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Elliot Worsell hears the astonishing story of Dan Sarkozi, who is preparing to return after recovering from a stroke and heart surgery
THE BOXER: Sarkozi stands in the ring, unaware that the biggest fight of his life lies ahead
MONITORED: Sarkozi puts on a brave face as he finds himself in hospital

HE was due to fight an opponent with a name, a face and a record in less than two weeks but was first struck down by a different kind of enemy. An enemy unexpected, unwelcome and unidentifiable.

The original fight was scheduled, so allowed for preparation and a plan. The latest was not. Instead, the bell was an alarm, the ring a bed at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, and the rules were as follows: should the number on a heart rate machine drop below 40, an alarm would be triggered, and Dan Sarkozi would be woken by nurses at his bedside.

Predictably, given Sarkozi is an athlete with a low resting heart rate, the machine read 38 and his sleep was interrupted. “Look,” he told the fleet of nurses by his bed, “you’re just going to have to turn it off for me. I’m fine.”

It was soon seven o’clock in the morning and the first round was over. Sleep was rubbed from his eyes as six nurses, preparing for handover, rubbed theirs for different reasons. Never, they said, had they seen numbers so low and a patient so alive. They asked him if he was okay and Sarkozi confirmed he was. He then explained he was a fit and healthy professional boxer in full-time training and that the biggest fight of his life was just 10 days away.

“This,” he said, “is normal for me.”

What isn’t normal is slurring. It might be considered normal for a boxer of a certain vintage, but it was anything but normal for Dan Sarkozi five days before his 29th birthday and 12 fights into a professional career. Slurring was something he feared later in life. Something they all fear later in life. Yet, on November 21, 2017, Sarkozi, a superwelterweight, slurred prematurely and couldn’t understand why. He had taken punches but not many. He had battled through rounds but not many.

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About Boxing News

BIG DRAMA SHOW – Golovkin’s future hangs in the balance BARNBURNER! – Spence and Porter in fight of the ages BENN v BIKA – The miserable plot thickens MUCH, MUCH MORE – Dan Sarkozi, Callum Smith, Daniel Dubois