Joseph Santoliquito

The American Dream came close to being a nightmare

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Jesse Hart, a young rising prospect and son of 1970s middleweight contender Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, is one of a handful still close to Reid. Despite his boxing pedigree, Hart says Reid’s Olympic triumph is what inspired him to pursue an amateur career.

After each tournament he won, Hart couldn’t wait to get back to the locker room, rummage through his gym bag for his cell phone to tell Reid what he just did. Reid means more to Hart—and many, aspiring young Philadelphia fighters—than just a symbol of success. He’s part mentor, part big brother.

Although when Hart, who was recently signed by Top Rank, asked Reid to come out and witness his pro debut on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley undercard in Las Vegas on June 9, Reid declined.

“It’s hard seeing him this way,” Hart told RingTV.com. “I know the real David Reid, but he’s so self-conscious about his eye he barely goes out. He still does what he did when he used to fight. He’ll get up and run in the morning. When I stayed with him last year, we used to watch some old fight films. He just doesn’t talk to too many people these days. I’m one of the few people Dave still speaks with, and when I won the Olympic trials last summer, David helped me prepare for that.

alt“I want him to share these moments with me, and he won’t. He’s a guy who never wants to be seen, that’s just him; it’s hard for me to get through. I want to be there for Dave because he’s one of the reasons why I won all of these things in the amateurs. I always looked up to Dave. It meant a lot to me to tell Dave each time that I won. I look at him more as a big brother than anything else; I love that guy. It’s why it’s tough seeing him like this today.”

Chuck Mussachio wanted to be David Reid and live out his Olympic aspirations where Reid worked, at Al Mitchell’s United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC) on the University of Northern Michigan campus in Marquette.

And though Mussachio did not realize his Olympic dreams, he pursued a professional boxing career despite earning a degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in guidance counseling.

The South Jersey-based light heavyweight with Philadelphia roots still cherishes the time he got to meet and work with one of his boxing idols. At first, however, Reid, who had only fought competitively for a couple of years, was standoffish, leery of any new face that came around.

“Dave was very paranoid that everyone was after him and trying to steal from him,” said Mussachio, who worked out at USOEC from January 2003 until August 2004. “It took a few months for Dave to trust me. There was one time, I remember, when Dave misplaced his jacket and he had everything in his jacket pocket, including his wallet. A week went by and Dave still couldn’t find his jacket. He had left it at the front desk of the building where we lived, but he was really agitated and wanted to go after someone.

“He would just slip like that. It was tough to watch Dave deteriorate. It wasn’t like a rapid jump off the edge. He would tell me things that happened way back in his amateur days with vivid memory of specific bouts, but he would forget things on a day-to-day basis.

“I could see he lacked some organizational skills. I tried to help him as a friend because he’d get easily agitated and lose things. Sometimes he lost track of time. A lot of people said David was like that before he began boxing. I didn’t know him then, but I started to see some things that weren’t right. Dave would choke every time we sat down and ate, and things got progressively worse in the time I was there.”

It came to a crucial state in mid-summer 2005.

Reid doesn’t recall much of that day. All Mitchell could recall was that Reid locked in himself in his car during a record-heat wave in Marquette one afternoon. The windows were closed and Reid wasn’t responding to anyone. Finally, someone called an ambulance in fear he would die of heat stroke.

“That’s what happened to me; I was reading in a car and then I woke up in the hospital, but that was a while ago,” Reid said. “If that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be where I am today. That’s when they found out I had depression. Treating the depression thing wouldn’t have happened if they didn’t find me in the car. I blacked out. I don’t really remember what happened.”

Mitchell was traveling when it happened, but remembers something far graver than Reid recalled.

“Dave almost died,” Mitchell said. “I was away. David stayed because he doesn’t like traveling anymore. But I got this call from Jeff Kleinschmidt [retired USOEC director] while I was gone. He told me they found Dave in the parking lot of his apartment complex and this woman called the police. It was one of the hottest days ever in Marquette, and Dave was just sitting there in his car with the windows rolled up, they told me. It was over 100-degrees, so it had to be at least 130-degrees in the car. Dave told me, or someone told me, they had to apply electric shock to bring him back.”

Mussachio couldn’t believe what he heard. He hustled back to Marquette and visited his friend, who was sitting there in a hospital gown on his bed still trying to absorb what was happening to him.

“I visited Dave in the hospital a few days after he was admitted,” Mussachio recalled. “Dave was in his room and the nurse brought me in to see him. Dave was just sitting there and I asked him if he knew who I was, and Dave said ‘No’ with this blank stare. Then he started laughing, he was joking. Dave explained to me he was sitting in his car with his books, and the next thing he knew he was in the hospital.

“The doctor came in when I was with him and told us Dave was going to get worse. It will be gradual, but it’s what’s been happening. It is sad. This is someone I looked up to coming up as a fighter in Philly. He still has his Olympic gold medal and his championship belt. But I remember him telling me winning that gold medal was a blessing and a curse at the same time.”

Mitchell, Hart and Mussachio all claim Reid was bilked out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by those who were supposedly close to the fighter.

“There were a lot of people that took advantage of Dave, and it kind of bothers me,” Hart said. “It’s a big reason why Dave trusts no one today.”

“I’m on his side and I love him,” Mussachio said. “I hope nothing but the best for Dave. But there were a lot of people reaching at him, and it is why he is this way today. It makes you a little sad because you won’t find a better guy.”

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