'If I die... I'll die': Jeanette Zacarias Zapata was told she wasn't fit to box, says father
MONTREAL -- The 18-year-old boxer who died in a Montreal hospital this week following a local bout had been told she was unfit to fight, her father told a Mexican newspaper.
Jeanette Zacarias Zapata decided to press forward anyway, according to an interview her father, Esteban Zacarias, gave to Proceso newspaper, which was published on Sunday.
Zacarias Zapata had received some devastating blows to the head in earlier matches, and doctors told her she might need surgery, her father told the paper.
However, her family couldn’t convince her to cancel the Montreal bout, he said.
“I chose this career and if I die this way, boxing in this bout, then I’ll die," he recalled her saying.
The danger wasn’t communicated to organizers in Montreal. Zacarias Zapata lost the bout last Saturday to Quebec boxer Marie-Pier Houle and, after falling unconscious, was rushed to intensive care. She died Thursday.
“We’re asking ourselves how this could have happened,” one of the bout’s organizers, Vincent Morin with Groupe Yvon Michel, told Noovo Info.
Morin said the organization had done everything possible to verify the competitors’ health, as usual, before the bout. They only learned there may have been information withheld when they saw the interview with Zacarias Zapata’s father.
“What we’re trying to understand now is, with these medical tests, is it just that the scan didn’t detect that she had a particular condition?” he said.
Or, he suggested, was her proof of good health fudged or bought? He’s now poring over her medical history to try to understand how it was that her coach and others allowed her to fight.
The Quebec coroner has also announced it will investigate the 18-year-old’s death, but that report won’t be available for months.
Proceso reported that Zacarias Zapata had been knocked unconscious in a fight earlier this year, after which she got bad medical news, but it didn’t go into detail about what exactly she was told.
“Her father and her coach maintain that they couldn’t avoid her insisting, as soon as she felt better, that she would continue to box,” the newspaper wrote.
The boxer’s father described a scene of horror at home as family watched her knockout from afar.
Zacarias Zapata is from Aguascalientes, a city of about a million people in a desert-like area of central Mexico.
“Her family had seen the combat through a Facebook page” and were “in anguish,” particularly her father, wrote Proceso, in Spanish.
Esteban Zacarias has previously accompanied his daughter to all her fights and was only unable to do so this time because his passport had expired and he wasn’t able to get an appointment to renew it.
He told the paper on Aug. 31, before his daughter’s death, that he had panicked and had been sleepless ever since watching, by video, as she collapsed in the bout's fourth round and appeared to convulse.
Sacre-Coeur hospital, where she was being treated, called to ask her family’s permission to operate on her swollen brain immediately and drain the blood that was putting pressure on it. He asked them to wait, saying she would stabilize.
She did, he told the paper, and appeared to have an upturn in her health. Doctors told the family that she appeared stable in her induced coma and they wouldn’t have to operate after all.
However, her blood pressure was swinging up and down, which was the major danger, the doctors explained.
“There are several possibilities: she wakes up like nothing happened, puts on her shoes and comes back,” her coach, Luis Alberto Cruz, told the paper after speaking to Quebec doctors on Sept. 1.
The second option in such a case “is that you wake up in 10 or 20 years, and the third is that your brain dies from the ups and downs of your blood pressure. We just have to wait,” said Cruz.
She died the following day.