Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 | 8:13 p.m.
Z Gorres’ eyes are open.
Once shut, as he lay motionless on a canvas inside of a boxing ring after collapsing, those same eyes today see a new life.
“I’m feeling better,” Gorres said. “I can walk now with the walker.”
Walking again is something the Filipino boxer was unsure of in the immediate aftermath of a Nov. 23 victory over Juan Melendez at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay.
After his unanimous decision over Melendez, Gorres took a lap around the ring, waving his country’s flag in celebration.
But moments later, he lost his legs and fell to the ground. The left side of the 27-year-old’s body was paralyzed.
After spending the past two months under the watchful eye of fellow Filipino Dr. Benito Calderon, Gorres will take in a boxing match for the first time since his injury Saturday night.
He will do so in support of his friend Nonito Donaire (22-1, 14 KO), who will defend his interim WBA super flyweight title against Manuel Vargas (26-4-1, 11 KO) at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Their friendship began in the most unlikely of ways, as Gorres defeated Donaire’s older brother, Glenn. Naturally, little brother Nonito wanted to exact his revenge.
“I was so angry,” Donaire recalls. “I wanted to kill him.”
The two later met in the Philippines, getting to know each other and earning respect for one another. The night Gorres was injured, Donaire happened to be in Las Vegas and rushed to the hospital the following day.
“It was a picture that can inspire you or turn you away from boxing,” he said. “It wasn’t pleasant, to see a man filled with dreams, courage, discipline, and who worked hard for everything he had. To see him like that it hit me hard.”
But Gorres' injury has inspired Donaire.
“For this fight,” Donaire said, “I’m going to give him something that in the very least can help him, because I know he can't go in there again.”
It has been a long three months for Gorres, but the difficult time was not completely devoid of hope.
“He went from a paralyzed left side to a wheelchair to walking with a walker,” said UNLV assistant boxing coach Frank Slaughter, who has helped raise funds for Gorres.
“It’s very heartwarming to see a guy we could have lost come along so well.”
It's a big change, Calderon said, since the first time he left University Medical Center and could barely stand up.
Gorres spent more than a month at the hospital after undergoing emergency brain surgery the night of the fight. He suffered a form of hemorrhaging on the left side of his brain.
“The progress he’s shown us has been very good,” Calderon said. “Getting him to walk is our main goal and he might be able to start walking in the next three months.”
That is a welcome synopsis for Gorres after doctors first speculated it would be between six or eight weeks before Gorres would see those kinds of results.
The doctor said a full recovery, however, is still in question because of a stroke he suffered during the collapse.
“He’s been able to gain his left arm back, but we’re still working on his lower left leg,” Calderon said. “When I first saw him, he could barely move it. But after some rehab, he can already start to move the leg.”
“That’s a good sign.”
But the best sign of Gorres’ recovery comes from his eyes.
On Sunday, he will fly back to the Philippines to be with his family and, most importantly, his four children.
“I can’t wait to see the kids when I get home,” he said slowly. “I’m really excited.”
But Slaughter said "excited" isn’t the word.
“When he talks about the kids,” Slaughter said, “his eyes light up. His smile stretches from ear to ear and you can see it in his mood, in his conversation. The kids are a big part of that.”
Calderon will accompany Gorres on the trip, back to his hometown of Cebu and has already communicated with a doctor in the central Philippines who will continue his rehabilitation.
“The biggest thing for him right now is to be with his family,” Calderon said. “That will push him to work harder to be able to walk.”
“He says he’ll probably be able to walk when he sees his children.”