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The American Dream came close to being a nightmare
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A decade removed from his final pro bout, 1996 Olympic gold medalist David Reid leads an isolated life in Marquette, Mich., where he wages a daily battle with severe depression. However, a small group of friends, including former coach Al Mitchell, refuse to give up on "the American Dream."
The room is small, dimly lit, but clean.
A flat-screen TV sits in the tiny parlor where the curtains are always drawn. Boxing magazines and books are splayed out across the floor and kitchen table, but the room is empty, devoid of any presence or personality.
David Reid prefers it this way. The 1996 Olympic gold medalist lives a cloistered, almost monastic life by choice. Reid rarely ventures from his modest two-bedroom apartment complex in Marquette, Mich., where he’s lived for the past seven years.
His days are spent reading various magazines and books – alone. He eats alone. He works out alone. He attends church alone.
Reid feels safe in the cocoon he’s created. More importantly, he knows where he is and that he can’t get lost, because there was a time when Reid was lost.
There was a time the Philadelphia native, who recieved a million-dollar pro signing bonus and debuted on HBO, ate his Thanksgiving dinner in a homeless shelter. There was a time when America’s Olympic hero came close to dying from heat exposure while sitting alone in his car during one of the hottest summers in Michigan’s history.
Those are the dark years, a time when Reid lost faith in friends and family. All are now gone, no longer a part of his life.
Reid doesn’t recall much from this time.
He doesn’t remember the details of that sweltering summer day in 2005 when he sat in his car with the windows up, sweat raining down his face as he voraciously paged through his books, numb to what was happening to his overheated body.
The next thing Reid knew he was in the hospital. Reid survived and recovered, but he's not alright.
Today, Reid is about 30 pounds heavier than his fighting weight. He gets around well, but his speech comes in slow, halting starts and stops, each word measured.
He battles depression and far-ranging mood swings. Some days are good, some not so good.
It’s difficult to believe this same human being was one of the biggest stories of the ’96 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Reid’s come-from-behind one-punch knockout of Cuban Alfredo Duvergel instantly generated worldwide fame. Reid, the lone American gold medalist in boxing, became the toast of a U.S. squad that included Floyd Mayweather Jr., Antonio Tarver and Fernando Vargas.
Those who watched the bout on NBC will never forget Marv Albert screaming, “Down goes Duvergel, Duvergel is hurt, David Reid connecting … It’s all over … David Reid has stunned Duvergel … In dramatic fashion, he has won the gold … What a moment for David Reid!”
Those who saw his ultimate triumph will never forget Reid jumping up and down all over the ring, hugging his coach and mentor, Al Mitchell, and waving a little American flag. It looked like a fairytale beginning for a good, genial kid that somehow survived the urban blight of North Philly.
Those were the good times, the moments fans thought Reid would always hold dear. However, he doesn’t, not anymore. Reid has pushed away those golden memories in favor of withdrawing from the outside world.
“I … like … to … be … by … myself,” Reid admitted in a halting, broken cadence. “I haven’t been doing much lately. I stay in the church. That’s about it and I take care of myself. I have an apartment in Marquette, Michigan, and I live. I don’t do anything at all. I was working out at one point with Al, but I… I… I’m not doing anything with boxing at all.
“I wouldn’t want to get into training and coaching or anything like that. I still have the eye problem and I can’t fight anymore. I still love the sport. Ever since I was a kid, I fell in love with the sport. (But) I didn’t get enough rewards from the sport. It’s why I would rather not have anything to do with the sport.
“I don’t want anything to do with the sport at all.”
Reid doesn’t like to look up when he speaks to people. He’s self conscious about his droopy left eyelid, which looks far better than when he was fighting. He doesn’t see it that way. It’s one of the reasons Reid doesn’t like going out.
It's why he insulates himself inside a shell filled with books and magazines.They don’t stare back.
“I’m not going to say I look good or feel good. I train to keep my body in shape, and right now, I just read,” he said. “My whole take on life is not to have anything to do with boxing at all. I’m doing okay with everything else.”