VILLANUEVA DE LA CONCEPCION, Spain – A 65-year-old retired bullfighter who had knee replacement and quadruple bypass surgery strutted back into the ring Sunday and won two trophies – the ears of the beast he had just slain.
The setting was anything but grand for Frank Evans: a lowest-possible-category ring in a hillside village practically in the middle of nowhere, with fans hardly as demanding as the tough aficionados of big time arenas like those in Madrid or Seville.
Still, there stood Spain’s only British bullfighter, a slightly built father of two and grandfather of five, taking on a black specimen weighing 925 pounds, as a merciless Andalusian sun blazed down on his balding pate.
“It felt fantastic. It is where I am happiest,” a sweaty Evans, who goes by the showbiz name “El Ingles” – the Englishman – said in a ringside interview after his first bout in three years.
Afterward, when judges awarded him the animal’s severed ears – recognition of a kill well-done – Evans smiled broadly as he circled the ring showing off his souvenirs, then gave them to a friend and waved his bloodied hands.
Evans retired in 2005 and had knee replacement surgery in 2006. He started training for a comeback, but then had a quadruple bypass last September.
Evans is the first to admit he is anything but a superstar, having never made it to the top-flight arenas. His four-decade career has been an endless quest for respect, seeking to overcome his status as a cultural oddity. He is the only Briton to have reached the profession’s top rank: matador.
Matadors kill animals weighing more than 1,300 pounds, as opposed to novices who fight younger, smaller animals.
Technically, until he fights an adult bull, Evans has not come out of retirement. But as far as he is concerned, he’s proven himself.
“For me it confirms to all these doubters that I am fit enough to do this,” he said.