(APR 8) On April 1, 2011, in
Berlin, Germany, Photojournalist Uwe Betker covered the boxing
had the tragic shooting of
female boxer World Champion Rola El Halabi. She was just
about to go into the ring to fight for an IBF championship bout,
when her stepfather shot her in the
dressing room. I conducted a One on One interview with Uwe
Betker, to get a "Behind the Scenes" look at what occurred this
TL Fox: Uwe, before the boxing event took
place on 04/01/11, did you go to any of the pre-fight coverage
as the press conference or the weigh-in? If, so had you seen Rola El-Halabi and or her alleged offender, the stepfather
before the fight?
I didn’t make the pre-fight coverage, simply,
because I live far away from Berlin. There was only a few pre-fight coverages of this show in the media. The main
event of the show (an IBF middleweight eliminator with Sam
Soliman and Benjamin Simon) was cancelled because of an injury
TL Fox: As you covered the two women's bouts on the card
that night, where Rola was shot by her stepfather-- did you see her at
anytime the night of the fight with her body guards beforehand?
U. Betker: I saw her quite large entourage wearing
all the same black team members' t-shirt.
I’m sure, I saw Rola El-Halabi through the window though, in her locker
room, when I came to the hall. This hall is situated in Berlin Karlshorst. Originally it is the ticket hall of a trotting
track; you can bet there on horses. The curtain was not
completely closed. I didn't see her in the hall, during the show.
This surprised me a little bit, because she had to make one of
the last two fights of the show. Being at the end of the card
other fighters came out and sat somewhere near the locker rooms
to watch some fights. The co-promoter Eva Rolle told me later, that she was
surprised about Rola coming to the show with two personal
TL Fox: When Rola was shot, just prior to fighting her opponent, how did
you learn that there was a shooting that had taken place----OR at
the time was it a "hush-hush" situation?
I sat ringside, opposite of the locker rooms. Ozlem Sahin was
celebrating her victory and many things happened nearly the same
time. First I heard the shrilly screams of a woman, but I
couldn’t understand the words and I couldn’t locate the place
where it came from. Then two members of the El-Halabi team
caught my attention: One shouted something down from the gallery
to his colleague and he pointed with his arm towards the locker
rooms. The only thing I heard was the name Rola. Then both
rushed down there.
At the very same moment turmoil started on the opposite side of
the ring. I first thought there were brawls. The typical wholes
in the crowd were visible. Then spectators started to flee in my
direction that means towards the exit. One of the first escapees
cried: “Somebody shot!” Nearly at the same time the ring
announcer made the announcement that everybody has to leave the
TL Fox: When you were covering the other fights that night, and Rola was
set to come out, did anyone, including yourself hear the
gunshots? If so, was there any panic situations taking place
within the arena?
It still surprises me, that I didn’t hear any gunshots. The hall
is not very large, but I heard nothing. There wasn't real panic
neither. The spectators quickly left but they did not rush.
TL Fox: Did you learn about the details as to where Rola had been shot
or did you learn more about the shooting from what the local
media was reporting?
I didn’t really leave the venue. Next to the exit of this hall
is a restaurant which I entered. This restaurant is only
separated with glass doors from the hall. Nearly all officials
and some fighters and corner men met there. It became the
meeting point for - let me call it – the inner circle of the
Fighters, corner men, the promoter Eva Rolle, the
Arena spokesman Malte Muller-Michaelis and many others came in.
Nearly every minute we learned some new information. Everybody
who came in brought some new details. Some fighters were still
in the locker room area speaking by cell phone with friends in
the restaurant. Even the small brother of Rola El-Halabi, and I
strongly believe he is a native son of Roy El-Halabi, the
stepfather of Rola, was in this restaurant. He tried very hard
not to burst into tears but stay brave.
So I learned quite a lot about
the shooting. I am sure that some
of the initial news was a little exaggerated but I was informed well.
What I heard there was that Rola was shot several times and that
two of her security men were wounded too.
TL Fox: What was the reaction of the crowd upon learning that Rola would
not be fighting that night?
There was no specific reaction. Rola's fight was not the main
event. The crowd was lucky just to escape. Leaving the hall, I
think, everybody knew that the show was over and that something
awful had happened.
TL Fox: Did you see a lot of police or medical personnel at the event
after the incident happen, or was that concealed from the public
when the incident took place?
I was surprised to see so many policemen coming very quickly,
first ordinary policemen (in green uniforms) and shortly
afterwards those special units (in black with helmets and
automatic rifles). Two ambulance vehicles already stood by the
locker rooms. It was all public.
TL Fox: Have there been a lot of media attention as of this time about Rola, and if so, have they given some solid updates as to her
Media did not report very much about the shooting and about Rola.
What I know is that until Thursday, Rola was treated in the
intensive care unit in a hospital in Berlin. This Friday she
will be transferred to a hospital in her hometown Ulm. They made
three surgeries: her right hand, one knee and both feet. At the
moment nobody knows if Rola will be able to box again.
TL Fox: Were you ever aware of the problems with the stepfather, Roy
El-Halabi prior to this shooting?
Roy El-Halabi was at the beginning a strong supporter of Rola.
He was the manager and the financier of her career. To my
knowledge, he brought
her into the shows and he financed his own shows. He paid the
opponents and so on.
But on the other hand he was also always
part of the problem that Rola didn’t get a promotional
contract. One promoter once told me, that Roy is the reason why
nobody wanted to give Rola a contract. I was told that Roy
always made too much pressure.
Recently Rola announced that Roy is not her manager any more.
Roy’s reaction was to tell the press, that he had the duty to
keep Rola from boxing. He affirmed Rola’s health was not good
enough to keep on fighting. Roy told stories about Rola breaking
down several times during her training sessions. Rola always
contradicted all his statements.