This was it -- one of Ishika Lay's final steps, a final opportunity, to realize her dream of making the women's U.S. Olympic boxing team.
But during the second round of a bout at the National Police Athletic League Boxing Championship at the downtown SeaGate Convention Centre on Tuesday, the 32-year-old boxer from Jacksonville, Fla., collapsed.
Ringside doctors were at her side within mere seconds, instantly motioning for paramedics, at the other end of the auditorium, for help.
Peter Reyes, a boxer from Brooklyn, N.Y., said Ms. Lay was out for several minutes. "It looked real dramatic," he said. "She was laid out. Wasn't moving and everyone was gathered around."
Ms. Lay was rushed to Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, where a hospital spokesman said yesterday she was in critical condition. A Toledo police incident report described her injuries as life-threatening.
When the boxer, who picked up the sport in 2004, went down, she had been in the ring for about six minutes -- the second round was nearly over. During the match, Ms. Lay and her opponent exchanged blows, but close to the end of the second round, Ms. Lay knocked the other woman in the nose, causing it to bleed, Mr. Reyes said.
Ms. Lay, who won the first round and was on pace to win the second, stood in a corner and "looked fatigued," he said.
When her opponent came back from her bloody nose, the woman started to hit Ms. Lay about the face and stomach, Mr. Reyes said.
While in the ring, participants wear head gear.
The stop at the single-elimination championships in Toledo was of epic proportions -- the winners, three from each weight class, will go on to qualify for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for women's boxing. It is the first time women's boxing is an official Olympic sport.
There were 24 women in Ms. Lay's 132-pound weight class.
Although there were three fights happening at the same time, Mr. Babcock would tune into Ms. Lay's fight on occasion -- he had heard she was "special," and that she was determined to make that 2012 Olympic team bound for London.
Mr. Babcock was turning to Ms. Lay's match just as she collapsed. She staggered, her left leg "crumpled behind her," and she fell on her side.
Ms. Lay's opponent wasn't even within striking range -- maybe three or four feet away.
"In my opinion, it was not from a blow to the head," Mr. Babcock said. "No one saw a blow to the body at the time of her collapse."
According to a Toledo police report, Ms. Lay's trainer, Linda Banister, said Ms. Lay was in a sparring match about 10 days prior and took several blows to the head and face. Ms. Lay had complained of severe headaches since, the report states.
"This is the most serious injury we've experienced personally," Mr. Babcock said of National PAL tournaments.
The report also cites a motorcycle crash that Ms. Lay, a breast cancer survivor, was in nine years ago. Since the crash, she has undergone multiple surgeries. Doctors told the boxer in 2002 she would never walk again as a result of the crash, according to her Web site.
But that wouldn't stop the life-long athlete, who received a track scholarship from Purdue University. Within a year, she regained use of her legs.
In 2003, Ms. Lay joined the Jacksonville Dixie Blues, a women's professional football team. In the past year, she was named an All-American wide receiver by the Women's Football Alliance.
Three years later, Ms. Lay started boxing. In 2008, she was named the Light Welterweight Ringside World Champion and, in 2010, she won the North Florida Golden Gloves in the 132-pound lightweight class.
Mr. Babcock said the bout seemed typical and normal prior to the collapse and, seeing her go down and being told that her critical condition has not changed, has been tough.
"It's a very tragic situation," Mr. Babcock said. "It's something really nobody likes to deal with. Hopefully she becomes more stable."
After the collapse, tournament officials hosted a prayer vigil for Ms. Lay. Mr. Babcock said all tournament boxers were there. Yesterday, they observed a moment of silence.
"Everyone is concerned," Mr. Babcock said. "We wish her a speedy recovery."
Contact Taylor Dungjen at: email@example.com or 419-724-6054.