Prichard Colón: ‘The Saddest Story in Boxing History’

BY: 
Catherine A. Jones
 | April 17, 2024

In less than 12 hours, a random Instagram post about “The saddest story in boxing history” received more than 9 million views. None of us could find a mention of why the reel was posted. There was no anniversary of the event, or any updates to report. But it was uploaded nonetheless. And, within a few hours, there were over 5,000 comments. So many people – like me – wanted to know more. Who was the young boxer falling down in the ring? What happened? Is he ok? Was it even real? After a bit of research, I found out that the boxer is Prichard “Digget” Colón. And, sadly, I came to the same conclusion as the original post did: he has one of the saddest stories in boxing history.

Prichard Colón: ‘Saddest story in Boxing History

 Prichard Colón was born in Maitland, Florida in 1992. The now 31-year-old former professional boxer began his journey in the sport at 10, when he moved to Orocovis, Puerto Rico, with his family. His father says he wanted his son to represent the island as a boxer. And so, young Colón fell in love with boxing, and, by 21, he turned pro.

Colón was undefeated, with 16 wins, before the match that ended his career. “He seamlessly bounced between English and Spanish, and smiled a gleaming, pearly white smile,” The Washington Post writes. “He was, surely in his and so many others’ minds, the next great Puerto Rican world champion.”

But a fateful match on October 17, 2015 forever altered his destiny.

The Fatal Blow

Facing off against 31-year-old Terrel Williams, Colón suffered his first loss. Yet, it wasn’t the defeat that would haunt him — it was the blows to the back of his head, brushed off by the referee and the doctor, Joe Cooper.

“Terrel Williams and Joe Cooper are the main villains in this story,” Joshua Shamash writes for Medium. “But there are others, including a doctor, the boxing federation, and even his own team. At the end, a young man was left to die alone. That he survived is miraculous. But his life, and his family’s life, was tragically altered.”

During the televised fight, Williams was seen repeatedly hitting the back of Colón’s neck, a move that’s illegal in the sport. Colón told the referee about the hits, and even told the ringside doctor, but no one stopped the match. They said he was fine to continue, despite the blows to his neck.

“Prichard was a kid who didn’t complain,” his father told the Washington Post two years later. “He just didn’t complain. But that day, he complained more than ever in his life.”

When the match was finally over, Colón was still standing. But everything changed in an instant. Right away, his mother, who was ringside and waiting for him after the match, knew something was wrong.

“I ask him in Spanish, ‘Papi, ¿cómo tú estás?‘ And he answered in English: ‘Mommy, I’m dizzy, I cannot see,'” Colón’s mother told ESPN.

Sadly, the impact caused bleeding in his brain, and once he reached his dressing room, he vomited and collapsed. An EMT was called, and Colón slipped into a coma for 221 days after an emergency surgery to heal his hemorrhaging brain.

The Long Road to Recovery

For those who love him, the 7-months of waiting while he was in a coma was unbearable. When he awoke, Colón lay in a vegetative state, unable to speak or respond. His family clung to hope, praying for a miracle. 

The World Boxing Council (WBC) later revealed that a fragment of his skull had collapsed, pressing against his brain. Urgent surgery followed, and a titanium plate replaced the damaged bone. Colón’s life had hung in the balance that fateful night, but he defied the odds.

“Colón appeared to have the skill and the will to fulfill the dreams that he first expressed as a little boy in this central Florida home where his parents raised him. Now he lies here as testament to the peril that accompanies prizefighting promise,” ESPN writes.

Today, Colón remains unable to speak, but is showing signs of hope. He attends physical therapy almost daily, as documented by his mother on Facebook. She even posted a smiling Colon reacting to the solar eclipse on April 8, outside their Florida home, in his wheelchair, wearing eclipse glasses and pointing at the sky.

The Prichard Colón Rule

Colón’s legacy extends beyond the record books. In 2016, the World Boxing Federation even issued the “Prichard Colón rule,” to prevent a referee from ignoring a boxer’s suffering in the ring.

“We are sure that the fighters do not understand and don’t know that these blows may threaten the medical integrity of their opponents,” World Boxing News explains. “For this reason, we are spreading and developing the global program in which we suggest boxing commissions instruct referees to follow the guidelines of zero tolerance to the “rabbit punches” through the rule ‘Prichard Colón.’”

As the boxing community grapples with its responsibilities, Colón’s name reminds boxers to use caution and compassion as well. Boxer Deontay Wilder recently went viral on TikTok in a reel where he wept when speaking of Colón’s suffering.

“This man will never be somebody’s father,” Wilder said while crying. “His family must care for him now, for the rest of his life.”

Williams and Colón Updates

And what about Williams, who many hold responsible for throwing that fateful blow to Colón’s neck that night? Not much is known these days, except for the random updates on social media.

“As far as Tyrell Williams goes, I think a lot of people will be happy to know that his boxing career is pretty much over. He hasn’t fought since , his last fight he lost by unanimous decision, and he’s pretty much been a ghost since then. I doubt that Tyrell Williams will ever fight again,” MMA Connect reports on YouTube.

For updates on Colón, new and old fans turn to social media, where we can find tiny miracles on TikTok and Facebook every so often. The former boxer is still not able to eat, speak or walk on his own. But, thanks to his efforts during weekly therapy, he’s improving.

Yes, Prichard Colón’s story may be one of the saddest in boxing history, but it’s certainly not over. He’s a figher, after all. And he’s still fighting.

Featured photo: The “Colon jab”: Prichard Colon throws a jab at Terrel Williams. (Suzanne Teresa / Premier Boxing Champions)

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