Joe DeGuardia has done the same thing a hundred times, driven back from a show in the early AM, when traffic is light and his mind drifts to the riveting battles between the hungry boxers on his Star Boxing roster.
On this night, though, fate offered something very different than a pedestrian ride back from Long Island to his Westchester residence.
On the early morning of July 29, promoter DeGuardia was driving eastward on the Long Island Expressway, in the middle lane after his show in Huntington, when he saw something come at him -- a car in the wrong lane, headed in the wrong direction.
"Originally, I didn't realize what it was," DeGuardia told NYFightblog. "I never expected an object to be there. It was dark. Once I hit, I realized it was a car. 'Oh, s---,' I thought, 'this is a real accident. I'm dead.' I thought of my kids. 'What are my kids gonna do?'"
DeGuardia, 49, had reached 20 years in the business on the night of the crash, and was pondering how much work it had taken to stay in the game for two decades. Then, in a split second, he was wondering how sons Joe, 15, and Andrew, 10, would fare without him.
Upon impact, his airbag deployed and smashed him in the face. "I felt like my face was on fire," he recalled. He blacked out, then came to, and knew he had to get out of his wrecked Mercedes. The other car was smoking, and he didn't know if his car was going to blow up. He tried to push his door open, but it wouldn't budge. A mystery man, a good Samaritan, yanked it open and ushered DeGuardia out of the crumpled car.
"I really didn't know if I had legs," DeGuardia said. "Cars were flying by us. But I was happy to be alive."
Sadly, the man driving the other car perished in the accident.
I asked if DeGuardia was scared. "Survival takes over," he said. "I was trying to survive. It was a frightening experience, but at the time, I was not thinking that. I was thinking of my kids, 'I got to try and survive.'"
DeGuardia went to the hospital, and just about right away, the fighter in him -- he was a fine amateur fighter, who won the Golden Gloves in 1988 -- kicked in. He wanted to get off his stool, get back in the mix. An MRI showed his brain was OK, and his hip, his arm and legs were a little busted up, but after two days, against medical advice, he decided to stand up and walk. After three days, he left the hospital.
"I'm stubborn," he said, chuckling. "I did it my way. I'm a crazy person. I got out of the hospital, I stopped by the office to get paperwork, get the mail."
His face betrays no signs of the impact, but he is doing physical therapy four days a week. "I throw a baseball, throw a football with my kids," he said. "I want to throw like I was able to. I can't lift my arm high, but I want to do those things, I want to be sparring again."
Has the experience changed him? "I know a lot of people depend on me," he said. "My kids, I want to be able to still be there for them, be able see them grow up. My wife, my father, mother, brothers and sisters, fighters, a whole host of people get impacted from something like this. And I don't know who that good Samaritan was. Hopefully I can track him down. We're doing a show in October, hopefully I can invite him.
"But I'm happy to be alive. I've always appreciated life, now I got a real appreciation. Now, the little things are less important. I don't get caught up in the day-to-day nonsense. Sometimes you forget how good it is to see the sun in the morning."