Gorman: Taking a final walk down the aisle
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Before he could walk down the aisle, John Ladasky III knew that he needed to walk down the aisle again.
Before he took a bride, Ladasky had to regain pride.
So with his wedding date fast approaching, Ladasky decided to return to the boxing ring at the ripe age of 35.
“There's nothing like walking down the aisle, even at my age,” he said. “You've got to think about how surreal it is, knowing this could be the worst night of your life or the best. There's nothing like it, that ring walk. The unknown, that's the itch. You've got to have a little swag. You know whether you've done the right thing. Do it once, and you'll know what I'm talking about.
“I took it to the extreme, but that's how I am.”
Ladasky, now 40, loves to say that he's boxed in his 10s, 20s, 30s and 40s. Which makes you wonder what in the world is wrong with the guy.
He's not doing it for the fortune or the fame. Ladasky fights as an amateur, so he doesn't get paid. Although called The Pride of Bloomfield, he's only a household name to fans who arrive early enough for the undercard.
Ladasky once asked a promoter to schedule him for the opening bout on a card in Youngstown, Ohio, just so he could make it back in time for his midnight shift as a B-technician for the Port Authority's South Hills Village rail center.
And Ladasky knows what you're thinking.
“They're waiting to see some lunatic,” Ladasky said. “People are expecting me to be blown out of my mind. I'm just a normal guy.”
A normal guy who is a four-time Golden Gloves champion. Ladasky fought alongside Paul Spadafora as a teen at old Hogan's Gym on Eighth Avenue, Downtown. Ladasky also trained with Chuck Senft out of the Brookline Rec Center.
Ladasky didn't want to start his marriage with regrets. He stopped boxing in his 20s, partly because he had stage fright, and always wondered what could have been had he kept fighting. By his mid-30s, the 5-foot-10 Ladasky had ballooned to 226 pounds.
Ladasky started working out again to get back in shape. Trainers Steve Kisty and Ted Mrkonja encouraged him to get back in the ring.
It was a conversation with a childhood friend that convinced Ladasky. Paul Sciullo II left a desk job to become a city police officer at the same age and told Ladasky to chase his dream and not worry about what anyone thought.
Sonia DiPasquale, however, warned her fiance that he better not arrive at the altar with a black eye or broken nose.
Ladasky prides himself on his slick defense and says he's never left the ring with so much as a bloody nose.
It helps that he fights in the 35-and-over Masters division, where boxers wear 16-ounce gloves and protective headgear. Rounds last 1:30 instead of three minutes.
“He doesn't look or act his age,” said Bob Healy, who trains Ladasky at South Park Boxing Club. “He's pretty slick and knowledgeable. He doesn't stand there and take a beating. It's hard to hit him.”
Ladasky often gets in the ring to train younger boxers. They respect him, Healy says, because he walks the walk.
“I try to be a good role model,” said Ladasky, who won the 2010 Ringside Masters 175-pound open title. “To be honest, I love that the kids see me in there. They listen more when you train them.
“Boxing is so disciplined. It pushes me to be a good husband, good son, good worker. It makes you strive to be better in everything. It brings out the best in you. If you're cheating the game, you'll be exposed.
“It's all on you.”
Ladasky plans to retire Saturday after his bout against Aaron Koontz on Sammy Vasquez's Double Duty V card at Rostraver Ice Gardens.
So this will be Ladasky's final walk down the aisle, his last chance to scratch the itch.
Spadafora, the former IBF lightweight champion, will lead Ladasky's ring walk.
Ladasky will wear a shirt honoring the memory of Sciullo, one of three officers fatally shot April 4, 2009, by a coward named Richard Poplawski while responding to a 911 call in Stanton Heights.
This one will be bittersweet.
“I'm going to miss it,” Ladasky said. “I don't feel 40, but I know it's time. My wife deserves a 100 percent husband, and it's time to start a family. Right now I'm nervous as hell. I know I'm never going to feel this way again.”
The Pride of Bloomfield can go back to being a normal guy, one who has no regrets.
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