GERMANY — Rola el-Halabi cannot escape the memories of her stepfather trying to ruin her boxing career with a shotgun in April 2011, as her body is covered with a dozen scars from the shooting.
But while her stepfather, Hicham el-Halabi, will remain in prison until at least 2015, the Beirut-born El-Halabi has fought her way back to life and into the boxing ring in 2013.
El-Halabi, 28, was lucky, as apart from the scars she has fully recovered and can box without problems. In addition, she says she has become mentally stronger through the incident.
"Such an assault would have broken most people," El-Halabi says. "The year was turbulent, one of the most exhausting."
EL-Halabi returned into the ring in January, losing a lightweight world title bout against Italy’s Lucia Morelli. She moved up to light-welterweight, beat Hungary’s Dalia Vasarhelyi in August for the World Boxing Federation world title and defended it the following month against Georgia’s Soplo Pudkarazde.
Outside the ring, her autobiography, Stehaufmaennchen (someone who always bounces back), was published and, in October, she married her boyfriend Kosta.
The big unknown was how she would cope with having to tell the story of the fateful April 1 2011 shooting, over and over again. How her stepfather, whom she had dismissed as manager earlier in the year, shot her in the hand, both feet and both knees ahead of a world title bout against Bosnia’s Irma Adler, in order to ruin her career because he did not approve of her boyfriend and wanted her to separate from him.
But El-Halabi says telling her tale in fact helped her get over it. "I managed to stand back. The more people I told it, the more people I was able to give strength. That lifts you up because you don’t retreat and can deal with it in an open way," she says.
El-Halabi credits her family, her dog but most of all her husband, who "was on my side unconditionally". However, still missing is an apology from her stepfather, which she says could lead her to forgive him and close the issue for good.
A simple letter saying "hey, I messed up" would do for El-Halabi but she is not quite sure whether that will ever happen. It is also uncertain what will happen when he is released from prison, in 2015 at the earliest if his six-year sentence is cut short.
"He has this illness named pride," says El-Halabi. "The uncertainty scares me because I cannot judge the situation and his behaviour (when he free again)."
But first comes 2014, when the next title defence is scheduled for April against a yet to be determined opponent. El-Halabi plans to "top" 2013 but she has already won the biggest fight — the return into a normal life.