Boxer Jeffrey Claro dies after lapsing into coma following sparring session

Ryan Songalia
Boxer Jeffrey Claro dies after lapsing into coma following sparring session
Jeffrey Claro falls into a coma after being knocked down in a sparring session and dies at the Ospital ng Maynila

MANILA, Philippines – Jeffrey Claro, a Filipino pro boxer based in Makati City, died on Sunday, October 22, after falling into a coma following a sparring session. He had just turned 20 on October 18.

Claro, whose pro record was 1-4, had been sparring at X-Con Boxing Gym in Mandaluyong City on Friday, October 20, when he collapsed. He was taken to Mandaluyong Medical Center before being transferred by private ambulance to the Ospital ng Maynila in Malate, which has a neurosurgeon on staff. He remained in a comatose state until Sunday, when Games and Amusements Board (GAB) Chairman Abraham “Baham” Mitra said he passed away at 11 am.

At the time of his death, Claro was surrounded by his father, sister, and girlfriend. His mother, two-year-old daughter, and the mother of his daughter arrived from their hometown of Coron, Palawan just minutes after he died, said Jen Javellana, a boxing patron who had been helping Claro.

Claro had been among the dozens of boxers whose CT scans were deemed fakes following a GAB investigation that discovered several scans with identical tracking numbers emanating from a clinic in Batangas and other sources. Claro’s license was not revoked, but he was not allowed to fight until turning in a new one.  

According to Mitra, Claro had submitted a new scan on September 9 and was scheduled to fight on November 19 in Tarlac. Javellana said that though they had not signed a contract together, she had welcomed him into the gym as he sought to get his career on track, and had helped him get a new CT scan from Olivarez General Hospital in Parañaque City to have him removed from the GAB blacklist. 

She said the scan submitted from Olivarez General Hospital showed no abnormalities, but a scan taken after the sparring incident showed evidence of a new brain injury, and an older one too. 

“The people in Mandaluyong Medical Center said that there was an old bleed already. About how old that bleed was, they couldn’t say, if it was weeks, months, or days,” said Javellana.

She added that they had hoped Claro’s condition would improve so he could be fit for surgery but that never occurred. 

“We don’t know if the previous scan is correct or if it’s not. One thing that’s for certain is that the CT scan made in Mandaluyong showed a different result from the one made in Olivarez.”

Lorence Rosas, a pro boxer who trained with Claro at Empire Boxing Gym, was with Claro and their trainer Remus Arsula when the sparring occurred. He said the sparring was scheduled for two rounds against a smaller boxer named Diego. No one asked had known the surname of that boxer, though only one active pro boxer from the Philippines carries that given name.

“When we were going there at 7 am in the morning, he said, ‘Brother Lorence, I’m so excited because this is the first sparring [of training camp],'” Rosas recalled. He said Claro looked sharp early on, but with about 45 seconds remaining in the second round, Claro went down from a seemingly innocuous punch, offered a reassuring smile and asked to finish the round, but the sparring was stopped.

Rosas said there were no rabbit punches, or illegal blows to the back of the head which carry with them an elevated risk for head injury. He estimated about 10 minutes passed before Claro showed signs of distress.

“After the sparring he’s smiling, he picked up his gloves and then he’s laughing because of the knockdown in sparring. He’s smiling, he says he’s good, then after that his legs were shaking, he holds onto the ring, we carried him on the chair. After that he went to sleep.” 

Rosas had known Claro since 2015, when they trained together at JMC Gym in Makati Cinema Square. He said Claro confided that his first 4 defeats, all 4-round decisions in the strawweight and junior flyweight divisions, were due to taking fights without proper training. He had earned his first win in his last bout, a decision over Oscar Lim in Antipolo City in the junior bantamweight division, and had transferred to Empire Boxing two months ago to join Rosas, but Claro had not yet fought for Javellana’s stable because two fights had fallen through, due to a tooth extraction on one occasion and a urinary tract infection in the other. 

Angel Aurelio, a boxer who had trained with Claro previously in Makati City, remembers him as “a funny and a good person not only to me, but to the whole gym. He loves to smile, he is talkative.”

Claro’s wake will be at the Veronica Memorial Chapel in Pasay City for the next 3 days before being transported to Palawan for burial. 

The GAB together with the Singwancha Foundation have made arrangements for financial assistance for mortuary and funeral services, plus transportation to the province. Mitra said  he will make arrangements with the family to avail of further assistance through the GAB’s Boxers Welfare Fund.

The last professional boxer to die in the Philippines due to injuries sustained in the ring was Karlo Maquinto, an unbeaten boxer who died in 2012 after lapsing into a coma following an 8-round bout. – Rappler.com

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