By Yadira Betances
HAVERHILL — Family members and friends are remembering boxer Jeff Fraza as a "good man" who had a zest for life.
Fraza, 34, who appeared on the hit TV reality show "The Contender," was struck by a train and killed early yesterday morning.
Police Deputy Chief Donald Thompson said Fraza appeared to be talking on a cellphone when he was hit by the train on the tracks along Hale Street. The collision happened near Fraza's home at 7 Mulberry St just before 1:30 a.m.
"I'm still in shock. I can't believe it. He was a great kid," said Micky Ward of Lowell, whose life story was brought to the big screen in the movie, "The Fighter."
Ward trained Fraza, who was known as "Hell Raza."
"He was a great amateur and professional fighter," Ward said. "We grew up together pretty much. I'm going to miss everything about him. He had a big heart."
Fraza's grandfather Norman Fraza Sr., agreed.
"He was a fun kid to be with and loved life," Norman Fraza said. "He has left a big void in our lives."
Norman Fraza learned about the accident when Jeff's father, Norman Jr., called him at 6 a.m.
"My stomach turned when I heard the news. I was in a deep sleep, and I was trying to take it all in and trying to make heads and tails out of it. God I loved him," Norman Fraza said.
Fraza, who suffered from Crohn's Disease, had to put his boxing career on hold, but that did not stop him from teaching youngsters.
Fraza was training his 14-year-old son, Antonio, and his teenage cousins, Harrison and Douglas Gigliotti, at the Haverhill Boxing Club on High Street, continuing the family tradition that began with Norman Sr., who was a boxer in the 1940s. Fraza's father and brother, Derek, followed.
"His life was boxing and he was happiest in the ring," his grandfather said. "He was such a good trainer and a good fighter."
In addition to boxing, Norman Fraza said his grandson enjoyed fishing for tuna. A graduate of Whittier Regional Technical School, he worked as a painter and did carpentry work.
Fraza appeared in the 2005 and 2006 seasons of the reality welterweight boxing series "The Contender." He left the first after an attack of chicken pox. On the second episode he went into the ring with a broken rib.
Lydia Rivera, spokeswoman for the MBTA, said Fraza was hit by train number 245, on the Haverhill line, which was heading to Boston after completing its final trip to Haverhill for the night. The accident happened on Stevens and Winter streets, and there were no passengers onboard.
Police said they are investigating why the Haverhill native was on the tracks at the time. The train was travelling 35 mph, police said.
Transit Police Criminal Investigation and Crime Scene Units responded, along with Haverhill Police, Haverhill Fire and Trinity Ambulance.
Rivera said the accident did not affect rail services yesterday. The incident remains under investigation by Transit police.
Hours after grieving with family members and friends, Norman Fraza went to the scene where his grandson died.
"I had to go," Norman said. "I was trying to figure out what happened, what made him go there."
Fraza's cousin, Chris Agnew also stopped by the railroad tracks.
"I was just devastated when I found out," Agnew said. "We just want to know why. He was such a great guy and a great father. We're all going to miss him," Agnew said.
— Editor Gretchen Putnam contributed to this report.