One month after the ousted head of the New York State Athletic Commission bashed the state's ongoing investigation of a tragic boxing match in 2013, the attorney for disabled former heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov filed suit Wednesday to compel the New York inspector general's office to turn over evidence or provide results from its probe. Since the investigation into the fight and its aftermath was announced 31 months ago, its scope has reportedly expanded to include the NYSAC itself.
According to the complaint, no evidence received to date by attorney Paul Edelstein indicates any investigative activity in nearly two years. Edelstein asserts he is entitled under the state's Freedom of Information Law to receive all material and conclusions drawn during that time as he pursues legal action over the Nov. 2, 2013, bout that left Abdusalamov brain damaged, paralyzed on his right side and unable to walk or talk.
A spokesman for the inspector general told Outside the Lines that the office had received Wednesday's filing but does not comment on pending litigation.
"If I give up, my family doesn't have a chance." Bakanay Abdusalamova
Former NYSAC executive director David Berlin sent a May 16 letter to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying he learned three days earlier that he was being removed from the position. When Berlin took the job in March 2014, his letter states, the inspector general's office said it would soon conclude its investigation and release its report. Berlin's letter -- which is cited in the Edelstein complaint, says that failing to complete the probe after more than two years suggests a "mindset that leads the government to suppress what are sure to be negative findings about the Commission."
Undefeated Mike Perez was the victor by unanimous decision in the 10-round Theater at Madison Square Garden brawl that left Abdusalamov's face a bloody mess. Commission doctors examined the previously unbeaten native of the Russian Republic of Dagestan and stitched a laceration above his left eye. The doctors said, according to the boxer's cornermen, that within about a week of flying home to Florida he should see a doctor for removal of the sutures and X-rays of a suspected facial fracture. The doctors didn't send him to a hospital in the on-site ambulance.
After blood was found in his urine sample, an increasingly unsteady and nauseated Abdusalamov went with his handlers by taxi to an emergency room. Diagnosed with a large blood clot in his brain, he underwent surgery, suffered multiple strokes and was in a coma for weeks. It was 10 months until he could join his family in their new home in Connecticut.
On behalf of Abdusalamov and his family, Edelstein is suing the five athletic commission doctors, the referee and the inspector from the 2013 fight, alleging recklessness, gross negligence and medical malpractice. Depositions have begun and two more are scheduled this month. The athletic commission countersued five of Abdusalamov's former handlers -- two of whom have had their cases dismissed.
Wednesday's filing in state supreme court quotes two medical experts who in February 2014 told the inspector general's investigators that in their view, commission doctors should have sent Abdusalamov to the hospital after the fight.
Abdusalamov, 35, continues to receive physical and occupational therapy and has gained weight and strength, but his condition has changed little -- and his prognosis not at all -- since Outside the Lines visited the family before Father's Day last year.
"I know what the doctors are saying about expectations, but I'm still waiting and hoping he'll reassume his role as head of the house so things can go back to the way they were," his wife, Bakanay Abdusalamova, 29, said through an interpreter.
"Baka" said that if the weather is good on Sunday -- and if her husband of 12 years is feeling good -- she's optimistic that their family will be able to celebrate Father's Day with a picnic in the park, as they used to do all the time.
Lately, the nights are worse than ever. Especially late at night.
That's when the 6-foot-3 Abdusalamov gets aggressive, continually and loudly banging the metal railings of his bed and anything else he can reach. He also disconnects the line that collects his urine. Baka said she has her hands full trying to pacify him and keep up with changing his clothing and bed linens.
She also tries to hustle their three daughters -- Shakrizat (10), Saygibat (7) and Patimat (3) -- to bed before their father's condition gets out of control, so they can sleep relatively undisturbed.
If Baka is lucky, she can be asleep by 3 a.m. and get about three hours of rest with limited interruptions.
Last November, just over two years after Abdusalamov's ill-fated final fight, Baka again dealt with devastation. Her brother, Murtazalayev Abdulayevich, died in a car accident in Dagestan.
"He always loved Mago and looked up to him like an older brother," she said. "And he gave me constant emotional support" after Abdusalamov was injured.
Her brother left a wife and two young children. This Friday would have been his 28th birthday.
"I talk to his wife all the time and she tells me how proud he was of me and of how I handled what happened to Mago," Baka said. "She is like a sister to me and we talk often and support each other -- our situations are different, but there are similarities."
Baka said her two older daughters often think about how different their lives have been since the night in 2013 that robbed them of so much. Shakrizat and Saygibat see their mother trying to fill their father's shoes, including when she runs around with them in the park as he loved to do.
"We miss our daddy," they say to the caretaker who assists with Abdusalamov, according to Baka. But to avoid upsetting their mom, they're careful to avoid saying that to her.
"When they talk to me," Baka said, "they usually bring up good memories, like when our oldest recalled recently that Mago bought her a toy after she got a school commendation."
A devout Muslim, Baka said that prayers and good wishes from the public, and her own hope and faith, help sustain her. So does a simple reality: "If I give up, my family doesn't have a chance," she said.