Davis finds faith in the face of tragedy
Davis finds faith in the face of tragedy
BY MIKE HOUSER
Appeal Sports Writer
(In New Zealand training to fight Shane Cameron for three heavyweight belts, Reno boxer Kelvin Davis broke his neck and back after falling off a bridge while doing his roadwork on June 24. This is the second of a two-part story detailing Davis’ ongoing ordeal.)
RENO – What had started out as “Koncrete” Kelvin Davis’ final night of roadwork in preparation for the biggest fight of his career – a heavyweight showdown with New Zealand’s Shane Cameron for his three regional belts – had now turned into a surreal nightmare for Davis, a former IBF cruiserweight champion.
Jogging down an unfamiliar path on a dark, rainy night, the 29-year-old Davis had leaped over a concrete rail to avoid a swerving van or truck. Instead of landing on firm ground on the other side of the rail, Davis instead plunged 25 feet off the narrow Greenhithe Bridge, in West Auckland.
After spending more than 90 minutes on the ground Davis, with his head lolling on his chest and spasms cutting through his back, climbed up a slippery, muddy slope, hoping to get help.
Unable to breathe properly, Davis couldn’t yell for assistance and several cars drove by before a motorist finally stopped and called for an ambulance.
Heading toward North Shore Hospital, the paramedics cutting off his clothes and inserting IVs, Davis told his rescuers where his older brother and trainer, Kelly Davis, was staying.
After arriving at the hospital, Davis underwent a series of X-rays and after Kelly arrived, the doctors told the shocked brothers the extent Kelvin had been injured.
He was fortunate to be alive, suffering a broken neck and had also broken his back. He had incurred a fractured C-1 vertebrae – the exact level that actor Christopher Reeves had broken, paralyzing him until he later died – as well a break at the C5-C6 level.
Davis’ T5-T6 injury was every bit as traumatic, his spine broken completely in two.
As the Pain Team arrived with its painkillers and morphine, reality began to dawn on a sedated Davis, who was told he’d have to undergo a high-risk operation, one that carried a strong possibility of leaving him paralyzed and ending his career.
Kelvin looked over at Kelly. Normally inscrutable, it was evident that Kelly was taking it hard as he looked down at his little brother, who was hooked up with several IVs, including a morphine machine.
Once capable of knocking out the world’s most skilled boxers with a single punch, Kelvin was now at the mercy of a team of surgeons and fate itself.
“He was hurt and devastated by that,” Kelvin said of his brother. “It was the first time that he wasn’t there to protect me since I was little. All we had worked for was over. He stayed there with me.”
Davis floated in and out of consciousness for two days. He thought he saw his mother, Frances Gaines, by his side, but the morphine was making him hallucinate.
Although Kelly had registered Kelvin into the hospital under a different name to avoid the media and visitors, the brothers were surprised by the appearance of Cameron, his father and a reporter.
Davis apologized to Cameron, saying he was just doing his roadwork and that the two could still fight. A stunned Cameron said nothing as he looked at his would-be opponent, who could now only move his eyes up at him.
After everyone had left the room so he could rest, a delusional Davis awoke, unable to breathe.
“This isn’t real,” Davis said. “This isn’t happening. I’ve got to fight tomorrow.”
Davis tore off his neck brace and attempted to get out of bed, just as a night nurse grabbed him and kept him from falling to floor.
Finally, on June 28, the day he was to face Cameron, Davis was taken out of bed and placed on a gurney. He looked up at Kelly, who had once exuberantly hoisted Kelvin into the air when he defeated Ezra Sellers for the IBF cruiserweight belt, on May 1, 2004.
“I didn’t see my brother acting emotional until they got me ready for the operating room,” Kelvin said. “He kissed me on the head. I gave him one of these,” Kelvin said, raising a determined fist and shaking it.
Kelvin, still spaced out on morphine, was wheeled into an area known in New Zealand as “The Theatre” – the operating room in American parlance. The misleading name caused Davis to smile. He was all set to see the new movie, “The Transformers.”
A WELCOME ARRIVAL
Davis underwent an 11-hour surgery on his neck and back. The doctor harvested some bone from Davis’ right front and left rear iliac crests and, along with eight titanium screws and three plates, stabilized and repaired the boxer’s broken spine.
When Kelvin woke up, he listened to what his brother had to say, just as he had done his entire life.
“My brother told me people with my injury give up hope,” Kelvin said. “They take morphine and forget how to try and give up their will. I stopped pressing the (morphine) button and stopped all medications.”
And soon thereafter, what was once a hallucination turned into reality as Kelvin’s mother arrived at the hospital.
“I was out of it,” Kelvin said. “I was tired. I saw her face and she rubbed my hand. She told me she wanted to bring her baby home.”
Kelly was reluctant to leave his brother, but listened to his mother. Before he left he showed her around the city and taught her to drive a stick shift on what seemed to be the wrong side of the road.
Meanwhile, Kelvin had his catheter removed – along with a pair of socks that helped pump blood through his legs and prevented blood clots – and, with his mother holding on to him, was up and walking down the hospital halls, drawing the attention of doctors and nurses alike.
At one point it took five nurses to roll Davis over to wash his back. Now he could get up on his own.
SOMEONE TO LEAN ON
Largely unrecognized in his own hometown, Davis was a celebrity in New Zealand.
“They supported me,” Davis said of the New Zealanders. “People came to see me. They treated me like I was still a champion. In America, in my own hometown, they don’t treat me that way. I didn’t know I was that big down there. People brought me a TV, a DVD player, a radio, fight tapes, movies. I was so happy they were so nice to me down there.”
Aside from a misguided article in a local newspaper, which quoted a sparring partner as saying Davis had appeared depressed before jumping off the bridge, the American boxer began hearing the word “miracle” and his name entwined in the same sentence.
Putting aside faith and religion, doctors were at a loss as to how Davis never struck his head in the fall, or that he was able to walk and flop his head around without injuring his spinal cord and nerves and ending up paralyzed.
“People want to say how my muscles saved me, but if you’re 250 pounds of muscle and fall 25 feet off a bridge, you’re mashed potatoes,” said the 5-foot-7, 205-pound Davis. “I didn’t bust my head and have brains all over. My girlfriend, Kat, said, ‘God cradled your head when you fell.'”
Davis received some more help, this time from someone human. New Zealand millionaire/businessman/boxing fan Bruce Plested stepped forward and gave Kelly, Kelvin and their mother a condominium to stay in during the duration of Davis’ ordeal.
Boxer Ed Mahone, promoter Dean Lonegan, John Bloster and Cameron’s grandfather all donated their time and equipment to make Davis’ stay more comfortable.
Davis returned to Reno on July 8 and visited the Word of Life church on Sunday.
“I gave my first testimony in 20-plus years and told the church that I don’t give the Devil any credit for me jumping,” Davis said. “This is God’s time. The Devil lied. He tried to kill me. It didn’t work. A lady in church, who broke her neck and is in a wheelchair, told me I was blessed. She rolled her truck and she’s paralyzed.”
Davis is philosophical when talking about the person who nearly ran him over and caused him to jump off a bridge.
“I don’t blame the (driver),” Davis said. “It was a bad night. It was meant to happen. Everything I worked for and believed in was gone. The only thing that got me back was God. He kept me strong.”
Davis said he sees now how it’s the little things we take for granted that really matter.
“I have my mom, brother, pops and my lady – my guardian angels,” Davis said. “What more can I ask for. I have Christmas (his dog) and Beautiful (his cat). I appreciate each and every day. I can put my shoes on and walk out of my house.”
Davis can walk up to three miles now and admits he has to slow himself down in trying to recover. He will visit a local doctor on Aug. 2 before deciding on any future treatment.
“I want to go back there and fight Shane Cameron,” Davis said. “The fans never got what they paid for. They didn’t see ‘Koncrete’ and his team. They supported me – that’s why I’d like to fight there. I’m a spokesman not just for boxing, but to the whole world. This is bigger than boxing. It’s bigger than me. My message is that God is real and Satan’s a liar.
“If it’s God’s will that I don’t fight again, so be it. I know I’ll continue my career. The Devil already lost the battle. I’m God’s champion. ‘Koncrete’ cracked, but he didn’t crumble.”
(Davis’ immdediate future is uncertain. If you like, you can contribute to:
THE KELVIN DAVIS FUND
Bank of America
1240 Greenbrae Dr.
Sparks, NV 89431
E-mail email@example.com for more details.)