Fighting into history at Madison Square Garden
Tuesday, January 12 2016
Madison Square Garden. They call it the Mecca of boxing, the place where legends are born. Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Rocky Marciano— all have stepped through the ropes at the Garden and into boxing history.
Twenty-eight novice fighters joined those legends in a moment of boxing glory on November 19, all for the benefit of Haymakers for Hope.
The vibe in the arena and backstage was electric as these bankers and traders and lawyers by-day, cast off their suits and ties and professional selves to don boxing gloves and mouth guards and headgear. The clothing change may have been quick, but the transformation, from Average Joe or Jane to super cancer-fighting hero had been a grueling four months for most, still longer for others.
But here was their moment, in this hallowed place, where the knockouts and cheers of old still seemed to echo from wall to wall. It wasn’t lost on a single one of these first-time fighters, either.
“Wow!” declared one wide-eyed fighter, as he picked up his fight gear at the check-in table and stepped into the arena where the ring sat empty, dressed in its brand-new Haymakers for Hope canvas. “This is so cool!” he declared, before slipping into a stairwell to seek out his team dressing room.
Then a wave of fighters arrived at once and flooded into a backstage lounge to get instructions and ask questions. “We’re getting weighed in our underwear?” asked one. “Do we have to wear these?” asked another, holding up a protective cup he found in a bin that was teeming with them. The answer was a resounding and emphatic “YES.”
Once changed, fighters roamed the backstage area as they got weighed and checked by the fight doctor, had their hands wrapped and their photos taken. The vibe was electric with anticipation and no shortage of nerves.
“I just weighed in, and it was the lowest I’ve weighed in many years,” said lawyer Philip Kimball, as he finished getting ready. “The training has been life-changing. I have a new and profound appreciation for pro fighters and what they go through to get ready. And to be here, I mean, I walked in and I saw the ring and I said okay it’s really happening. It’s awesome.”
“Getting here and seeing the ring makes me feel more comfortable,” said Morgan Collett, an entrepreneur who trained at Church Street Boxing. “It’s like, OK cool, it’s just like sparring, something I’ve done a hundred times in the gym. So I feel ready.”
For attorney Larissa Boz, who trained out of Mendez Boxing, walking into the iconic arena left her awestruck. “That’s when it sunk in that this is really going to happen! I’m nervous, excited, amazed and ready to fight!”
Equity trader Jessica Marino greeted her opponent, Asmeret Berhe-Lumax, with a big hug and wished her good luck as she headed down a long corridor to get her hands wrapped.
“I am so fucking excited,” said Marino, a triathlete who had never boxed prior to training at Gotham Gym for this night. “It’s such a cool event. I’m a competitive athlete, but this is such a different thing for me. It’s almost more exciting. We’re all here, in this together and people are coming—family and friends—to support us. They paid a lot of money for tickets— for charity —and the energy is electric! It’s just an amazing experience. Really, a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I think. I obviously want to go in there and kick some ass, but you don’t know. I never boxed before this, so I’m going in there to do what I learned and just go for it.”
For foreign exchange trader Andrew White, coming into Madison Square Garden sparked a flood of emotions. “I’m from across the pond,” said White, who trained at Mendez Boxing. “I’ve seen this place on TV lots of times so it’s exciting. And it’s my first fight so I have lots of emotions going through me right now. I’m just going to keep cool and go with it.”
“Overwhelmed” was Jeff Sharon’s feeling when he arrived. “This is my first time in Madison Square Garden,” said the Gotham Gym boxer and real estate broker. “To think I’m fighting where so many professional fighters have fought. It’s humbling. But I’m ready. There’s nothing else to do but fight.”
And with that, the time to prepare was over. The ring was bathed in light. The crowd began to cheer. Then, two by two, 28 novice boxers took a swing at cancer, and in doing so, captured a little bit of boxing history for themselves.
To see how it all turned out, check here: https://haymakersforhope.org/events/past
***Margie Kelley is a mom, freelance writer, master gardener and sometimes boxer. She fought in the 2013 Belles of the Brawl in Boston, and managed to convince her husband, Chris Fitzpatrick, to fight in the Rock ‘n Rumble in May. Settling arguments has taken on a whole new meaning in their house!