Heavyweight Travis Kauffman reveals what it’s like contracting COVID-19
Travis Kauffman woke up late Thursday morning, reached for his cell and noticed he had two missed calls. He looked quizzically at his phone. He didn’t recognize the number. Curious, Kauffman called to find out who it was. The woman who picked up on the other end quickly identified herself, telling Kauffman that she was from the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
Kauffman’s first reaction was wait, what?
“Did anyone from the hospital tell you that you tested positive for COVID-19?” she asked.
“No, they didn’t,” Kauffman responded. “Did I?”
Kauffman was asked a series of questions, and told a follow-up call would be made to inform him what he was supposed to do.
That’s how Reading, Pennsylvania, heavyweight Travis Kauffman found out he had become the first known active boxer to have tested positive for COVID-19.
It’s a distinction he’s not too proud to hold.
“It’s the strangest call I ever received in my life,” said Kauffman, 34, who was scheduled to fight on April 11 on the Jamal James-Thomas Dulorme undercard for the FOX PBC Fight Night show from Minneapolis. It was going to mark Kauffman’s return to the ring after he was stopped in the 10th round by Luis Ortiz on December 1, 2018. Kauffman suffered a torn labrum in training prior to the Ortiz fight, and underwent corrective surgery afterward.
The news that he had COVID-19 hit Kauffman (32-3, 23 knockouts) about as hard as Ortiz did.
“It was very scary,” said Kauffman, in between hefty coughs. “I kind of figured that I had it. I was out recently a few weeks ago in a social place, and someone there had it. Last week, I got a sore throat, I started feeling achy. My temperature was over 100. But once you’re told you have it, that’s when it becomes real.
“The first person I thought about was my father (Marshall Kauffman, a noted boxing promoter). My dad is 57, which isn’t really old. But he’s had health issues. He had heart surgery. He’s also a diabetic. And, I have an 11-month—old son who is sick right now, and thank God, he’s doing better than I am. I made sure my other three sons (ranging in age from 8-to-14) were out of the house.”
Kauffman, talking between coughs, said he his throat felt a little scratchy last Thursday, March 19. He also rarely gets sick. On Friday, March 20, he felt better, and then Saturday hit and he felt deflated. He couldn’t lift his head. He began burning up. He was congested, barely able to breathe. He called his son’s mother, Cindy, to pick up the baby. By then, Travis’s temperature hit 101º. On Sunday, March 22, his fever rose to 102.7º.
That’s when Travis decided to get checked in at the Penn State Health Medical Group St. Joseph Medical Center, in Bernville, Pa., just outside of Reading.
Four days later, he got the results.
Marshall has held up well, considering the circumstances. He finds it tough that having the flu would ever weigh that heavy on anyone. He says he has a little cough, though he has no fever. Travis sent a group family text to let everyone know he had COVID-19.
Marshall is pleased his son made that choice.
“At first, I didn’t believe Travis had it,” Marshall admitted. “Travis doesn’t get sick that often. We’re ‘Kauffman strong,’ so I needed to realize he had it. If there wasn’t this media frenzy and with everything that’s happened in the sports world has been about the coronavirus, who knows if he would have gotten checked. Travis is the first pro fighter who’s tested positive—but fighters out there not being tested don’t really know.
“The media frenzy did cause him to get tested—so that was a good thing. When he told me, I still had to call him and ask. He told me, ‘Dad, why would I lie?’ I found it strange the Pennsylvania Department of Health was the one that called to tell Travis. We all need to learn to sanitize and stay in the house. When Travis posted that he had COVID-19 on social media, I wasn’t too happy. But long term, it helps people. It tells anyone who was around him to get tested. Contact is the biggest cause of this. Some people don’t think this is real.
“Travis will beat this. He’ll be out of the house training again.”
Travis said when he found out he had COVID-19, “My first thought was my father. He’s my best friend and the only one I have, besides my kids and my family. I was never given any medical advice, other than self-quarantine. I had to stay away from everyone. I’ve been by myself since Sunday (March 22). I’ve had the flu before. This is very similar to the flu, but it’s very unpredictable. It comes and goes in waves. For example, I felt good Wednesday and Thursday. It felt like a sinus infection.
“This morning, I felt like I was going to die. I woke up this morning crying because I couldn’t breathe. I hopped in and took a hot shower and that opened me up. The medical people told me that if I can’t breathe, then I should go to the hospital. Otherwise, it’s stay away from everyone. I’ve been eating soup and staying inside.”
The body aches have been gone since Wednesday morning. Travis says he feels a lot of pressure on his sinuses. He can move. He can talk on the phone. The Pennsylvania Department of Health told him to self-quarantine for seven days, and if he feels better, he could come out of quarantine for two weeks. So, the route, according to what Travis was told, is a 21-day process.
Travis’s family has been leaving him food outside the door of his home. He’s a single-father who’s self-sufficient. He’s been subsisting on instant Ramen noodles.
“I’m going to beat this thing and fight again,” Travis vowed. “I would tell everyone to stay inside. The signs I got are the signs everyone gets when they get sick. I just started burning up and getting heavy chills. I’m just scared for my son and my dad. I don’t want them to get sick. Cindy has been very supportive, my whole family and my friends are.
“To me, this is just another fight that I have to get through. I have four kids who look up to me and they need their dad. It’s scary how fast this thing spreads. I know for a fact I wasn’t around anyone who was coughing or sneezing. You don’t know who has it, and the next thing you know, you have it. I’m still being myself, being goofy and keeping everyone around me up. I strongly believe I’ll get through this.
“Damned right I’ll be back!”