepped into the ring.  As his old friend Marshall Kauffman recently reflected, “ He was always a warrior"!


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