Mystery after Aussie war vet turned boxer found dead in Manila hotel

Joel Clifton
Joel Clifton. Photo from the GoFundMe page set up by his grieving family to help raise fun for his repatriation and burial.

An Afghan war veteran who overcame crippling injuries to fight for Australia’s heavyweight boxing belt was found dead in a Manila hotel room.

Investigations into the death of Joel Clifton have continued since his body was discovered on November 30. He has now been flown back to Brisbane and his funeral service will be held on Friday (December 14).

The 29-year-old ex-soldier was severely injured while serving in Afghanistan, but against all the odds he went from hardly being able to walk to bidding for the national title in 2016.

Clifton was formerly a soldier in the Australian army and was deployed to serve in Afghanistan in 2012. While serving, he incurred serious damage to his hips. After a year of excruciating pain he underwent two major surgeries and extensive rehabilitation.

After a long struggle to regain his fitness, he decided to take up his childhood sport of boxing once more, the Courier Mail reported.

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In 2016 he went up against professional Australian boxer Willie Nasio for his country’s heavyweight title.

Nasio wrote a touching tribute to his one-time rival on Facebook, describing Clifton as a “legend”. He recounted how he had first come face-to-face with Clifton at Brisbane airport.

“I told myself when I meet this guy I will greet him with the words ‘I’m going to knock you out’,” he wrote.

However, he was immediately disarmed by a big smile and a handshake, along with the words: “Hey Willie, I’m Joel Clifo, nice to meet you bro.”

“There goes my plan to be a tough guy,” Nasio wrote. “How can you be mean to such a sweet soul like that?”

He added that Clifton was “always a gentleman and will be missed by many”.

A GoFundMe page was set up by Clifton’s family last week to help cover the costs of “bringing home and sending off” Clifton.

The appeal said: “The initial cost to fly Joel home from Manila is $18500 and funeral expenses are $11500, these are the initial expenses. We wish we could do this on our own but unfortunately we can not.”

As of today (Tuesday, December 11), a total of 309 people have donated $30,580, exceeding the target of $30,000.

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