A Death in Cabo San Lucas

By Ted Sares on October 23, 2013
A Death in Cabo San Lucas
Everything was discomforting; it was a tragedy and all I can do is mourn Frankie Leal.

“This is so wrong. I thought Leal was going to die the night he fought Gradovich, but he kept going and going until this…”

“This is so wrong. I thought Leal was going to die the night he fought Gradovich, but he kept going and going until this. RIP.”—Bruce Trampler tweet, according to Fightnews.com

“I just got back from the hospital. It’s really hard for myself, and for his family…All that you can say is that why do the good guys go…but his family was right behind him. It’s sad, but his family understood that as a boxer, that’s what you can go through. He comes from a boxing family.”—Abner Mares

“They were friends. We’ve all known each other since 2002 and for many years after that. So Raul is really, really hurting over this, and today is a sad day for boxing…We risk our lives every time that we go up into that ring. It’s a tragic day for boxing.”—Mares

Back in March 2012, Francisco “Frankie” Leal (20-8-3), who could best be described as a tenacious and gritty fringe contender/gatekeeper, lost badly to future world featherweight champion Evgeny “El Ruso Mexicano” Gradovich. In 2009 he lost by stoppage to Panamanian Celestino Caballero with the IBF and WBA super bantamweight title on the line.

Against Gradovich, Leal was knocked unconscious and needed a stretcher to exit the ring. The fight left Leal hospitalized. Some thought he should never fight again, but he would return to the ring, perhaps unwisely, and fight five more times before this fateful bout on October 19 against Raul Hirales (20-2-1). This time “The Little Soldier” would not be so lucky.

Hirales controlled the action and decked Leal in the sixth round with a right hand. In the eighth round, after stunning Frankie with a brutal body assault, Raul went upstairs and knocked Frankie down with another blow either to the head or behind the head (it looked like a rabbit punch to me but was more arm than glove suggesting that the damage might have been done by an earlier blow). In any event, Leal managed to struggle to his feet, but collapsed soon afterward and never regained consciousness. Chilling memories of Victor Burgos against Vic Darchinyan quickly came to mind.

Here is how Iron Mike Gallego describes it, in part, in the very compelling “Boxing is a Goddamned Tragedy” in Uppercutting:

“…Leal is wounded by a body shot, backs helplessly into a corner, and is felled by what looks like a rabbit punch. The aftermath is as hard to watch as anything you’ll see in boxing…

“Leal slumps into his corner. There’s not even a stool for him to sit on. His eyes are still open, but he’s already gone. A doctor tries to look in his eyes for signs of recognition. There’s nothing coming back. The bleeding in Leal’s brain is getting worse with each passing second. Everyone knows what’s happening. His opponent – celebrating moments earlier – is ashen. Leal’s body is sloppily placed onto a bright orange stretcher, his eyes still refusing to close even as the last bit of life seems to have already left his limbs. He’s taken away from the ring. He’ll never be seen again.”

Francisco Javier “Frankie” Leal passed away on October 22 of a traumatic brain injury. The 26-year-old who was called “Little Soldier” for a good reason fought for his life for more than three days in a San Diego, California hospital.

Watching Raul Hirales’s reaction was discomforting because he well knew something horrible had just happened to his friend and that something had been caused by his own hands. Everything was discomforting; it was a tragedy and all I can do is mourn Frankie and extend my thoughts and prayers to his family. I wish there was more.

A donation can be made to Leal’s family through this link: http://www.gofundme.com/4w3r0c

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

2013-10-19 Raul Hirales vs Francisco Leal

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  1. Ted 12:14pm, 10/28/2013


  2. Tex Hassler 09:03am, 10/26/2013

    When you are young you do not think this could ever happen to you.  Leal probably entered the ring for his last fight not knowing it would be his last fight.

  3. Ted 02:31pm, 10/24/2013

    djata, if you buy my Planet Boxing book and read the last chapter, I think you might agree that I give those who are killed in the ring great dignity. In fact, I pride myself as being one of the few writers who consistently has done this over the past 10-12 years.

    Still, your point is a good one that boxers leave behind much more than a ring record when they pass.

  4. djata 12:17pm, 10/24/2013

    What did he do other than box?...Did he help people?..Did he raise a family?...Boxers are very complex people who have very complex lives outside of the ring…It seems like a disservice to present it this way…Who did he inspire?

  5. Ted 12:11pm, 10/24/2013

    Thanks mate

  6. kid vegas 12:11pm, 10/24/2013

    Another sad story in the annals of boxing. This should not have happened.

  7. dollarbond 11:46am, 10/24/2013

    Brutal.  You handled this with dignity Ted and not the usual RIP which always seems inadequate to me

  8. john coiley 08:38am, 10/24/2013

    makes me wonder if courage and grit are worth the price to pay…though I know so, having traveled the path from dressing room to the square circle a few times…the last few being too many for my own good…

  9. Ted 08:08am, 10/24/2013

    Whoops. Make that Prince Charles Williams and he was not an exception as it pretty much ended things for him in boxing.

  10. Ted 08:05am, 10/24/2013

    Problem was he changed prompters. You are 100% correct, though, DAN.. This should never have happened. A who is taken out on a stretcher and then goes to the hospital must not fight again. King Arthur Williams may have been one exception who comes to mind but the only one.

  11. Dan Cuoco 07:56am, 10/24/2013

    He should never have been allowed to fight again after the Gradovich fight. Shame on his handlers and the promoter. May he RIP

  12. Ted 07:51am, 10/24/2013

    That’s walking the walk Clarence. This one had the earmarks of an all-around tragedy impacting a lot of people. The two fighters were close friends, the families knew each other, it could have been prevented, and all the other terrible things that accompany an ring death.

    It was difficult to watch as he slumped into unconsciousness but the eyes told the story.

  13. Clarence George 07:47am, 10/24/2013

    I made a small donation.  More importantly, I arranged for him to be prayed for throughout November, beginning All Souls Day.  And by traditionalist priests—none of this Vatican II crap.  “Let us offer each other the sign of peace.”  Let’s not.

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