Eighteen-year-old Michael Valentin is already a boxer of some pedigree. Indeed, in the course of his short, burgeoning career, he has won all of his four fights. After Valentin was awarded his latest victory on points, however, he used his chance to speak to the crowd to divulge a secret. And in the process, those around him found out what the young fighter had to battle every day.
Valentin is an up-and-coming boxer in the teen lightweight division. He had left high school in order to devote himself to his dream of being a fighter and had turned professional in June 2017. And up until 2018 he hadn’t lost a fight; the teenager had even won one of his bouts by knockout.
As a result, Valentin’s February 2018 matchup with Demetrius Wilson was a much-anticipated event. Furthermore, their fight was a supporting act to another larger bout between Ray Oliveira and Edwin Soto. This meant that a lot of people were there to witness young Valentin’s impressive victory.
And following his brilliant win, Valentin posed for photographs and gestured triumphantly to the crowd. The boxer, nicknamed Bling Bling, stood on the corner of the ring and raised his fists in delight. However, what happened next would arguably eclipse any headlines about his sporting prowess.
At first, Valentin took the microphone from the announcer so that he could say a few words. With the mic, he went on to pay his respects to the organisers of the event as well as acknowledging the crowd’s support. Surprisingly, though, the fighter then announced that he would be taking time out from the ring.
According to a March 2018 report from the Daily Record, Valentin said to the assembled crowd in Lincoln, Rhode Island, “I’m going to take a break after this fight. I know it’s going to hurt me, but, all my life, I dealt with adversity.” And it was then that he revealed a long-kept secret to the world.
As it turns out, the teenager had been dealing with something that, on reflection, made his victories all the more impressive. Valentin explained, “I always fought with a colostomy bag. And for everybody who thinks I’m lying, look at me right now, I got a colostomy bag.”
And with that, Valentin pulled down the front of his boxing shorts slightly to show that he was telling the truth. There was indeed a plastic bag on his stomach – an incredible sight on a professional sportsperson. But the young man wasn’t done talking yet.
Valentin went on, “I’m a f**king fighter. I fight for anything.” He added, defiantly, “After this fight, I’ll be going on to surgery. I’ll be out for about eight months, nine months to recover, but I’ll be back. I’m going to recover, I’ll be strong, and I’ll give it to anybody – I’m a f**king warrior.”
Then, a little later on, Valentin spoke to the fight’s commentators about his condition. He explained that he was born with Hirschsprung’s disease, a condition in which nerves aren’t present in the intestines. As a result, when he had been a baby, he had needed to have surgery that would change his life.
In particular, to combat Hirschsprung’s, surgeons had needed to cut away a part of the colon and form a stoma, to which Valentin in turn must attach a colostomy bag. The bag collects waste and is emptied and cleaned every day.
What’s more, by the age of 11, Valentin had already undergone an incredible ten surgeries. It apparently didn’t help him at school, either, since the other children displayed a lack of compassion about his medical condition. And on the live webcast after the fight, Valentin had explained that his health issue led to him being bullied.
However, as Valentin had told the crowd that night, he is taking a break from fighting so that he can undergo surgery. This treatment will hopefully mean that his intestines will function properly again. It should also result in him no longer having to wear a colostomy bag, which is likely to improve his career prospects.
Unfortunately, though, this revelation was met with censure by the governing authority. In what is likely to be a drawn-out case, they have suspended Valentin from boxing indefinitely. “I’m kinda mad right now,” he told reporters after hearing about the ban, according to Yahoo Sports.
Valentin has reportedly been banned because he didn’t explain the full extent of his condition to the relevant authorities. In particular, he apparently failed to tell them that he would need to wear a colostomy bag while competing. However, Valentin claims that he has a doctor’s letter stating that it’s okay for him to box.
This controversy has at least helped Valentin’s story to spread across the world. It also seems to have resonated with at least one other person who suffers from the intestinal condition Crohn’s disease. That’s judging by a post Valentin made on his Facebook page, where he displayed a message that someone from Australia had sent him.
That particular individual, named Lee Mason, wrote, “As a massive boxing fan and Crohn’s sufferer, it was amazing to see what you did in the ring after your last victory. You had me in tears as I felt your pain and your fighting spirit… the world needs heroes like you. Good luck with the surgery.”
But Valentin isn’t alone in his condition. Approximately one in every 5,000 children is affected by Hirschsprung’s disease, with symptoms often becoming apparent shortly after birth. As a consequence, babies can present symptoms such as green vomit and swollen bellies, which are obviously of great concern to any new parent.
One of the most testing aspects of Hirschsprung’s, however, is that it often occurs in conjunction with other genetic diseases such as Down syndrome. And, peculiarly, Hirschsprung’s has been found to be more prevalent in male babies than in female infants.
Even if Valentin is far from the only person who has had to deal with the effects of Hirschsprung’s disease, though, the way in which he told the world of his condition is unique. It certainly made fight commentator Michael Woods sit up and take note, as he would explain to news.com.au. Woods told the website, “Boxing is the theater of the unexpected. But what I saw Friday at the Twin River Casino in Rhode Island, while doing the blow-by-blow… well, I think now maybe I’ve seen it all.”