David Diamante is choking back tears.
If we’re being honest … at times, I was too.
It’s Sunday, and Diamante is calling from a hospital bed at NYU Langone Health in New York. A heart monitor beeps in the background. A nurse interrupts the call to check his vitals. An orderly drops by to take his lunch order. A week earlier, Diamante was in Manchester, England, working as the ring announcer for Joseph Parker’s win over Dereck Chisora. Today he wonders if he will ever walk again.
“There's also a lot of pain,” says Diamante. “A lot of pain. “It's really hard to do anything when you're in this much pain.”
Here’s what happened, as best Diamante can remember: Last Monday, Diamante, 50, was riding his motorcycle on Third Avenue in Brooklyn, just beneath an elevated section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Riding, says Diamante, “at a nice rate” in temperatures below freezing, he attempted to brake. That’s when, Diamante says, “the bike just left me.” He skidded a full block, eventually crashing into a parked van.
“It's like if you're walking and you slip on black ice, and you f---ing land on your ass, you fall so fast, you can't catch yourself,” says Diamante. “That's what I remember, the bike just went out from under me.”
From there, things are a blur. Diamante recalls lying on the street, a searing pain in his ribs. He watched as car after car simply drove by. “People were looking at me,” says Diamante. “But nobody was stopping.” Eventually, one did. A man jumped out. He asked if Diamante was OK. Diamante pleaded with him to call 9-1-1. The man did, pulling his car in front of Diamante to shield him from traffic. “Before that,” says Diamante, “it was kind of a miracle that I wasn’t driven over.”
At the hospital, the doctors ran him through a battery of scans. There were three fractures in his spine. Several broken ribs. The flesh from his right knee was torn to the bone. He underwent five hours of surgery. Nine screws were inserted into his back. Multiple rods, too. “My back is basically metal,” says Diamante. Cadaver parts were placed on his spine to, hopefully, facilitate healing. When Diamante woke up, he was told the bone penetrating his spine was less than two millimeters away from leaving him paralyzed.
“The spinal surgeon told me he had never seen this type of injury without paralysis,” says Diamante. His voice begins to quiver. “I’m lucky, man. I’m really f---ing lucky.”
Many know David Diamante. They know the long hair and the booming voice. They know the signature catch phrase (“The fight starts now!”) and the palpable enthusiasm for boxing. But few know Diamante. They don’t know that he first tried drugs in fifth grade and became addicted in his teens. That he did it, he says, to “self medicate” because of the violence he was experiencing, some at home, some in the rough streets of the Washington, D.C.-area. That in 1988, in a moment of clarity, he vowed to never cut his hair again.
“I don’t wear it this way because I’m a hippie,” says Diamante. “I don’t wear it because I smoke pot. To me, it’s a spiritual thing. It was a commitment I made to make a change in my life.”
They don’t know the route Diamante took to become one of boxing’s most well-known ring announcers. About the bands he played drums in during the 1990’s. The friendship he forged with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett. The path from nightclub bouncer to DJ, one that allowed him to earn enough money to travel the world. About the Golden Gloves tournaments and Empire State Games he worked, often for little or no money. It was at a New York show that Diamante first encountered Lou DiBella, the ex-HBO executive turned boxing promoter.
DiBella’s first words, recalled Diamante: Who the f--- are you?
“I think that’s exactly what I said to him,” says DiBella, laughing. “But it was in a positive way. He had a great voice and a look that was different. He’s charismatic. There’s a small group of ring announcers that have qualities that make you remember them from fights. He’s one of them.”
Soon, the work for Diamante began to roll in. He ring announced for Top Rank. For PBC. For Golden Boy. In 2011, the Nets hired Diamante as the team’s public address announcer. In 2017, Diamante was tabbed as the lead ring announcer for the World Boxing Super Series. It was there that he caught the eye of Matchroom Boxing, Eddie Hearn’s U.K. based company. Hearn hired Diamante to be the voice of all of his shows.
Through it all, though, Diamante had a passion: Motorcycling. Ask Diamante to list the countries he has biked through and by the end you wonder which countries he hasn’t. There’s Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Vietnam. Haiti, Honduras and El Salvador. He has been through India and Pakistan, Colombia and all over the U.S.. He has seen beautiful things, like the towering Mt. Everest. He has seen horrible things, like a dead baby floating down a river.
“I have lived a hundred movies in this life I've done,” says Diamante. “I've been on so many epic adventures. I've lived a life man, a big life, a big, big life.”
His passion for motorcycling survived more than one near-tragedy. In 2017, Diamante was riding in San Francisco when he was clipped by an SUV. His right arm broke in eight places. Diamante, though, refused to let the accident slow him down. The crash occurred on a Friday. On Saturday, Diamante was on a plane to New York. On Sunday, his arm immobilized in a sling, he was wheeled into Barclays Center to work the game.
“That’s just how much of a psychopath I am,” says Diamante, laughing.
Diamante leans into those memories now. That road back was tough. This one figures to be tougher. Over the weekend, Diamante released a statement saying he had taken a few small steps with a walker. But he wants to be clear he isn’t walking. And, frankly, isn’t completely sure when he will.
“I'm not walking is the unfortunate truth right now,” says Diamante. “Now I do believe I will walk and I believe I'll walk quite well, but it's going to take rehab and it's going to take time. There's things like being able to brush my teeth, or wash my hands, or pick something up, or walk up a step, or anything that anyone does normally, I cannot do that now. I'm not even close to doing that now. It's really hard to do anything when you're in this much pain, so that has to subside.”
Can Diamante describe the pain?
“It feels like I'm laying on boulders and rocks and knives and daggers,” says Diamante. “I can't get away from it. It's all up and down my spine, the scar on my back, it goes from my whole top of my neck to all the way to my [backside]. It feels like I can't find a comfortable position. Everything hurts, man. Everything hurts.”
Diamante isn’t looking for sympathy. In fact, if there is anything he wants people to know it’s that he will bounce back. He hopes to be discharged from the hospital this week to a rehab facility, where the real work begins.
“I'm more on the inside than anyone ever knows,” says Diamante. “That's my mentality. I am a Wolverine. It's who I am. It's why I've been able to live my life the way I do. The hardest thing for me right now is to go slow.”
“I want to tell everyone I appreciate so, so much the thoughts and the tweets and the messages, they help me so much, man. They really do. Because a positive mental attitude is everything. This is the type of injury that sideline someone for life. But for me, this is literally, this is just a [Sunday]. I'm going to get through this. I don't know how long it will take but I'm going to get through it. I will be back ringside again.”
Indeed. For Diamante, the fight starts now.
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