On May 18, thirty-two fighters will step into the Haymakers for Hope Rock ‘N Rumble ring at the House of Blues in front of a crowd of 2,000 people for their first amateur fight. To say this charity boxing tournament is not your ordinary fundraiser is an understatement.
Fighters raise a minimum of $5,000 while putting in months of blood, sweat, and tears training for fight night. Compared to training, fundraising might be the easier part because friends/family/coworkers are essentially donating money to see fighters take hits. Maybe a punch in the face? If you think about it, H4H cofounders Julie Kelly and Andrew Myerson are geniuses.
The two started Haymakers For Hope, an official 501©(3) charity organization, with the mission to KO cancer. This year’s Boston Rock ‘N Rumble fighters have collectively fundraised over $500,000, bringing Haymaker’s total to $6.5 million dollars donated to cancer research.
Raising that kind of cash is impressive, and equally impressive is the challenge of learning how to box in four months.Fighters learn technique, build up their strength, and condition their bodies. Sessions accelerate in frequency and brutality as fight night nears, with sparring becoming a regular part of training. It’s physical. It’s mental. It’s emotional. It’s hard AF.
Fighter Senam Kumahia has been training at Everybody Fights in Boston. When he started, he had no formal boxing training. Now he says his body has forgotten how to throw improperly, a testament to how much he has trained. It’s called muscle memory: the ability to reproduce a particular movement without conscious thought. It takes regimented repetition. One of Senam’s trainers, professional fighter Kevin Cobbs, says the goal of such intense training is to make fighting instinctual. Come fight night, Senam’s training will take over.
And he looks ready. A heavy weight, weighing in at 205 lbs, he has lost 15 lbs training, watching his diet and giving up alcohol for the last 2 months. Senam says he is continually challenging himself, and that the experience has changed his perspective. “It takes a different kind of mindset to get yourself up at 5am, go for a run, go to work, and then go to the gym afterwards,” he says. “This experience has changed my whole mentality.”
This shift in mentality and perspective is echoed by fellow fighter Brian Morrissey, training at Firicano Boxing & Fitness Center in Stoneham. Brian said the experience has taught him a lot about himself: “It's been an amazing experience, this whole journey. By far the hardest thing I have ever done: balancing 3 jobs, training, and everyday activities. But as hard as it has been, I would not change a thing. I have learned a lot about myself over the past three months. And a few months of pain is nothing compared to what I have seen my family and friends go through because of cancer.”
Kim Lipman has also learned a lot about herself, but she says what has surprised her the most is how generous and supportive people have been. From a donation perspective, Kim has raised more than $25,000. From an emotional perspective, her family and friends created a strong support system. And Kim cites her personal trainers as her rocks: Michelle Lounsbury from Athletic Republic in Norwood, the infamous twins Mark & Matt Nolan from Sorbella Training Center in Waltham, and Paul “the kindest, most generous man in the world” Locke from Elite Boxing & Fitness in North Attleboro. They believe in Kim. She says their support has been unwavering. She explains: “This experience has been amazing, but it’s also really mentally taxing. Unless you’re in it, you really don’t get it.” Her trainers are in her corner.
Which is an important point. It is said that boxing is a lonely sport because at the end of the day, it’s you against your opponent. There’s no team in the ring with you to pick up your slack--it’s all on you. That’s a lot of pressure to deal with, and Kim says she has laid awake many nights thinking about it.
In so many aspects, boxing can be analogous to life in what it can teach us. The importance of having a fighting mindset. Remembering to breath. The discipline and sacrifice it takes to reach goals. How to take a hit. And how sweet the reward is when you've put in the work.
While this fight goes on each fighter’s record, it’s not really about that in the end. It’s about raising money for an important cause. And it’s about perspective. For these fighters, their perspective has changed and is more positive and confident than it was before. How many things in life have that kind of effect? That’s a W no matter what the official record says.
YORK Athletics is proud to be the official footwear sponsor of the 2017 H4H Rock 'N Rumble. Fight night is May 18 at the House of Blues in Boston.
To donate money to help KO cancer, please follow these links: