Female Boxer Dies After 'Golden Gloves' Match in Denver

A college teacher who won a regional boxing title three years ago died from a head injury she sustained in a Golden Gloves (search) competition, apparently becoming the first woman to die in a sanctioned bout.

Becky Zerlentes (search), 34, of Fort Collins, died Sunday afternoon, Howard Daniel of the Denver County coroner's office said Monday.

The preliminary cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head, but results from an autopsy conducted Monday were not immediately available, according to USA Boxing (search) spokeswoman Julie Goldsticker.

Zerlentes was hit by a punch from Heather Schmitz (search), and despite wearing protective headgear fell unconscious during the third round of a bout late Saturday, Goldsticker said.

Physicians jumped into the ring, but Zerlentes never regained consciousness and died several hours later. Zerlentes had a 6-4 record.

Zerlentes, a geography teacher at Front Range Community College (search), had won a regional Golden Gloves in 2002, said Jeanne DePriest, chief of officials for Colorado Golden Gloves and the manager of the team with which Zerlentes boxed, Hard Knocks.

She had taken a break from boxing after that win, but then recently resumed the sport, DePriest said.

"This is hard for us," DePriest said. "Everybody in the world loved Becky; she was a very positive woman. Boxing is a one-on-one in the ring, but we are all a team at Hard Knocks."

USA Boxing is the sanctioning body for amateur boxing. The organization lifted its ban on women in 1993 and currently has 2,200 women as registered participants.

Women's boxing has reached new levels of popularity in recent years, thanks in part to the success of boxers like Muhammad Ali's daughter, Laila, and the Academy Award-winning movie "Million Dollar Baby" (search) with Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman.

Goldsticker said the last death at a USA Boxing event was in February 2001, when heavyweight Quinton Grier, 31, of Springfield, Ill., died after a match.

In June 2003, a 30-year-old Florida mother, Stacy Young (search), died after she was beaten into a coma during a "Toughman" (search) boxing competition that she had entered on impulse. The Toughman bouts weren't considered professional boxing and weren't regulated by the state of Florida. Young's death marked the 13th related to Toughman since the event began in 1979.