Junior featherweight boxer Francisco “Frankie” Leal suffered a brutal KO at the hands of Raul Hirales in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico during their bout this past Saturday night. Leal was taken from the ring in a stretcher, but slipped into a coma soon after. Leal was pronounced dead Tuesday from a brain injury suffered in the bout at a San Diego medical facility. He was 26.
Leal fought Hirales on the Chavez-Alcine undercard on Saturday. Hirales dominated Leal for a majority of the fight. In the sixth round, Hirales caught Leal with a right-hand shot that sent Leal to the canvas. Leal made it back up to his feet, but was soon decked by another Hirales right-hand. Leal beat the initial count. However, Leal collapsed immediately after and medical personnel rushed to attend to him.
Leal was initially admitted to a local hospital in Cabo San Lucas, but the matter was a lot worse than people had expected it to be and Leal was transported to San Diego, where he was later pronounced dead.
Promoter Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions, who staged the card, was distraught by the news saying, “This hurts a lot. We knew Frankie Leal was a good kid, a great fighter, and a warrior in-and-out of the ring.”
Leal suffered a brutal KO in March 2012 against future Featherweight world champion in Evgeny Gradovich during the tenth round of their bout. Leal, like on Saturday, was taken by a stretcher and hospitalized. Leal did not fight again for over 9 ½ months before fighting Gilberto Perez in Mexico. Leal won the fight by 4th round TKO, and would win 2 out of his next 3 fights before his KO defeat to Hilares.
Many people thought Leal should have stopped fighting following the KO defeat to Gradovich, but the warrior in him would not quit. What can boxers do to protect themselves from this sort of damage? Head injuries are something that needs to be taken more seriously in the sport of boxing, not only by the fighters, but the people who stage these fights, and they’re the ones who need to be more active in the fights they put together and the careers and lives they manage.
Leal’s death is certainly a tragedy, and a painful reminder to people involved in the sport that no one is invincible. Leal was seen as a warrior to many and this is the fate that Leal sadly met. We can only hope and pray that boxers who have suffered head injuries think twice before risking their life in the ring again, but that is what makes boxing what it is. These guys are here to make a legacy and they are going to attempt to fight through anything to achieve stardom.