Thursday, September 21, 2023  |


Lou DiBella and Patrick Hyland discuss loved ones lost to suicide

Fighters Network
Lou DiBella stands behind Patrick Hylands at a press conference to promote a Showtime doubleheader featuring Hyland's challenge against Gary Russell Jr. Photo by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime.

Lou DiBella stands behind Patrick Hyland at a press conference to promote a Showtime doubleheader featuring Hyland’s challenge against Gary Russell Jr. Photo by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime.

Lou DiBella is usually a force of nature at a press conference.

His voice has a zooming effect, causing those who may not be so inclined to sit up and listen. But on Wednesday, DiBella was unusually reserved. His voice cracked, and he seemed to be struggling to maintain control of his emotions.

DiBella was running a press conference in lower Manhattan for Gary Russell’s WBC featherweight title fight tonight against fringe contender Patrick Hyland Jr. (31-1, 15 knockouts) on Showtime at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The subject turned to Hyland, a fighter he promotes and also shares a sad bond with; Hyland is someone who has also lost a loved one to suicide brought on by depression.

“His dad, Paddy, was a great guy, a great boxing guy,” DiBella said on stage, trying to hold it together. “He’d been battling depression, unknown to a lot of people. He lost that battle. My brother lost that same battle.”

DiBella’s brother John was just 25 when he killed himself. Patrick Hyland Sr. took his own life in June. DiBella asked Hyland before the press conference if it was OK for him to bring it up on stage. Hyland said it was fine. DiBella said he did so to bring light to an issue that isn’t easy to talk about.

“When I got the news (of Hyland’s death) it hit home big time but it also I think was a bonding thing with me and him a little bit,” DiBella said, sitting down after the press conference, trying to find the right words to discuss a brutal topic. “I think I knew what he was going through a little bit and it made it easier to talk about it. And I was very happy when I spoke to him and he said go ahead and address it. I think that takes courage in itself. And I think it’s important that people aren’t embarrassed or afraid to discuss depression and suicide because it really is avoidable (if they get help).”

The topic of Hyland Sr.’s death has been an unavoidable storyline in the fight with Russell, drawing comparisons to the situation involving Buster Douglas, who lost his mother just before he went on to upset Mike Tyson in 1990. Hyland has cooperated with the media in discussing his father’s death, talking of his garrulous nature, patiently repeating the grim details.

“I still hear him,” said Hyland, who is from Dublin, Ireland, and will try to become just the second Irish boxer to win a featherweight title after Barry McGuigan did it in 1985. “I trained with Tracy Patterson for the last five, six years and my dad was always in the corner. He never missed a fight. It’s been instilled into me since I was a kid. He’ll be there. I still hear him shouting out into the background. I look forward to it.”

Hyland said he was still trying to grasp and process what happened. “It’s just hard — depression — because the man was the most happy-going guy, so it’s hidden in there, isn’t it?” Hyland said. “It’s tough, so I want people to be wary of that to look out for that kind of stuff.”

Hyland’s wife, Lorna, gave birth to a son just days after his father passed. DiBella said a conversation he had with the Irish boxer soon after pushed him to get a title shot.

“He began saying, ‘I need to focus only on boxing,'” DiBella recalled. “‘I need to get back into the ring and I need to test myself. I need the shot now.’ He’s laying it all out against probably the toughest guy to beat, but I know he’s going to bring the fight. I know he’s going to bring everything he has. And I know he deserves it.”

Hyland stopped short of saying he would use his father’s passing to motivate him in the fight with Russell. Perhaps he didn’t want to put pressure on himself. Instead, he talked of the concept of fathers and boxing and of a special bond he shares with his opponent. Russell (26-1, 15 KOs) also comes from a fighting family and is trained by his father, just as Hyland was.

“It hits home,” Hyland said. “I’m from a fighting family. He’s a fighting family. His father trained him. My father trained me. So it’s actually good — two fighting families coming out there fighting. Whatever the outcome is, we’ll both shake hands, and he can go shake his dad’s hand, or he can go have a prayer to my dad and that’s how it will be.”