A MILLION thoughts raced through veteran referee Nowel Haduca’s head as he raised an imaginary hand to declare victory during that gloomy Saturday night.
Haduca had to do it in front of a silent, stunned crowd as part of the process, but his mind was struggling with what was about to come because Kenneth Egano, the boxer who won the bout, had lost consciousness and was about to be brought to the hospital.
Egano appeared to be in much pain while he was waiting for the scorecards. He collapsed and was rushed away on a stretcher to the Imus Doctors Hospital. He reportedly suffered a brain haemorrhage.
“Hindi ko na namalayan na wala pala ako hawak sa kaliwang kamay ko. Itinaas ko na lang ng buong puso at tumaimtim na panalangin na sana maka-recover siya (Egano). Na sana turuan Niya (Diyos) ang mga doctor ng tama nilang gawin para lang maka-survive si Kenneth. Noong gabing iyon, halos bumalik na naman ang aking trauma sa mga aking nakaraan,” said Haduca, a veteran ring official of hundreds of local and international bouts.
On Haduca’s right was Egano’s opponent Jason Facularin and on his left was an imaginary Egano, whose name was announced as the winner via unanimous decision of their eight-round bout.
“Sobra akong nalungkot sa nangyari. Halos hindi ko maitaas ang aking kaliwang kamay para ideklara na si Kenneth ang nanalo, pero kinailangan kong gawin iyun para makita ng mga nanonood kung sino talaga ang nanalo. Sobrang dami ang pumasok sa isip ko na puwedeng mangyari sa kanya na pilit ko din kinu-kontra sa aking isipan,” he said.
It turned out to be Egano’s last ring exploit as the 22-year-old perished four days after slipping into a coma. He pegged his ring record at seven wins, three by knockout, against one loss.
A subsequent investigation by the Games and Amusements Board cleared the promoter of Blow by Blow of medical negligence. There was also no mismatch in the bout.
Haduca also said there was no visible signs of the coming fatal occurrence.
“From the start until the end of the bout, I’ve never seen sa kanila ng panghihina. Palitan sila ng malalakas suntok at napakalinis ang laro nila. Nakikinig at sumusunod sila sa aking mga command. Doon mo kasi masusukat kung okay pa sila, kapag nag-rerespond ng maayos,” Haduca said.
“After the last round, kinausap ko sila. Binati ko sila na napakaganda at malinis ang kanilang laban. Nag-thank you pa nga silang dalawa at sinabi ko pa na kung my best fight ngayung gabi, walang ng iba kungdi ito.”
It was indeed the best fight to remember–for the wrong reasons.