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Injured Boxer Is Making Progress

Contreras, who suffered a serious head injury in a May 28 fight at Staples Center, is moved to a rehabilitation facility.

July 02, 2005|David Wharton | Times Staff Writer

Ruben Contreras, the boxer who suffered a serious head injury in a May 28 fight at Staples Center, has made what doctors call "very good" progress and is now sitting up and responding to simple commands.

After spending more than a month at California Hospital Medical Center -- much of that time in a coma -- Contreras has been transferred to a rehabilitation center in Downey.

"The question is, how far will he recover?" said Dr. David Duarte, a trauma surgeon at California Hospital. "I expect him to be able to walk and talk in a month or two."

The 32-year-old light-flyweight collapsed after quitting in the sixth round of a scheduled eight-round match against Brian Viloria. Contreras suffered a seizure as he left the ring and underwent 2 1/2 hours of surgery to remove a clot that had formed in his brain.

At the time, medical officials warned that because of the size of his injury, and post-surgery swelling of his brain, he might never emerge from a vegetative state.

"On day three, that was pretty touch and go," Duarte said. "The timeliness of his coming to the hospital was the most important thing."

About two weeks ago, Contreras finally awoke from a coma and was moved out of intensive care. His wife, Nancy Maldonado, has been with him daily, hospital officials said.

Contreras is expected to spend two months at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center before returning to his home in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Duarte cautioned that the fighter still lacks some movement in his left leg and that recovery from brain injury is a slow process.

"Right now, he'll only give you one-word answers and he stares into space sometimes," the surgeon said. "But he seems to be thinking well."

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