THIS time last year Mexico’s Alejandra Ayala was on her way back to Tijuana having had a stay in Glasgow, Scotland inconveniently (and for a while unknowingly) extended.
Keen to get home, but keener still to remain alive, Ayala fought Hannah Rankin on May 13, and then, following a bleed on the brain, found herself having to fight a far greater opponent in the subsequent hours, days, and weeks.
That fight, as is often the case, has now been prolonged. No longer simply hours, days, and weeks, it is a fight that has stretched to months and soon it will be years. Still, though, Ayala, a woman enlightened and enlivened for having cheated death, manages to force a smile.
“I’m quite happy,” she told Boxing News from her home in Tijuana. “Ever since coming back and having this second opportunity in life, I’ve been happy in general. Even with all the sometimes-stressful things that are happening, I still feel very blessed.
“I am happy to be with my husband, my family, and my dog. I’ve been back in my gym, too. Not every day and only for a limited time, but doing that also makes me very happy.”
One suspects it takes a lot to get Ayala down. The 34-year-old’s capacity to recall details, names and places may have taken a hit on account of what happened to her last year, yet her grasp on perspective and her ability to focus on what is important in life has only increased.
“I’ve been doing a lot of therapy for talking,” she said. “My first language has been English since I was five years old, so my ability to speak English has improved quickly. But my Spanish isn’t what it was. I’m still working on that. They reckon maybe six more months on that, which is good because originally they said it would take two years.
“Before the incident I had a YouTube channel where I would talk about the fights and analyse them but I haven’t been able to do that again because it’s difficult for me to remember names. Names have been the most difficult thing for me to remember. I’ll know in my head who I am talking about, but I won’t be able to say their name.”
To listen to her speak, you would never know Ayala had endured so much 12 months ago in a foreign country. However, it is of course easy, when listening to her speak over the phone, and with her so far away, to trick yourself into believing everything is rosy and back to normal. The truth is, it is day-to-day that Ayala’s life, particularly in recent times, becomes a test and is nowhere near as easy as she makes it sound.
“When I left Glasgow, I was told I didn’t have anything within my head that would cause the epileptic spasms I have been suffering recently,” she explained. “I didn’t have one until around September of last year. Basically, I just got really dizzy and started hearing things. But I didn’t fall over. So I contacted my neurologist over here and we did a lot of studies.
“Just last month I then had another fit and this time I did fall over. I was having lunch with my husband, which was good, but that had never happened to me before and so we were all pretty scared. We went to the doctor and he gave me studies. We contacted the doctor I had in Glasgow and he said it’s not common but sometimes it happens. Right now, I’m working with the doctor, who has given me some medication, but I’ve been told this could be an issue for two to three years.
“The problem is, we live alone. My family doesn’t live in Tijuana with me. My husband’s mum and brother live here but not with us. So, when he’s working and I’m alone, that’s a problem. The other problem, too, is that I wanted to go back to work, at least a little bit, but now it looks like it’s going to be six more months before I can do that.”
As well as being unable to work, Ayala, despite improving physically, has not been able to train as she would like. “I couldn’t train,” she said, “because of all the head movement involved and I also couldn’t run because of the head movement involved. I could only do basic workouts. For a while my head would hurt a little bit so I would need to sit down and give myself time to rest.”
Wary of both headaches and unnecessary strain applied to that area, Ayala is only too aware that an issue with the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBC) hardly helps such matters. However, since leaving Glasgow last June she has tried, so far without success, to procure from the Board some insurance money only to experience frustration, as well as the feeling of being forgotten.
“During that time in Glasgow the people who were helping me out told me that once I left the country the BBBC would not care about me,” Ayala said. “I have not been in contact with the BBBC since, but my dad has. Now that I am able to read and comprehend, he has sent me some of the messages, and, basically, when we came back, they said they would go and look into it. Then, maybe six months in, my dad contacted them to ask what was going on. They asked us to send them all the studies I had had done so my dad sent them. We waited a little longer and then they sent us not angry messages but messages that essentially said to us, ‘When we know, we’ll let you know. Stop messaging us.’
“They told us that if I had passed away, it would have been easier for them to send the money, which was 50,000 pounds. But because I survived and because I’m doing well, it will be even less. For me, that hurts a little bit. If that’s their ideal, that’s not good.
“After a year, my dad messaged them again and they again asked us to report back how I was doing. He sent them details of the spasm I suffered in May and they said that in six weeks they would let us know.”
For the time being, then, Ayala can do no more than wait.
“The BBBC head office has been in regular communication with Alejandra’s father, Vince, and advised of the insurance process, which unfortunately takes time,” said Robert Smith, the Board’s General Secretary, in an email to Boxing News on Monday (June 26). “Mr Ayala has been informed that the Board’s insurance company is considering all medical documentation along with their medical consultant with regard to the possibility of an insurance claim and we are awaiting a decision to see if she is covered with the type of injuries received. This is normal procedure.
“We understand Alejandra is not insured by her home commission.”
As the wait goes on, of course, so the bills pile up.
“I’ve probably spent around 30,000 dollars so far on my recovery,” Ayala revealed. “We don’t have the best neurologists and therapists in Tijuana, so I have to go to Mexico City for that. I can’t fly alone, so my husband has to fly with me, and he has to take time off work to do it. He is a policeman, which means it is difficult for him to do that. I thought I would be back working by now – maybe doing some matchmaking, or working with the commission – but because of the epileptic fits I won’t be able to do that for a while.
“I now don’t know what to do. I’m feeling frustrated. I’m not even asking for a lot. If they could just help me out a bit, it would mean so much. I just want to pay off my debts and continue getting better.”
As for the concept of a boxer and their family receiving compensation in the event of death, Ayala greets it with a laugh. She does so because to laugh is preferable to crying. “If I had passed away in Glasgow,” she said, “my parents wouldn’t care about receiving any money.”