A young Mexican boxer competing in a bout in Montreal Saturday night remains in critical condition after she was taken away in a stretcher.
Jeannette Zacarias Zapata, 18, was taking part in the GYM Gala International Boxing event at the IGA stadium in Jarry Park.
She was knocked out by Quebec fighter Marie-Pier Houle at the end of the fourth round of a six-round fight.
The event's promoter, Yvon Michel, said Zapata's condition has remained stable but that doctors say the next 48 hours are critical to her survival.
"Accidents like Zacarias's are very, very rare and we want to make sure to find ways so it doesn't happen again," Michel said in an interview Monday morning.
Three years ago, Montreal boxer and world champion Adonis Stevenson spent three weeks in a coma after a knockout resulted in a serious brain injury.
Boxer had medical tests to get permission to fight
Zapata had undergone neurological exams to get permission to participate in the Montreal fight, Michel said, because she was knocked out in a match last May in Mexico.
During the fight, Houle struck Zapata with a left uppercut and then delivered a final right hook, jolting her opponent's mouth guard.
Unable to recover after the bell rang, Zapata went into convulsions. Her trainer, on-site paramedics and a doctor assigned to the event rushed to help her.
Zapata spent minutes unconscious in ring
It was not known if Zapata was conscious as she was carried out of the stadium on a stretcher.
In her first match in 10 months, Houle showed uncharacteristic punching power to cut the fight short. From an athletic standpoint, Houle said she was unsatisfied with her performance in the first two rounds.
"I was standing too far away. My shots did not come out," she said after the fight. "But in the last 30 seconds, I opened the machine and you saw what happened.
Later, she took to Facebook to express her sympathies for Zapata.
"Never, ever, is the intention of seriously injuring an opponent in my plans." she wrote. "My sincere thoughts go to my opponent, Jeannette Zacarias Zapata, as well as to her family. I wish with all my heart that she will recover."
Recovery time varies from patient to patient, according to Dr. Rajeet Singh Saluja, a neurosurgeon and researcher at McGill University Health Centre who is not treating Zapata.
So it is then difficult to gauge a patient's level of recovery — especially among athletes who may mask symptoms so they can continue competing, he said.
Either way, it doesn't take knockouts to injure the brain over time, said Saluja.
It's time for society to rethink any high-impact sports like boxing, he said, because of the level of brain damage people are suffering from hits to the head. Studies have shown that football players, for example, can suffer brain damage over time without ever having a concussion.
"There's probably more damage than we think," said Saluja.