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Serrano’s Condition Improving After Shootout Near Caguas Boxing Gym

By Gabrielle Paese

March 11, 2005
Copyright © 2005 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Boxer Joseph Serrano won his first professional match Feb. 26 in Bayamon with a knockout over his compatriot William Vega. Three days later, the 20-year-old former Olympian was fighting for something much bigger, his own life, after he was shot three times in broad daylight while getting ready to enter the Bairoa gym in Caguas where he trains along with WBO junior welterweight champ Miguel Cotto.

After a week in intensive care at Rio Piedras’ University Hospital, Serrano’s condition was still critical but stable and improving as doctors indicated he would likely survive the ordeal, although they do not know the extent of the neurological damage. Dr. Eric Carro, Serrano’s attending surgeon, performed emergency surgery to remove the three bullets, one of which lodged near his brain. With his parents, the Cotto family and friends holding vigil in the hospital’s waiting rooms, Serrano’s condition continued to improve toward the end of the weekend, as doctors began to offer more positive reports. The neurological impact of the bullet is not yet known, but Carlos Castello, a spokesman for the family, told reporters that Serrano will continue to be kept on painkillers in hopes that the pressure on his brain from the swelling will continue to drop.

Castello told reporters that Dr. Carro, will keep Serrano sedated to prevent him from any further injury via movement. However, Serrano’s father and trainer, Edwin Serrano, reported earlier this week that his son has already moved his eyelids and shown movement in his legs.

One week after the attack, Serrano’s fellow boxers, led by trainer Evangelista Cotto, planted a tree in front of the Bairoa gym at the spot where Serrano was shot as a gesture for peace. Puerto Rico’s boxers, including Cotto, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, Henry Bruseles, Victor Bisbal and former world champion Alfredo "Salsero" Escalera, joined hands in prayer during a religious ceremony held in conjunction with the planting of the tree. Several volleyball players from the Caguas Criollas team as well as the P.R. Boxing Commission’s, Jose "Toto" Penagaricano and Dommy Delgado.

"Joseph believes in the power of prayer and before each fight he calls me to pray with him," said his aunt, Aracelys Serrano, a pastor who resides in Philadelphia.

Police are still investigating the case, although little is known. According to Serrano’s father, the young boxer walked away from the gym toward the area’s community center after hearing his name called. As he neared his attacker, Serrano was shot three times, taking a bullet in his left arm, one in his left leg and a third in his forehead. The suspect then walked to a waiting motorcycle and sped away. Fellow boxer Victor Bisbal told reporters he tried without success to catch up to the motorcycle. Evangelista Cotto called Aeromed and the paramedics transported Serrano to the Rio Piedras hospital. Police continue to study the case.

Serrano was considered to be at the top of his class in the amateur boxing ranks from the 2004 Olympics and recently signed a contract with Top Rank. He debuted on the undercard of the Miguel Cotto-DeMarcus Corley fight, defeating William Vega, of Yauco, at 1:33 of the first round in a four-round fight. As an amateur, Serrano won gold at the 2002 Central American-Caribbean Games at junior flyweight.

Serrano’s family has requested that his fans send inspirational messages to

P.R. remains in Group III In Davis Cup play

Puerto Rico’s Davis Cup team dropped all three of its matches in second-round play to an inspired Bolivian squad, thus relegating the island team to Davis Cup Group III play in La Paz, Bolivia last week.

Puerto Rico will remain in the Group III Americas zone while Guatemala and Bolivia moved up to Group II. Gilberto Alvarez lost to Bolivia’s Paco Anhelo, 6-2, 6-2, while Gabriel Montilla dropped his match to Mauricio Estevariz, 7-5, 6-1. Anhelo and Estevariz teamed up to beat Alvarez-Montilla in doubles, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

"We lost the game on the service," said team delegate Gary Montilla in reference to the difficulties the Puerto Ricans had in La Paz’s altitude and on the red clay surface. "It was the double faults that did us in."



Puerto Rico fielded two boats last weekend at the 25th anniversary sailing of the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta and both emerged victorious in their class, with Sergio Sagramoso’s Lazy Dog, a Beneteau First 40.7, bringing home the overall prize. Lazy Dog is coming off a resounding Racer Cruiser class win two weeks ago at the St. Croix International Regatta and is the favorite to win the Culebra International Regatta next week in Culebra. Tom Hill, sailing Titan XII, won his class as well. More than 250 boats participated in the event.

Sagramoso said the St. Maarten regatta was the toughest he’s done in two years because the races were longer and there were six identical boats in his class.

"It was practically a one-design race because six of the 14 boats were exactly the same," said the veteran sailor who also races cars. "The races were much longer than we are accustomed to. On Saturday we had two races each lasting three hours and the second race was around the entire island."

Sagramoso said his next big race will be the Rolex International March 25-27 in St. Thomas.

Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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