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Falls boxer nearly killed in severe beating; Attacker ambushes Nick Casal; televised fight next month canceled

Ray Casal, father of up-and-coming Niagara Falls boxer Nick Casal, thanks God his son is alive and except for the hundreds of staples and stitches in his head -- is OK.

Nick, ever the boxer, is already thinking about getting back into the ring. Plans for a televised fight next month on ESPN2, however, are canceled.

Casal, 21, a bona fide junior welterweight contender, was ambushed and beaten unconscious with some type of metal weapon at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday in the Belden Center neighborhood. He nearly died twice.

"This guy's intent was to kill him," Ray Casal said Monday night of his son's attacker.

Family members said Casal was responding to a call from his new girlfriend who asked to be picked up. Casal arrived at a Portland Street address that, unbeknownst to him, belonged to his girlfriend's ex-boyfriend.

Casal's first inkling something was about to happen was when he was walking away with his girlfriend and saw "her eyes get real big."

The suspect -- described as a nearly 6 1/2 -foot, 300 pound male -- was still being sought by police late Monday. He apparently waited for Casal in the garage, brandishing some type of metal implement, and then went on a sneak attack, according to Ray Casal.

He said his 145-pound son was struck by the assailant 15 or more times in the head and body.

"All of it was coming from his blind side," said Ray Casal, adding that his son's boxing instincts kept him on his feet during the attack and may have saved his life.

"They're trained to take blows," Casal's father said. "If he would have laid down, he probably would have been killed."

The suspect eventually fled the scene. Casal, who was apparently knocked unconscious in the attack, was then taken back to his home by his girlfriend.

Police were called to the scene of the fight by a witness, but by the time they arrived, only one person was left.

At some point, medical assistance was summoned when Casal's wounds wouldn't stop bleeding.

He was rushed to Erie County Medical Center, where hospital staff summoned police. Officers spoke with Casal only briefly before he was rushed into surgery for his injuries.

For a few hours, doctors sutured numerous deep cuts to the side and back of Casal's head. By the time doctors were finished, the young boxer's wounds were closed by more than 300 staples and stitches.

Still, "miraculously," he suffered no brain damage, his father reported Monday night.

"It's a miracle, boy," said Ray Casal. "I've been around a long time. I've never seen anything but something like this lead to a lot of problems."

Ray Casal said "it was a very emotional weekend" for the family.

"It was a shock how it happened," he said, explaining that Casal wasn't looking for a fight, had not been drinking and "wasn't doing anything wrong."

The family is just thankful Casal survived without more serious injury.

"It's going to be all right," said Ray Casal, who admits he's "not even thinking about" his son's future boxing career for now.

But Casal is.

"He's talking about getting back," his father said.

Casal will need to wait at least 10 days to get the stitches removed. From there, doctors probably will require him to rest for at least a month or two, his father said. Then, he might be able to train but likely won't be able to take a hit for up to five months more.

"Right now, the focus is on getting better," Ray Casal said.

Casal is a former world amateur champion with a current record of 22-4-1, with 17 of his 22 wins by knockout.

Casal was to be the main event of ESPN's Friday Night Fights on June 29 at the Seneca Niagara Events Center against Ruslan Provodnikov (21-1-0) of Beryozov, Russia, in a 10-round match. That fight has now been postponed.

Casal sent out a Facebook message to his fans saying that he's OK, except for his many stitches.

His promoter, Mario Yagobi of Boxing360, released a statement saying, "I just want to thank God Nick Casal is alive and we ask everyone to pray for his health and full recovery."

Ray Casal, in a Facebook update, called his son "tough kid."

"The doctors said he will make a full recovery and there is no damage to his skull or brain," he reported, quipping: "Hard heads run in my family."

"Just some rest time and back to life," he added. "Thank you God and all my friends for all the prayers it really works and no one can tell me or Nick different."

Various online accounts of the assault, including images of Casal's split head, said the assault may have involved someone associated with Casal's former girlfriend and the use of a golf club.

Town of Niagara Police Chief H. James Suitor, however, confirmed police did interview Nick Casal at ECMC at about 7:30 p.m. Monday. Authorities were still busy sorting out facts.

"We're still investigating it," Suitor said late Monday.

The chief explained police believe there was a single assailant in the attack and were still searching for the "person of interest" in the case.

"We're actively trying to locate that individual," Suitor said.

The identity of the "person of interest" has not been disclosed.

Suitor said police have been interviewing witnesses in the case and have spoken with the Niagara County District Attorney's Office although no charges had been filed in the case and no warrants had been issued as of late Monday.

News Sports Reporter Miguel Rodriguez contributed to this report.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com and stan@buffnews.com