LAS VEGAS – The unshakable sadness is evident in Cody Crowley’s voice.
Nine month after his father’s suicide, the undefeated Canadian welterweight contender isn’t afraid to admit that he is “broken” and “a little bit f------ up.” Crowley has thought about Jim Crowley, the man who introduced him to boxing and was his biggest fan, throughout a long, grueling training camp for his career-shaping fight against Abel Ramos on Saturday night at MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Along the way, Crowley has found talking about his father and his own struggles with mental health to be therapeutic.
“He had a lot of his own demons,” Crowley told BoxingScene.com. “I think that was one of the reasons we didn’t have that best friend, father-son relationship growing up, because he didn’t really know how to communicate his emotions. And last summer, it got the best of him, and he hung himself. It’s really taught me that if I don’t open up, communicate and be honest with myself, and how I feel, that I would eventually go down the exact same path.”
Crowley (21-0, 9 KOs) will fight for the first time Saturday, his 30th birthday, since his dad’s death last June 7. Crowley considers this WBC 147-pound elimination match not only his path toward the world title shot he has coveted since he moved from Peterborough, Ontario, to Las Vegas in 2014, but as the closure he needs in the aftermath of a devastating tragedy.
“I feel like this would be a lot of closure with my father’s passing,” Crowley said, “and a lot of closure for myself and my own issues and being able to move forward as well. Over the last two years I’ve been going through my own challenging times, since COVID.”
Having his mom, Julie, by his side the past two weeks has comforted Crowley during this trying time. Knowing that his father won’t be in the building Saturday night to cheer him on, the way he was when Crowley out-pointed Josesito Lopez in their 10-round battle last April 16 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, has only added to the emotional toll of the past nine months.
“This fight, what I’ve done and what’s pushed me through, is opening up myself, just like I’m doing right now with you,” Crowley said. “Sharing that I’m hurt, sharing that I’m broken, and letting people know that it’s OK not to be perfect, it’s OK not to have everything figured out, it’s OK to be a little bit f------ up. And sometimes we all need help.”
Crowley has partnered with the WBC and Team 55 – a charitable organization based in Peterborough that spreads suicide awareness and provides resources to people dealing with mental health issues – to raise $55,000 in his father’s memory in advance of the Ramos fight.
The organization has hosted several fundraisers in advance of Crowley’s fight, which included raffling off a travel package for two to the David Benavidez-Caleb Plant card on which Crowley will meet Ramos (Showtime Pay-Per-View; 9 p.m. ET; $74.99). That raffle alone raised nearly $19,000.
“All the money is going to [Team 55] and what they do is they provide for people who are going through difficult times,” Crowley said. “They provide an outlet for them. They can reach out to them and get counseling, get all sorts of healing modalities taken care of and paid for. And I feel like the best way to honor my father is doing this and giving other people an opportunity – if they’re ready and if they’re willing to do the work – a lifeline that they can reach out to when they’re in their darkest times and get the help that they need, so the cycle doesn’t keep repeating itself.”
Winning a welterweight world title was Crowley’s ultimate goal when he arrived in Las Vegas nine years ago. He lived directly across East Tropicana Avenue from MGM Grand, in what was then known as Hooters Casino Hotel, for the first five weeks he lived in Las Vegas, until he found an apartment.
It seemed to Crowley back then like he was a million miles away from fighting across the street, in this type of high-profile event. The long, rocky road Crowley traveled makes fighting at MGM Grand Garden Arena for the first time its own crowning achievement, a proud moment he wishes he could enjoy with his dad.
“It’s been extremely tough,” Crowley said. “My dad was my biggest fan. He’s what got me into the sport. He’s what pushed me. … My mom knew how to show love and was nurturing. And I didn’t feel like I received that from my father. But when I would box and win, I felt seen by him. I felt accepted. I felt loved.
“And to see him also live through my boxing, and see him get excited, gave me a lot of gas to keep going, to keep striving, to know just a blue-collar, hardworking man is able to push and help another small-town kid to be one of the best in the world. So, he was a big, big, big motivation to always keep going.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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