Nick Blackwell: Former British middleweight champion out of coma after sparring injuries
Ex-British middleweight champion Nick Blackwell has woken from a coma after being injured in a sparring session.
Blackwell had surgery to reduce swelling on his brain after returning to sparring in November.
The 26-year-old Englishman retired earlier this year after being placed in an induced coma following a fight with Chris Eubank Jr.
A British Boxing Board of Control hearing into the unsanctioned sparring session will be held in January.
"This is the start of a long old process. It is going to be a long road to recovery," Gary Lockett, Blackwell's former trainer, told BBC Wales Sport.
"But at this point I think we are winning. It is more than we hoped for."
Blackwell woke from his coma on Friday, 16 December. He will now undergo a period of physiotherapy and will require an operation in 2017.
"We've been hoping he would get to this stage but didn't think it would be for another few months yet," Blackwell's father, John, told the Wiltshire Times.
"There's still a long road ahead, though, and he'll need another operation sometime next year to replace the part of his skull which is missing, but we're just so happy to see him smiling again."
An initial BBBofC investigation found Blackwell was involved in a gym sparring session with a licensed boxer on 22 November.
The boxer who sparred with Blackwell, Hasan Karkardi, and the trainer who oversaw the session, Liam Wilkins, have been suspended for their roles in the incident.
His former promoter, Frank Warren, described the circumstances that led to Blackwell's injuries as "total madness", and called for all those involved to have their licences revoked.
'Christmas miracle' for Blackwell family
In a post on Facebook, the girlfriend of Blackwell's brother, Chantelle Spong, said his family had been told at one point that the boxer "would be paralysed or he would never wake up".
She wrote: "A few days ago we had the Christmas miracle we've been wanting so badly to happen...We walked into the hospital expecting to see Nick staring blankly at us, but instead he was watching telly and really trying to get words out to talk to people."
On his decision to take part in the sparring session, she said: "We don't know what was going through Nick's mind at the time but we do know boxing was Nick's life and full time job for 10 years, it was all he ever knew and it got ripped away from him.
"If Nick thought for one second that he didn't feel 100% we know in our hearts he would have never stepped foot in that ring to spar.
"His family and friends are his world and we know he never wanted us to go through this again, but he genuinely thought he was at full health."
"Merry Christmas to the Blackwell family who have been truly amazing these past few weeks. I couldn't think of a family more deserving to be happy than you lot."
'Can't let go'
Lockett believes Blackwell's love for the sport played a part in his decision to spar again and says other boxers make the same decision and put their health at risk.
"Nick has been a fool for what he has done, but we won't stop caring about him because of that," he said.
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"The worrying thing is that Nick is not the only boxer who has retired with a head injury who ends up sparring again.
"There are others out there. You get more confident again after feeling good, following a spell away from the ring and they can't let boxing go."