Sandoval's Condition Is Upgraded to Good : Fighter's Change in Strategy, Not Weight Loss, Is Blamed for Loss to Canizales

Times Staff Writer

Richie Sandoval, who had been knocked unconscious for a terrifying 14 minutes Monday night, was listed in good condition at Valley Medical Center here Tuesday, his bravado in the ring apparently not as costly as first thought.

A hospital spokesman reported that Sandoval's vital signs were stable and said that the boxer was "conscious, alert and no longer lethargic, although some amnesia remained."

Sandoval, 25, apparently trying to attract attention as a puncher while under his first real spotlight, had been taking a bad beating in defense of his World Boxing Assn. bantamweight title Monday night, on the undercard of the Marvelous Marvin Hagler-John Mugabi and Thomas Hearns-James Shuler fights.

He had been dropped four times when, late in the seventh round, he was dropped again by challenger Gaby Canizales. Sandoval, of Pomona, is normally a slick boxer and not one to engage in slugfests. But his curious strategy was to stand and trade punches most of the night. Canizales' punches were much bigger, and when Sandoval went down the fifth time, it was to stay.

He not only couldn't get up, he couldn't breathe. Sandoval was immediately attended at ringside by Drs. Donald Romeo and Flip Homanski, and by a neurosurgeon, Dr. Kazem Fothie. Romeo inserted an airway into Sandoval's clenched mouth and summoned paramedics, who carried him out on a stretcher and to an ambulance about 20 yards away.

Fothie later said that Sandoval was not breathing for 1-1 1/2 minutes and that he didn't regain consciousness for 14 minutes. Fothie added, however, that two CAT scans, while showing a slight swelling of the brain, did not indicate that surgery would be necessary.

On Tuesday, Sandoval was alert and was asking his manager, Tony Cerda, for details of the fight. Monday night, he had kept asking where he was and what happened, and that not until three hours after being admitted to the hospital.

"He is doing pretty good," said Cerda, who expects Sandoval to be moved from intensive care within 24 hours. "He's asking me questions about the fight. The doctors think he'll be all right, and when somebody asked whether he (Dr. Fothie) would tell him not to fight again, he said, no, there was no reason he couldn't come back."

Sandoval, however, will probably think twice about coming back, so dangerous was his predicament and so bad his showing.

Cerda, who had been unable to command much money for his fighter even though he was a champion, said that Sandoval was trying to make an impression on network executives Monday night by going out and punching with a puncher.

"It was all the pressure," Cerda said. "He was trying to show the network people he could go toe to toe with this guy. He wasn't circling and jabbing like I told him, except for the first part of each round. Then he'd stand in front of the guy and punch with him."

Cerda discounted earlier reports that Sandoval had to weaken himself to make the weight. According to Cerda, Sandoval weighed 127 1/2 for his last fight in February and the weight loss, to Monday night's 117 3/4, was gradual.

"He lost 2 1/2 pounds per week," Cerda said. "The night before the weigh-in, he shadow boxed for five rounds and jumped rope for 15 minutes and was about 119."

Sandoval had been knocked down in the first round but made no attempt thereafter to change his strategy. Cerda believes Sandoval was simply trying to show he could be an attractive fighter and would be a good show for network fights.

Sandoval had spent nearly a year trying to get his mandatory defense on TV, but networks refused to buy it. His fight with Canizales was almost an afterthought on the card at Caesars Palace. He was paid just $37,500 for the fight.

There were other questions after the fight and Carlos Padilla, the referee, didn't have any answers. Padilla, who has refereed 47 title fights, was extremely defensive afterward, saying, "If I stop a fight early, there's no conclusion. Everybody jump on me."

Padilla maintained that Sandoval never seemed helpless and that he bounced back fine after each of his knockdowns. He also said that it is the corner's responsibility to stop the fight if its fighter, perhaps because of a sudden weight loss, is not performing as normal.

In other post-fight news, it was announced that middleweight champion Hagler would indeed stay in boxing for his rematch with Thomas Hearns. Both scored knockout wins Monday night, but Hagler had to struggle through 11 bruising rounds for his. Immediately afterward, his right eye almost swollen shut, he announced that the Mugabi fight might have been his last.

But Tuesday morning Pat Petronelli, his business manager, said it was a misunderstanding, that Hagler thought he was being pressured into a June 23 fight, which he considered too early.

"We said, 'What about late November?' and he said, 'Oh, that's different' "

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