Nick Casal has a lot more to smile about these days.
The up and coming welterweight boxer was brutally beaten May 12, the night before the biggest fight of his career with Rusian Provodnikov. His injuries forced the cancellation of the fight with the Russian boxer and his contention for a world title in a nationally televised event.
But Casal has recovered and said he started training three weeks ago. He plans to get back in the ring next month, and he will do it with a brand-new smile, provided by Gentle Dentistry of Lancaster, which donated approximately $12,000 in dental work to the injured boxer.
“It was a great gesture,” Casal told The Buffalo News. “A smile helps my confidence, and I know I am ready to get back in the ring next month. I am ready to go for the title.”
Casal, who will be 27 at the end of the month, said the attack stopped him for about six months. But he said he has been medically cleared to go back in the ring and hopes to compete for a world title by March.
Casal was beaten with what he believes was a crowbar at a home in the Town of Niagara on May 12, struck from behind in the back of the head,
He said he had about 20 staples and needed 500 stitches to close deep wounds in the head and also suffered injuries to his right arm.
But the fighter in Casal remained, and he said he remained conscious throughout the attack, though he adds “he wished he hadn’t.” He said doctors told him they were surprised he did not crack his skull, suffer a concussion or break any bones.
“I’ve got a pretty hard head,” Casal said. “I’m a fighter. I am used to getting hit.”
Michael P. Vicki, 31, of Portland Street, was charged by Town of Niagara police and has pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault. A trial has been set for Jan. 28.
Dr. Leslie Glassbrenner, the owner of Gentle Dentistry, said she heard about the attack from a co-worker in her office and reached out to Casal to offer help.
“It was an awful thing to have happen,” Glassbrenner said of the attack. She said it was her decision to reach out to him and see what was happening with his teeth. The work, which was done over several appointments, was performed by Dr. Anastasia DePounti.
Casal did not have insurance.
“It is hard to get insurance when you take punches for a living,” he said.
Fundraisers helped to pay for some of his medical costs, but Glassbrenner said that sometimes teeth are overlooked after an injury.
She said he had fractures in the teeth, and Casal said he had some chips from a fall in the assault. Both Casal and Glassbrenner said the injuries were not there prior to his assault and had not been caused by boxing, since mouth guards are used to protect the teeth.
DePounti spent about five hours repairing the fractures, putting crowns on the teeth and doing basic preventative care.
“It was an opportunity for him to repair anything that was damaged and give him back his self-confidence,” said Glassbrenner. “He was feeling kind of down in the dumps and was considering not getting back in the ring, so I think we helped him get his confidence back and now he is going to camp [to box] in Vegas.
Casal said doctors told him he should have died, but he said now he is 100 percent healed.
“I don’t take anything for granted anymore. It has opened my eyes,” Casal said of his outlook after the attack.
Casal’s father, Ray, owner of Casal’s Boxing Club, said he will never forget what Gentle Dentistry did for his son.
“He smiles a lot more,” Ray Casal said.
His son has a 23-4 record since he went professional in 2004 and won 110 matches as an amateur, but Ray Casal said he will be watching his son closely in the ring.
“His biggest fight was just surviving the attack and not being laid up or crippled. ... He’s been through a lot of issues with that assault and probably thought he would never fight again. Now, if he does things right, he may compete for another world title,” the elder Casal said.