By Mitch Abramson
It was the cruelest of fates.
The brain-damaged boxer who was beaten severely in a Nov. 2 fight at Madison Square Garden awoke briefly from his coma and was taken off life support and was breathing on his own on Thursday. His condition was on the upswing, it seemed. Those close to him were hopeful he had just taken a giant step forward in his road to recovery. What a stroke of good fortune. But on Friday, just when it seemed like his condition was on the mends, Magomed Abdusalamov, the heavyweight boxer dubbed “Russian Tyson” suffered a setback when his temperature rose abruptly to 103, forcing doctors to place him back in a medically-induced coma and on life support, his promoter said. And starting the waiting game once again for those involved.
Abdusalamov, 32, showed signs of improvement on Thursday, opening his right eye and moving his right foot, actions that caused doctors to take him off life support, while in the intensive care unit of St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan, Nathan Lewkowicz expressed in a text message on Friday afternoon.
“He’s out of the coma officially,” Lewkowicz said. “I guess we wait and see how he progresses.”
As to the next course of action, Lewkowicz remained guardedly optimistic while the doctors “monitor his progress.” But considering “3 weeks ago they thought he wasn’t going to live,” the news was extremely encouraging, he wrote.
But several hours later on Friday, Abdusalamov’s condition took a turn for the worse when his temperature rose quickly, prompting doctors to put him back in a coma.
“It’s pretty crabby,” Lewkowicz said in a phone interview on Friday evening. “Now we’re back to the waiting game. I get the good news two hours ago and now the bad news.”
Abdusalamov has been in intensive care and in a coma since he lost a decision to Mike Perez on Nov. 2 in a violent toe-to-toe slugfest. He left the ring under his own power, a dejected look on his face, but he seemed no different than any other fighter who has just gone through a brutal fight. His face was grotesquely swollen, etched with cuts.
But he seemed okay to observers who watched him exit the ring. Nothing seemed amiss at that point. However, when Abdusalamov left the Garden more than an hour after his fight, he vomited on the pavement outside and was taken in a cab 30 blocks uptown to St. Luke’s Hospital where he vomited again and lost consciousness. He was then put in a CAT-scan machine and had surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain to reduce swelling and was put in a medically-induced coma, where he has remained. Doctors were thinking of rousing him from his coma last week after he showed marks of improvement, but they were worried he might not be able to handle the aftereffects and so he remained unconscious.
Meanwhile, as Abdusalamov fights for his life, the office of the state inspector general is currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the fight to determine if he was given proper medical care by the New York State Athletic Commission, which sanctioned the bout. Abdusalamov’s manager, Boris Grinberg has roasted the state commission for rushing him through their post-fight checkup and sending him on his way without directing him to a hospital. Several sources close to the commission disputed that account however, saying that Abdusalamov was carefully examined during and after the fight and instructed to seek further medical attention and that he never indicated to any doctor that he was in any significant pain. Nor did his handlers ever indicate that he was in a bad state, they say.
Nonetheless, rumors abound that a shakeup among the leadership of the commission is nearly certain, though nothing has happened as of yet, state spokesman Edison Alban said on Friday.
Grinberg said that Abdusalamov’s wife has hired a Manhattan-based attorney but wouldn’t give a name or whether she was planning on suing the commission.
“Of course she has to have a lawyer,” Grinberg said. “It’s more safer to have a lawyer because the hospital wants so much money. Magomed is not [Floyd] Mayweather. He’s not [Miguel] Cotto. He made only $40,000 for that fight on HBO and this happens.”
A spokesman for the State Inspector General’s Office confirmed the state is still looking into the situation but wouldn’t elaborate further.
“We are investigating,” Bill Reynolds wrote in an email. “Beyond that, I cannot comment until the investigation is completed.”
Monies are currently being collected by the boxing charity Ring 10 run by retired fighter Matt Farrago that will go toward Abdusalamov’s medical expenses. HBO has committed to donating a substantial amount of money, rumored to be $100,000, while the Madison Square Garden Company has also pledged to give a significant amount.