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An instant is enough for a twist of fate to change the course of history or someone’s life. the of Becky Zerlentes, a 34-year-old female boxer and champion of the United States Women’s Boxing League, it was already written. She herself heralded the end of his career, but could do nothing against his misfortune: died of a stroke knockout the same day he planned to retire from ring and pursue her life as a geography professor at a Colorado state university.

It was April 2005 and the USA Boxing had announced with great fanfare the fight between Becky Zerlentes Y Heather Schmitz for fans of the ‘Golden Gloves’, at the National Western Complex in Denver, at an event that was to be televised.

Zerlentes born in Fort Collins, in that same state, became the first woman to die from injuries sustained in a boxing match sanctioned in that country, as a result of the blows received from his rival.

A few days before the fight for the Colorado State Senior Women’s Boxing Championship, Becky had talked to her coach Jeane DePriest and the director of the section of the Golden Gloves, Jesse Mora on his imminent retirement. He had decided together with his partner and on medical recommendation.

Becky Zerlentes and Heather Schmitz met in the fight for the Colorado Golden Gloves, an amateur championship
Becky Zerlentes and Heather Schmitz met in the fight for the Colorado Golden Gloves, an amateur championshipCourtesy The Denver Post

That decision had not only come from a bad omen, but from a medical suggestion due to his physical condition: he was no longer of an age to fight professionally. That’s why he decided that the fight on Saturday, April 2 of that year was his last fight. Was determined. Finally, he thought, he would hang up his gloves forever. and he would dedicate himself to teaching, another of his great passions that he did in parallel to sports. But the premonition he had had about the ring was more chilling than he thought: that day was truly going to be his last time in the ring and the end of his life.

A few years ago he had obtained a master’s degree and a doctorate in Geography from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Married to the doctor in economics Stephen Weiler, a teacher of Colorado State University, had for some time been teaching Geography, Mathematics, and also Economics at the Larimer County campus in Front Range Community College, a community institute in the city of Westminster, which felt like home and after his death created an NGO in his name for a scholarship fund.

In 2002, three years before her death, everything had been happiness for the boxer. This year won the regional Golden Gloves award, where he added his sixth victory in the women’s league of that country. After winning the prize, he decided to make a break boxing to dedicate himself fully to the other sports he practiced for hobby and also taught in private centers. Eager to add one last title to her career, in 2005 agreed to return to the USA Boxing amateur league, where I was waiting for her Heather Schmitz to dispute the championship and take home the recognition that he wanted so much for the end of his career.

Becky was determined to win back the title at the match. In the first round two minutes had taken the fight well, combining and mixing fists, but in the second he received a blow that made his nose bleed. At that moment, the referee sent her to the corner of the ring and minutes later he resumed the fight after confirming that he was in good condition to continue. In the first two rounds, The boxers who wore a protective helmet on their heads to mitigate the impact of the fists, distributed blows at close range. The fight was even and the meeting seemed to develop within normal parameters and without major shocks for either of them.

However, when the clock struck 11:30 p.m. right in the third round, the woman received a right hand to the head, at the height of the temple, which made her collapse instantly.

The minutes following his fall were synonymous with tension and anguish for those present. After several attempts by her coach and the team to revive her, The doctors who were at the event approached at full speed to perform first aid maneuvers on him. the boxer She was still unconscious and was immediately rushed to a Denver hospital.

Heather’s blow was enough to send her direct rival to the emergency room that same night. His death was confirmed in the early hours of Sunday. In this way, Becky became the first female boxer in the United States to die in the ring.

Becky Zerlentes practiced other sports and was a synchronized swimming teacher
Becky Zerlentes practiced other sports and was a synchronized swimming teacher

Weiler, Becky’s husband, told WNYC that the doctors had informed him that the cause could probably have been second impact syndrome What is when the person receives a blow to the head while recovering from an initial brain injury.

Howard Daniel, a Denver police officer, was the one who broke the bad news to the boxing world. The seven-page report underlines that the death was caused by a “blunt force trauma” and it was ruled an accident. “I didn’t want to hurt her. I feel very bad and I only hope that he is well, “he said. Heather to the chain CBS after the fight was canceled and before learning that his opponent would not finally leave the hospital alive.

After his death, the local police decided to launch a routine investigation into the case labeled as Becky Zerlentes vs. Heather Schmitz, to determine any abnormal fact that would allow knowing if there was any violation of the rules of the USA Boxing or if it was just a sports accident. “Nothing unusual found so far”, affirmed at the time the investigators in charge of taking the case. The truth is that Becky remained unconscious for several long hours until her death was finally confirmed. The only question the detectives still had was whether his death had some unclear point in the story. “You don’t go into the ring thinking about hurting the other person,” her victimizer defended herself, terrified by what had happened.

Becky Zerlentes had been absent from boxing since 2002 and returned in 2005 with the idea of ​​winning her last championship.
Becky Zerlentes had been absent from boxing since 2002 and returned in 2005 with the idea of ​​winning her last championship. video capture

DePriest, who was then her coach and chief delegate for the Colorado section of that competition, was shocked by the death. “No one thought it was such a hard blow. This is too difficult for us. She was a positive woman that everyone adored. In boxing it is one against one, but in reality we are all the same team, ”he said in a note with the local media Rocky Mountain News.

a few days ago Becky had confessed to her team that her intention was to recover her title and retire because she no longer had the same physical conditions due to his age. That fight was intended to be the last of his boxing career. In fact, he had returned to amateur pugilism only to take home the Golden Gloves and retire with his head held high.

Apart from boxing, he had practiced other sports such as triathlon, synchronized swimming, martial arts such as Kodokan Goshin Jutsu, discipline in which he got a black belt in 1996. Between 1998 and 1999 he obtained a black belt in Danzan Ryu Jujitsu. and is certified in Okazaki Restorative Massage. Her message to her female students was that they should learn self-defense, as she believed it was essential for women. In her career as an amateur boxer, she obtained a record of 6 wins and 4 losses and was consecrated with a regional Golden Gloves in 2002.

Becky was 34 years old and had recently completed her master's and doctorate in geography.
Becky was 34 years old and had recently completed her master’s and doctorate in geography.Facebook

After a police investigation, finally, Becky was buried on April 17. In lieu of flowers, relatives asked that contributions be made to their favorite charity or the Scholarship Fund. Becky Zerlentes en Front Range Community College, the institute where he worked.

Since his death, USA Boxing has carried out a series of investigations into the rules of men’s and women’s boxing from 1993 to that date. It happens that over the years more deaths of boxers and fighters began to be registered after receiving a knock out Y sometimes this went unnoticed. There are times when athletes they may faint or they may enter, with the passing of the hours, in a state of coma that ends in death. In most cases this is due to brain swelling that occurs in the KO. The brain swells and begins to press against the skull causing death some time later, which is why they are not recorded as “in-ring deaths.”

Although there were cases that led to a long police investigation where there was evidence of fraud, such as adulteration of gloves with the intention of harming the rival, Becky’s case seems far from this possibility. Your victimizer Heather Schmitz was able to continue his sports career on the ring and over the years he continued to practice mixed martial arts.


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