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Monday, May 16, 2011

Melson Fights for a Reason

Junior middleweight Boyd Melson is scheduled to fight for the third time in his professional career on Thursday in the Roseland Ballroom in New York, New York. Melson’s story is inspirational. He fights for a cause. By stepping into the ring, he hopes to raise awareness for stem cell research. In fact, he donates his entire boxing purses to the cause.

Melson met a woman named Christan Zaccagnino several years ago and they instantly shared a bond. This chance meeting would change his life. Zaccagnino was in a wheelchair stemming from a childhood accident. Her dream was to walk again. As they became closer, Melson soon shared in her dream. The desire to make it a realization fueled his competitive nature and he began researching on his own in a desperate effort to help her. Their love for each other strong, the two traveled around the world searching for a procedure that would help Zaccagnino walk again. None has worked yet.

But Melson and Zaccagnino refuse to quit. More research is needed. Melson’s voice quakes with emotion as he talks about his cause and it is easy to realize his devotion to it and to his friend. Listening to him, it’s a challenge not to get swept up in his words.

Melson learned to box in college at West Point because it was a required course. The sport came naturally to him. He gained success as an amateur and realized that he stuck out from the crowd. He attracted attention, not only due to his success, but because of his Jewishness and his education, two anomalies in boxing.

He gained the impetus to conflate his professional boxing career and his cause of bringing awareness to stem cell research from an unusual source. Boyd chuckled as he explained, when thinking about the popular reality show Jersey Shore, he realized that the people on the show are famous for no reason; they have nothing to say. It made him understand that he actually had something to say and could use the medium of boxing as a platform to say it.

Melson said he hopes to stay in boxing, “As long as I can be successful.” He wants to live “a normal life” and feels very fortunate that he has other options. So far he has been successful, utilizing a defensive strategy through his ability to avoid punches by employing movement. But he asserts that he’s willing to trade if need be.

He admits he’s a slow starter, which can be an ordeal in four-round bouts. Sometimes he’s thinks too much in the ring to his detriment. And it’s a challenge to train for a fight when you don’t know the opponent in advance. In training he tries to get “different looks in sparring,” so he’s prepared for anything, but he still contends that not knowing your opponent during training “stinks.” Regardless, Melson credits his will for his success in the ring. “I’ve beaten guys with better boxing ability because of my will,” he states in a measured tone.

Success nearly eluded him at the beginning of his pro career. The boxer admits that he came out too hard in his first fight, resulting in a knockdown in the first 15 seconds of the first round. He rebounded and controlled the rest of the round and the remainder of the fight. His motivation is not only to raise awareness for stem cell research. He told me he fights for his classmates who have been killed or wounded during their military service. He fights for his grandparents, who survived the Holocaust. And he also fights for himself.

Melson's website is here. To support spinal cord injury research, click here.

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