Dear Future Haymaker
Monday, December 11 2017
Having my hand raised in front of my family, friends and colleagues after months of training and sacrifice is a moment I will cherish forever. Since the first day I laced up a pair of boxing gloves, I always knew I would compete, and never stopped pushing myself physically and mentally until that day came. What I didn’t know is that my night ‘under the lights’ would carry meaning that far exceeded me as an individual, and even the sport of boxing.
I took on the ‘Haymakers For Hope’ challenge in honor of my girlfriend’s mother, and dear friend, Ann Zeller. Ann had been battling multiple forms of rare Cancers for over forty years, and did so with effortless grace and courage. She was and will always be one of the most special people I have ever been influenced by. So while my urge to compete and test my boxing progress was the driving force behind seeking an amateur bout, the opportunity to honor Ann and her family was what made this a once in a lifetime experience for me.
Halfway through my training, Ann’s lifelong battle with Cancer came to an end and she passed away in July, with her family and closest friends by her side (myself included). Everyone grieves in their own unique way: some write, some sing, some travel, some just cry and some do a little bit of it all. For me, training became both my outlet and my grieving process. It was an escape from the pain I was witnessing my loved ones experience, and it was a validation that I was doing my part to honor Ann. During training camp, I was driven by much more than the desire to win and my competitive hardwiring. I was possessed by the opportunity to bring joy to those who had suffered heartbreak, and showed strength far beyond what we were doing inside the ring. This drive and newly found life perspective made long work days followed by intense training sessions an easy task. Bruises, blood, missed social events, and cutting weight were insignificant, relative to the strength I had witnessed that summer. The mantra #AnnStrong was patched on my robe and written on my knuckles on fight night.
When we had our fighter orientation, participants from year’s passed shared their experiences. The one constant across all of their accounts was the statement “nothing will compare to the feeling you will have on fight night.” This was an understatement. Seeing your loved ones band together and honor both your hard work and a cause dear to you has no comparison. That is what the Haymakers For Hope organization creates; an unequaled atmosphere of unified support and awareness. The cause is bigger than all of its participants. Everyone inside Hammerstein Ballroom on November 16th had their own story. Each story was carried into the ring and was brought the awareness it deserved that night.
Haymakers For Hope was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life. Being a part of a cause bigger than yourself and working tirelessly towards something that will bring joy to those you love is what life is all about. My fundraising, training and experience on fight night brought the strongest sense of purpose I have felt in my life. Cancer and the strength of those that are touched by it quickly bring a deep sense of perspective and gratitude for what you have in front of you. I can truly say that I have a rejuvenated appreciation for life, and for that I am forever indebted to the Haymakers For Hope family.
Keep those hands up. And never stop fighting.
All the best,