Two immediate blows to the back of his head contributed to Francisco “Frankie” Leal’s death on Tuesday. Leal, a featherweight boxer from Mexico, died from brain injuries sustained during a fight against Raul Hirales in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
The fatal blows occurred 38 minutes into the fight. Hirales’ right glove struck once, then twice, to the lower back of Leal’s head, connecting at the base of Leal’s skull. The force caused Leal’s body to hunch over and fall forward in a lifeless somersault. Struggling to rise to beat the countdown, Leal tried to prop his body against the ring’s corner and use the ropes to pick his body up. As he tried to rise, Leal fell out of consciousness for the final time. He was taken from the ring in a stretcher to a hospital in Cabo San Lucas, from where he was transferred to a San Diego hospital. He died after being in a coma for over two days.
Leal’s wife, Arecely Coronel, with whom he had a son, launched a crowdfunding campaign to finance the funeral, memorial and “economic hardship” she and the couple’s infant son will face. “As you have read in different media outlets, the boxing company will be covering most of the medical costs,” the page said. “As our family moves to the healing process, we want to ask you for your support to continue to help Frankie's wife and son who have been left to deal with the tragic loss and the economical hardship ahead of them.”
Leal’s death is a reminder of the dangers of boxing. According to a study by the University of San Diego Neurology Department, there were 339 fatalities in boxing between 1950 and 2007. While the study found that there was a significant decline in deaths since 1983, boxers in lower weight classes had a higher percentage of dying. Leal’s featherweight status fits in with these figures.
Further, there were concerns in the boxing industry that Leal should not have continued his career after suffering a serious blow by Russian featherweight-world-title-holder Evgeny Gradovich. “I thought Leal was going to die the night he fought Gradovich, but he kept going and going until this," said boxing promoter Bruce Templer on his private Twitter account, according to FightNews.com.
Leal was from Mexicali, Mexico and trained in Coachella, California. “It’s a sad situation for everyone, especially for the boxing sport,” said Joel Diaz in an interview with the Deseret Sun. Diaz is a trainer from Coachella Valley who knew Leal since he was 11. “It’s sad a young kid like that just goes out and leaves the sport like that. It leaves a mark on the sport of boxing, and it’s not a good mark.”