‘Messed up,’ Davis is on his way back
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. This is the first of a two-part story detailing Davis’ ongoing ordeal.)
RENO – “Koncrete” Kelvin Davis felt like a stranger in a strange land. His first trip to New Zealand was taking some getting used to.
Motorists were driving in the left-hand lane when they should’ve been in the right; the steering wheel was on the passenger side of the cars and now, only four days away from the biggest fight of his life, events were conspiring against him, leaving him with a feeling of unease.
Thanks to his older brother and trainer, Kelly Davis, Kelvin was a programmed machine, a creature of habit as his fight with undefeated New Zealand heavyweight Shane Cameron approached.
But a late Sunday, June 24, dinner with promoter John Bloster had Davis off his schedule and looking at his watch. He had only one night of roadwork left and one sparring session on Monday before his June 28 fight with Cameron at Waitakere Trust Stadium, in Auckland, New Zealand.
It was 8 p.m. when Davis returned to his hotel and, wearing a black outfit, he decided to time himself, running in the dark and rain, in a direction and down a road he’d never been on. It was to be an hour-long run and 20 minutes into his roadwork he glanced at his watch as he approached his turnaround point. There was no traffic.
He reached his goal seven minutes later and turned back. As Davis neared the spot where he had looked at his watch, a blue truck or van approached, swerving at him on what would’ve been the wrong side of the road in America.
Thinking the driver would see him, Davis waited until the last possible second when he realized he’d be run over if he didn’t leap over the short concrete barrier on the side of the road.
“I was scared. I had to jump or I’d be dead,” Davis said Monday in his Northwest Reno condominium.
But the 29-year-old Davis didn’t have any idea what he was jumping into and didn’t feel his feet land on the other side of the barrier. Instead he felt himself falling and falling into the pitch darkness and empty space below.
Unbeknownst to Davis, running in a strange country in the dark, he had been jogging over the narrow Greenhithe Bridge, in West Auckland. Davis, a 1996 Sparks High School graduate, felt the cool air rush over his perspiring body as he fell into the black, empty space.
After an interminable amount of time – as in a dream – Davis finally landed, flat on his back on some rocks.
Just as he had done when he had hit the canvas in one of his fights, Davis reacted the only way he knew how.
“I jumped up like a cat,” he said. “My first thought was, Damn, I’m a minute behind schedule. I tried to run.”
But something was drastically wrong. He couldn’t breathe and he lay back down. And for the next 90 minutes his world and thoughts closed in on him like a vise.
Down on the ground, unable to catch his breath, with the rain beating down on his face, he looked up and saw the underside of the bridge, which was approximately 25 feet above him.
“I was thinking, Damn, I fell that far?” Davis said. “The water – the ocean – was only about 10 feet away, near a cement dock. I was thinking how lucky I was not to fall headfirst or into the water. Anything could have eaten me up. The ocean could’ve taken me out to sea into its graveyard.”
He would find out later that his distraught brother went to look for him, but didn’t know, that for whatever reason, Kelvin had decided to run down a different path that night.
Kelvin was alone. He wasn’t comforted thinking about the ocean creatures – sharks, manta rays, octopi and other sea life – he had gone to see in an aquarium with Bloster before their dinner.
“Nobody but God knew where I was,” Davis said. “Only God and the Devil. It was pitch black. It was me, the sea life, the ocean and the rocks.”
The sweet embrace of shock began to wear off and it began to dawn slowly on Davis that things were bad indeed.
“I felt like something was wrong with my neck and back,” said Davis, who began to talk with Someone who was there with him. “I began to bargain with God. I said, ‘Please, don’t let anything be wrong with me.’ The whole time I was saying, ‘I didn’t mean to fall this way down. I have only 15 minutes left to run, God.’
“I didn’t want to say this, but I had an out-of-body experience. I saw myself from above. I was saying, ‘God, I only came here to fight for a heavyweight title.’ After 10 minutes of bargaining with Him, I heard a voice that I’d never heard before.”
“Get up,” Davis heard the voice say.
So he did. His back hurt every time he twisted it. His neck was flopped down on his chest and he couldn’t look up as he approached the wet, muddy hillside that lay between him and getting back up on the bridge and help.
It was slow going – “baby steps” – Davis said. Fifteen minutes later, walking ever so carefully, he gained the top of the hill, walking and not crawling, because Davis said he wouldn’t crawl for anyone.
“Why is my neck not working? Why is my back sore?” Davis asked himself. “My brother’s going to be mad. He’s going to have to give me a massage. He’ll be pissed.”
Davis, who was alongside a fence near the road, saw a clearing, but it was a mile and a half away. He began walking step by step.
Cars would intermittently drive by and Davis would attempt to scream for help. But he couldn’t even breathe, much less scream. He didn’t have enough strength to yell and he watched helplessly as the cars would drive away, leaving him alone again.
Davis finally made his way onto the road. He couldn’t lift up his head and when he tried to turn it, it flopped over. He tried to twist his back and pain would shoot through him. He tried to lift his arm to a passing motorist in the rain, but he couldn’t and the cars just kept on driving by.
Davis saw another vehicle approaching. He was determined to stop it.
“I saw headlights coming like in a dream,” Davis said. “I was in the middle of the road. He went into the far lane; I want into the far lane. He went the other way; I went the other way. This car was going to have to kill me. It stopped two feet in front of me.”
“Hey, buddy, what’s wrong,” the motorist asked.
Davis told him that he had fallen off the bridge and that he was messed up. Could he lie down in the guy’s backseat? No. Could he lie down in the front seat? No.
“I’ll do you a better favor,” the man said. “I’ll call you an ambulance.”
As the man drove off, Davis was alone again, waiting for help in the rain.
But the man was true to his word. An ambulance arrived and the paramedics put Davis into the back of the vehicle.
After finding out he had fallen off the bridge, the paramedics told Davis that he looked “messed up” and inserted IVs into his arm and began to cut off his clothes as they took him to North Shore Hospital, in Auckland.
Davis’ resolve had been tested many times in the ring on his way to winning the IBF cruiserweight championship May 1, 2004. Now his resolve – and his faith – would be tested in a different kind of way.
Davis’s story concludes in Thursday’s Nevada Appeal.