“HEY, DO YOU FEEL LIKE DOING HAYMAKERS FOR HOPE WITH ME?”
Wednesday, December 16 2015
“It's a commitment for both people to do this if you are married or in a relationship. When your spouse comes home and says, 'I think I'd like to do Haymakers for Hope', I think that the statement should probably be translated to '"Hey, do you feel like doing Haymakers for Hope with me?" because your spouse is in it as well.” - Chris Fitzpatrick
When Margie Kelley signed up for Belles of the Brawl 2013, she and her husband, Chris Fitzpatrick (Rock-n-Rumble 2015), saw the experience as a challenge for the entire family. They have two children. Margie knew she couldn’t succeed without their support. The supporting spouse is an integral part of the fighter’s team, and it is no easy job. Chris committed, and held down the fort, which allowed Margie to focus on her training and her personal fight against cancer.
Haymakers for Hope, whose mission is to KO cancer by literally fighting for a cure, produces amateur charity boxing events, currently in Boston and New York City. Fighters like Margie fundraise and have helped Haymakers for Hope (H4H) to raise over $4.3 million to fund important research.
Then the tables turned. Chris asked Margie to do Haymakers with him!
“When Chris started training, we got in the groove of our swapped roles fairly quickly. It was great to be able to talk about training in a new way because now we both knew what it was like to be pushed so hard. I think I was able to help him to know what to expect, and he also got to experience and appreciate all that I'd accomplished in training camp. I was also just so excited for him, knowing how amazing the experience was going to be for him.”
They were able to appreciate both roles, and what they had done for each other. Margie says “the H4H experience was definitely a new way to connect and celebrate each other's accomplishments”.
Her advice for other couples entering the ring?
“Try and remember what it was like for you, either as the fighter or support staff, because in the next event, that's gonna be the other person's job!”
Two other power couples have strengthened, and maybe tested, their vows by sharing the Haymakers experience.
Katie “Braveheart” Sullivan fought in the original Belles of the Brawl in 2013 with Margie. Her husband, Dan, and their four children spent the long summer supporting Katie in her training. Soon after Katie’s bout, Dan decided that he also wanted to do Haymakers. “The energy that I felt during the event, the new friends that she met from the gym- becoming great friends because of the journey that they endured - were big reasons for me to do this. I’ve always cherished my college athletic years as an amazing bond of teamwork - friends trying to get better, and I craved this sense of the “locker room” feel that I had in my 20’s. I could also see the huge sense of accomplishment that she felt. I knew that I wanted to share that with her for the rest of our lives, and it wouldn’t come from doing a marathon or a Tough Mudder event. It had to be a difficult journey that would help me grow.”
Dan went on to fight in Rock -n- Rumble 2014. The Sullivans were in training for a year and raised over $42,000!
Reflecting on their fight year they now wonder how they managed since these days it seems to be a challenge just to find the time for a workout. They look back on that special year very positively. The teamwork and emotional discussions are what Dan remembers most. “I was opening up to her like I’ve never done before. I remember one day just being so tired and sore- that I was hoping to come down with a cold so I didn’t have to spar that night, and she talked me through it.”
Having a spouse who has been through what you’re experiencing is very helpful and bonding. Knowing that they “get it” is sometimes all that you need. Katie says that although they had nearly identical emotions throughout the journey they coped very differently. “Dan didn’t cry!”.
Seeing your spouse work so hard for something and then reach their goal brings forth an overwhelming amount of pride. Watch Dan’s video and you’ll not only hear Katie cheering the loudest, but you’ll actually see her jump up onto the ring in excitement!
As for life after H4H, Katie says that their experiences have definitely brought them closer. They have a new bond of both being part of the Haymakers family. There is an additional layer of respect for each other and shared perspective. “We’ve always known we were a great team. Going through this experience, after 20 years together, provided us some great insight. We embarked on the boxing journey for individual reasons but now know that we will support each other no matter what comes our way.”
They say that the kids survived, and are definitely more independent because of their busy year in training! Their biggest hope is that they’ve set an example for their children that you can achieve difficult goals, and that it’s important to surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed.
Katie and Dan now enjoy watching boxing together. It is something new for them to do that reminds them of their cherished shared experience. You can still find them in the gym sharing a bag, or sparring a new Haymaker every once in a while.
Their advice to other couples considering entering the ring?
“To have this experience in your household, one that you will always share, is both rare and totally awesome. You quickly get back to normal life after the adrenaline rush of fight night wears off but you know you will always have each other’s back, and it gives you a special family grit to get through all the challenges that you will inevitably face in your future. You choose to do something painful and difficult for four months but in the end, you get a gift that would be impossible to create any other way. Our advice: go for it!”
Victoria and Bill Kane also fought in back to back events (Belles 2014 and Rock-n-Rumble 2015). As for their family of four being in training for a year Victoria says that the first half (her training) was easier. (I personally take offense to that as I was her sparring partner. ;) “Bill was really supportive. Still, as more months went by, it meant a lot of time at the gym for the kids, and a lot of single parenting as one of us seemed to be at gym most nights or weekends.”
Bill decided he wanted to do it not long after Victoria's fight. “We talked about the commitment and the impact to the family, then decided to go for it. The fact that you raise money for a cause that is close to home (cancer research) added to my desire to give it a try.”
Back to back fundraising was not a problem for the Kanes. They raised over $9,000 each!
Having paved the way, Victoria feels that she was better able to support Bill because she understood his inability to focus on anything other than training. She knew the routine and understood all the emotions that came with the good nights and bad.
They both agree that it was a powerful experience for their entire family. “The kids witnessed their parents pushing themselves to the limits, committing themselves to something they believe in and getting bloodied up. Strangely, I think it was a really positive experience for them and the kids both workout at the gym from time to time.”
Their advice to other couples considering fighting?
“Do it together if you can and support each other. This is a difficult challenge and it helps to have your significant other in your corner. You'll be better equipped to deal with the day to day. One after the other makes this a really long journey but it's well worth it if you can make it work.”
Interestingly, so far in H4H couples history, it has been the woman who fights first. Victoria jokes: “Bill knew I was the tougher one when we started this journey and that still holds true. :)”
Boston sign-ups are currently underway for Rock-n-Rumble 2016. Will any spouses be asking “Hey, do you feel like doing Haymakers for Hope with me?”.
***Amy “JP” Fielding is a mom of four who fought in Belles of the Brawl 2013. She discovered a love of writing while blogging her training experience at http://lipstickonmygloves.blogspot.com/. She is now a proud coach at FA Boxing and advisory board member for Haymakers for Hope.