Spadafora's Downward Spiral

07.09.04 - By Matthew Hurley: It’s always difficult to admit you’ve got a problem. It means facing yourself and realizing that your behavior is ruining your life and crippling the lives of those around you. To reach that moment, slamming into the cold and lonely end of your downward spiral becomes your defining moment. You either pick up the pieces and fight back or you give up. It’s the toughest fight of all and, sadly, not everyone makes it back..

Sunday morning former IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora was arrested again and charged with public drunkenness and “acting dangerously” in a car. Monday he was in jail after failing to post $10,000 in bail. It was his third arrest this year and to those of us outside his bubble it sent up a flair that the “Pittsburgh Kid” is quickly burning out. His boxing career should no longer be a priority. But boxing has never been a sport filled with characters willing to help out a fighter in need.

In fact, if the boxer in question isn’t producing and making those around him money, more often than not he’s kicked aside and all but ignored. Should he get himself back together again and start bringing in the bucks then of course, he’s welcomed back with open arms. It’s a shame, but it’s a fact. The boxing world is littered with broken down fighters on skid row. Paul Spadafora is yet another fighter who, it would seem, is headed right for the gutter.

My cynicism knows no bounds when it comes to stories like Paul’s. I feel a sense of hopelessness because I’ve been around fighters who were once on top of the world and are now lost. Some of them are big name fighters, stumbling through life with an ever present drink in their hand and some of them never established a name at all and are lurking in the shadows wondering where it all went wrong and why no one was ever looking out for them. It’s sad. It’s very sad and if Paul’s story ends tragically some of the people around him should be held accountable. And yet, maybe those around him have been trying and it’s all come down to Spaddy hitting rock bottom. Ultimately it’s up to him to take responsibility and change. Still, his trainer Jesse Reid feels that it’s all about the environment.

“He was doing so well,” Reid replied, when told of his fighters most recent run in with the law. “It’s the drinking. He surrounds himself with people like himself.”

The inference here is that Paul doesn’t know any better. He’s where he is now because that’s the life he’s lead and he’s lead that life with people just like himself. But Spadafora has a talent that can rescue him from all that. He’s just got to get the hell out of Pittsburgh.

“Paul needs to be around people who live clean and care about him,” Reid says. “When he comes out here (California) I’ve never seen him drink because he shows me respect.”

You would think Spadafora would have learned his lesson last October. In that hellish month he was arrested for urinating in public and then two days later was arrested in connection with a shooting that injured his girlfriend, Nadine Russo. Russo never pressed charges against him but witnesses say the two were engaged in a heated argument at a gas station when the shots were fired. The charges in that case remain pending but were seemingly resolved in light of Russo’s unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement.

Perhaps all of this came to a head on Sunday and will result in the proverbial wake up call. If it doesn’t don’t expect a happy ending.

“This isn’t the Paul Spadafora we know,” Reid says. “He’s a good kid. I wish we could have stopped this.”

We all do when a loved one is involved. But there comes a time when that person has to look in the mirror and decide for himself if he’s going to change for the better. Hopefully Paul Spadafora is taking a good, long look at himself now as he sits in a cold, isolated jail cell. And hopefully he doesn’t like what he sees.

Article posted on 07.09.2004

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