Bullfighter gored through head returns to ring

A leading bullfighter who was gored through the head late last year returned to the ring last night in the Spanish town of Olivenza in spite of having lost the sight of one eye and being unable to chew food.

Juan José Padilla suffered horrific injuries when a bull’s horn pierced his lower jaw and came out through his left eye socket on Oct 7. The speed of his recovery has astonished fans.

Few who saw him stumbling from the ring and screaming “I can’t see!” could have imagined he would return to fight another day. The left side of his face had to be reconstructed with mesh and titanium plates.

“I know I can do it,” Padilla, 38, said. “The Padilla coming back is the same Padilla as always. The heart, the kidneys, everything is 100%. If it were not so I would not come back, out of respect for the profession and for my family.”

He wears a patch over his left eye, however, which could increase the danger whenever the bull passes on that side. He insisted he was ready, having killed 10 bulls in training sessions on private farms.

“I’m somebody who has always accepted the risks of my profession, as well as its rewards,” he said. He went on to say his parents had not wanted him to return to the ring, but his wife and two children were supportive. He intended to wear a “suit of lights” of green and gold to symbolise hope.

The first thing he would do when he entered the ring would be to look at the sky in “gratitude for this new opportunity”.

Padilla’s injury followed another accident, images of which were broadcast around the world, when Julio Aparicio was pierced through the throat in 2010.

Opponents of bullfighting, of which there are a growing number in Spain, focus on cruelty to animals rather than danger to bullfighters. The sport has come under pressure and has seen cuts in public subsidies. Catalonia stopped bullfighting in January after the regional parliament voted to ban it.

However, the election of a conservative central government led by Mariano Rajoy, a bullfighting enthusiast, has cheered aficionados. One sign of the swing was the decision by Spain’s national television last month to resume broadcasts of bullfights, after abandoning coverage in 2007.


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