One on One: From Within the Darkness, Let There be Light (VIDEO)

There are dark and twisted things in the shadows.

As insulated from the rest of the world as Cape Cod is, there is a world within this world not all people who live here see or experience and for those who do not see or sip from that transient world’s bitter cup, they should count themselves fortunate.

Paul Gonsalves, 33, lived in those shadows. He lurked within them. He navigated an existence no parent wants for his child and he counts himself so incredibly

Harwich native Paul Gonsalves - owner of The 4:13 Boxing Studio in Mashpee - will be fighting Mexico's Rafael Valenzuela at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center on August 8. Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

Harwich native Paul Gonsalves – owner of The 4:13 Boxing Studio in Mashpee – will be fighting Mexico’s Rafael Valenzuela at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center on August 8.
Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

lucky that once the steel bars of the Barnstable County Jail clanged open nearly a decade ago he was afforded a second chance in life, a new beginning, a rebirth.

Now a successful professional boxer who is the son of a former professional boxer and Korean War Marine Corps veteran David Gonsalves Sr., Paul Gonsalves was one of the greatest high school basketball players to have ever played on Cape Cod.

He also bounced between a one bedroom apartment in Dennis Port and the home of one of his close high school pals when he was just barely 17 years old. He paid cash for that apartment each month, admittedly, with the proceeds of drug sales. In between averaging 26 points per game for the Harwich High Rough Riders and netting 1,283 career points in just over two varsity seasons, Gonsalves, one of 17 children (16 siblings), was busy working the midnight shift in the surreal underworld of the Cape’s streets.

For a teenager who was offered a full scholarship to attend Northeastern University, and scholarship offers from George Washington University  and Providence College, it was a dichotomous existence. Almost immediately after he graduated from Harwich, Gonsalves then added “father” to his resumé. He had been surviving his entire high school career. He fended for himself and the answers for an impressionable teenage boy with little if any guidance off the parquet floor, were more than often the wrong ones.

Fights. Thefts. Drugs. Wheeling and dealing for cash to buy food. Shaking down other wannabe high school-aged “dealers.” It was only a matter of time before the 1999 Harwich High graduate , as he openly concedes, “got caught.”

Once a top high school athlete flooded with collegiate scholarship offers, Paul Gonsalves saw his life go steadily downward until he found his faith and made some serious changes. Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

Once a top high school athlete flooded with collegiate scholarship offers, Paul Gonsalves saw his life go steadily downward until he found his faith and made some serious changes.
Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

And things just simply got worse.

“I am doing now what I should have been doing in my 20s,” Gonsalves said earlier this week from his boxing gym in Mashpee dubbed The 4:13 Boxing Studio. “I got into some really heavy stuff with drugs…  When I finally got in trouble with guns something went off in my head and I told myself ‘you’re finally going down, you’re finally going down and this is what you need’.”

What Gonsalves needed was a cement cell, iron bars, a cold, steel bed and 19 months served out of  a 2 ½-year stint for a drug-deal gone awry. What he needed, as the walls of his busy and heavily utilized boxing gym so clearly depict, was God.

“When I went to jail and I was about six months in there I met a chaplain named Dave Robbins from Solid Rock Ministries and he really helped me get back on the right track,” Gonsalves said. “Then I turned my life around and I realized I was part of society’s problem… I saw everyone in jail and I saw that I was part of the world’s problem.”

By day, Gonsalves is a stone mason and manages the masonry division for the Gable Building Corporation in Chatham. By night, he runs his 4:13 Boxing Studio on the Mashpee/Barnstable border. Just a few hundred yards from his gym, he attends church at The Gateway Christian Center. In between helping raise with his wife Shauna the couple’s two daughters Patience, 9, and Selah, 4, the 8-7-1 light heavyweight contender is preparing to make a real go of a career that was almost derailed by foolish choices and the age-old adolescent delusion of invincibility.

Harwich light heavyweight boxer Pauyl Gonsalves (right) works with one of his pupils in The 4:13 Boxing Studio in Mashpee earlier this week. Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

Harwich light heavyweight boxer Paul Gonsalves (right) works with one of his pupils in The 4:13 Boxing Studio in Mashpee earlier this week.
Sean Walsh/Capecod.com Sports

He’s also set on saving as many teenagers from making the same mistakes he once did, mistakes that almost took away the option of “choice” once and for all. Each afternoon and early evening, The 4:13 Boxing Studio is brimming and bustling with kids learning to bob and weave, jab and cut.

“The best thing that ever happened to me was going to jail,” Gonsalves said, and admitted during his 19-months in jail he missed the birth of his oldest daughter, in addition to numerous other joyous life events.  “I started going to church every day (in jail). I turned my life over to God and I decided I needed to go back to boxing… I decided I needed to do this and get it right for my family.”

He has fought at Mohegan Sun and Madison Square Garden. He has battled at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Slowly but steadily, he has provided for his two little girls and he has, with the help of his faith, begun to make a difference in a community he took for granted. Professional boxing helped him put a down-payment on a house for his family. He may have but a few years left in a career that has barely just been reinvigorated.

On August 8 at the Hyannis Youth & Community Center, Gonsalves will go toe-to-toe against Mexico’s light heavyweight contender Rafael Valenzuela (8-5, 1 KO). It will be just one of seven or eight professional bouts that will be headlined by Gonsalves’ close friend Hyannis native Jesse Barboza (9-1-1, 5 KO’s) when he tangoes with Pennsylvania heavyweight Jesse Oltmanns (10-5. 7 KO’s). The evening promises to be resurgent for a sport that has not been present here on this peninsula for nearly a decade.

Just as importantly, it’s an opportunity for a Cape Cod native whose life steered rapidly out of control to show this world that people, indeed, can change.

There are pitfalls in the darkness. There are false promises uttered in the shadows of night, even here on Cape Cod in a seedy underbelly so few could even begin to recognize. Light heavyweight Paul Gonsalves dove headlong into that abyss and it almost consumed his soul.

But for a brief flicker in the lowest point of his existence, a light beamed down upon him and pulled him out.

— Sean Walsh is the sports editor for www.capecod.com. His column, “One on One” appears on Capecod.com each Friday. His email is seanwalsh@ccb-media.com. Follow him on Twitter @coachwalshccbm

Comments

  1. Larry Eklund says:

    Proud to know you Paul . You have come a long way and now Jesus radiates through you . So glad you chose Gateway as your home .

  2. Karen Proesl says:

    Thanks Dave Robbins for your faithfulness to these guys who want to have a better life than they can ever imagine in Jesus Christ. Your the bomb!

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