Altoona native and former boxer Kevin Fasick tells some tough tales as a New York Post staff reporter.
On his first day on the job in 2007, he interviewed the family of a gunshot victim in a high-profile case where Grammy-nominated rapper Remy Ma was at the trigger.
"This was pretty much diving into the deep end of the pool on day one," Fasick, 45, who now lives in Harlem, said in a recent phone interview.
Former Altoona boxer Kevin Fasick was developed by John Robertson (background) and former world heavyweight champion Joe Frazier (right), shown in a June 1986 photo.
Courtesy photo by Robert Miller
This photo, taken early last year outside a soup kitchen for the homeless in New York City, shows Kevin Fasick with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New?York.
Since then he has covered national headline-making stories such as New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's sex scandal.
Fasick said he scored a video interview with Weiner after he told the politician he could at least give him a couple minutes in light of his rudeness from a previous encounter. The interview, resulting in Weiner saying for the first time he was not going to resign from his post, went viral.
"I've been called tenacious on the job," Fasick said. "Sometimes it's a compliment. Sometimes it's an insult, depending on who I'm after."
Aug. 1, 1967: Born in Altoona
1981: Began training to become a professional boxer with John Robertson, longtime director of the Altoona Boxing Club
Oct. 24, 1986: Became a professional boxer under the management of Joe Frazier, former heavyweight champion of the world - in his first fight, he knocked out Bobby Hillman at Stabler Arena, Bethlehem, Pa.
June 25, 1988: Knocked out middleweight boxer Ruben Torres at the Trump Plaza Hotel, Atlantic City
June 30, 1989: Lost to Lemark Davis in Cleveland (last fight)
1989-2002: Worked odd jobs, traveled
2002: Pursued undergraduate degree in English at Juniata College
2006: Graduated cum laude from Juniata College, Huntingdon
2007: Earned master's degree from Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Began working for the New York Post that year.
2010: Member of the staff that won second place for spot news reporting in the New York State Associated Press photo and writing contests
That tenacity has helped get the protege of former world heavyweight champion Smokin' Joe Frazier where he is today.
The third son of Joe and Diane Fasick and brother to Mark and Chris, Fasick started boxing in Altoona at age 14, training with John Robertson, longtime director of the Altoona Boxing Club.
Fasick said he owes much to Robertson for getting his boxing career started.
"He's a great, great man who has helped out hundreds and hundreds of kids, literally," Fasick said.
Robertson said Fasick was never in his debt, however.
"Oh, he didn't owe me anything," Robertson said from his Altoona home. "I don't do it to get paid for anything. ... Just seeing the individual perform makes me happy."
And perform Fasick did.
Robertson said Fasick was a "very fiery kid" who wanted to go pro, which he did on Oct. 24, 1986, at age 19 under Frazier's management.
Frazier called him his "white son," Fasick wrote in a first-person story about his relationship with Frazier for the New York Post in 2011, following Frazier's death from cancer at age 67.
He boxed seven fights under Frazier before moving from Philadelphia and signing on with the Don King organization, he said. He fought twice under King, winning one and losing his last fight in 1989.
In June 1988, Fasick knocked out middleweight boxer Ruben Torres at the Trump Plaza Hotel, Atlantic City.
The match took place before the main event between Azumah Nelson and Lupe Suarez.
In front of Donald Trump and celebrity attendees, Fasick hit Torres with a right upper cut after they "both came out banging," he said.
The powerful shot knocked Torres out in a little over a minute of the first round. That would be the only knockout of 23 fights listed under Torres' name on the website boxrec.com.
Fasick was a "very good boxer," Robertson said. "He put a lot of time and effort into it. And he was very devoted to it."
"He would throw himself completely into things and then boxing was a perfect example of that," Chris Fasick said. "He tried it like I think kids try different sports for different reasons. The '70s, when we grew up, boxing was in its heyday. It was on national TV every weekend. It was popular in our house. Our dad, Joe, was a huge boxing fan. And so it was a sport that we were interested in."
But it wasn't a sport he would go on to dominate.
He ended his boxing career with a record of 5-3. Three of his wins were by knockout.
In 2006, he told the Mirror: "It was a question of maturing. It's a brutal sport. A brutal business where fighters get used up by managers, then discarded."
The write stuff
After his boxing days, Fasick found himself searching for a rewarding - and safer - career.
Eventually, he pursued journalism.
"I like to write," Fasick, who majored in English at Juniata College, said. "Writing is a passion of mine. And one of my [Juniata] professors said, 'The only way to really make money writing, at least starting out, is journalism. It's a marketable trade.'"
When Fasick decided he wanted to go to the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University some were skeptical because of the school's high rejection rate, Chris Fasick said. They shouldn't have been.
Fasick, who earned his general education diploma after dropping out of high school to follow his dream of boxing, graduated cum laude from Juniata in 2006.
College came after several years spent traveling and working odd jobs, he said.
Fasick then not only got into one of the top journalism schools but again graduated with honors in 2007.
Columbia Journalism School adjunct faculty member Kevin Coyne was Fasick's adviser for his master's project.
Coyne said Fasick was one of his favorite students.
"Well, number one, he was a really terrific reporter," Coyne said. "He was tenacious without being a jerk. I never saw him box, [but] I imagine it [reporting style] is in line with his boxing tactics."
To Fasick, becoming a journalist meant he "needed to be in the big city and the bright lights," and today, Chris Fasick said, "Bottom line is he's a beat reporter covering the activities, day-to-day underbelly of the biggest city in the world, and he's doing it."
'Ace in the hole'
Fasick came to the New York Post as a part-timer, said Danny Greenfield, the paper's deputy metropolitan editor.
"Kevin's great. I mean we love him here," he said. "He's so affable. People are always willing to talk to him. He's got such a genial manner that actually when we found out that he used to be a boxer we couldn't believe it ... He's just got this way of insinuating himself into peoples' lives that really works well as a reporter ... people are always willing to open up to him in ways that you don't expect. So he's one of our aces in the hole."
In his job, Fasick does what he calls stakeouts, waiting for a criminal or someone involved in a scandal to appear in public.
"The way I describe the job is, at least in New York City, is: Long periods of nothingness punctuated by a few seconds or moments of insanity," he said.
Fasick loves his job.
"I have amazing bosses, amazing co-workers," he said. "Yeah, it's a great place to be."
The subjects Fasick covers for the Post are heavy, though.
"As far as how I deal with the tragedy I often encounter on my job, on some level you have to compartmentalize it for your own sanity," he wrote in an email. "But the sadness often sticks with you and you have to deal with that as part of the job. I did a story of a little girl, 12-year-old Nicole Suriel, who drowned on a class trip. I spent a couple of hours in her parents' apartment.
"The father was telling us about his little girl, getting on the computer and getting photos for the photographer, while the mom stayed in the bedroom and wailed in grief. That was a long day and at the end of it, it hit me pretty hard."
The novelty of a byline has worn off, but Fasick has not lost what rounds out his tenacity - his humanity, something he teaches interns to tap into for the job.
He tells them, "You're a human being first, and what's going to make you a good reporter is by being a good human being. What we want to do is honor their loved one who may have been murdered, killed in a car wreck, died in fire, what have you. We're there to tell their stories."
Fasick's own story is a good one, a classic even, but not one he ever saw coming.
"When I was a boxer, I was interviewed by people, but I certainly never imagined that I would be on the other side of the notebook," he said. "But here I am."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.