PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — K.J. Harrison-Lombardi is considered a scrapper when he’s on the canvas, but that description also fits how the mohawked boxer has faced the challenges of life.
As he prepared for his seventh professional bout, he looked back at the pocked and crooked path that got him to his 31st year of life that almost ended six years ago.
“And if it wasn’t for me living through all of this, I wouldn’t be the man I am today. So why not let everyone know the real me?”
The real him was a 230-pounder going nowhere; Addicted to heroin, cocaine and street life. During a summertime bender six years ago, the former high school athlete and amateur boxer consumed about 16 grams of drugs that knocked him out.
“I should’ve died. I did die,” he says before a recent tune-up at Big Six Boxing Academy on Douglas Avenue. “When I was having that seizure, my mom was calling 911, holding me and I just stopped breathing.”
A shot of adrenaline from an EMT got him breathing again, and he remembers waking up in the hospital, sweating and freezing cold at the same time He says he hugged his mom so hard he “thought he’d break her ribs.”
But his struggles continued in the months and years that followed his overdose. In all, Harrison-Lombardi estimates he lost nine years of life. He tells us he didn’t find his path until last year, but along the way he watched others lose their battle with the needle.
“Of course I think that could’ve been me. Every day, trust me. There’s never a day that I don’t go thinking about that day. Every day I wake up and I say I want to make that difference.”
He saves the true grit for stories like this one, but he tells a tamer version about a boxer who found his way back into the ring when he reads to local elementary kids.
‘I tell them I made bad choices in my life, and Everybody has a choice. Even if you do make the bad choices, you can overcome that bad and turn into good.”
In K.J.’s mind, his “good” is his future in the ring, and trying to help others avoid the choices he made.
“It was something that I wasted for these nine years.”
And he believes none of the opponents he’ll face in a boxing match will be as tough as the one he hopes he beat outside the ring.
K.J. Harrison-Lombardi boxes Friday night at Twin River.