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This Week, You Can Watch DC-Area Amateur Boxers Duke It Out for Cancer Research at the Anthem

The charity fight will be Haymakers for Hope's first event in DC.

All photographs courtesy of Haymakers for Hope.

This week, the Anthem is hosting something a little different. This isn’t a Lizzo concert or a talk with Jane Goodall, but rather an excuse to see people deck one another—for a good cause, of course.

Haymakers for Hope is a charity boxing match that benefits cancer research and awareness, and it’ll host its first DC event “The Beltway Brawl” on September 19. All 30 participants are local, first-time boxers who signed up for the event to raise money for the fight against cancer.

The Washington competitors include the likes of a wrestling coach at Woodrow Wilson High School, a Johns Hopkins oncology nurse, and a Navy officer. So far, the group has raised over $300,000.

The philanthropy is the brainchild of co-founders Andrew Myerson and Julie Anne Kelly, two friends who met at a New York boxing gym in 2009. Kelly convinced Myerson to enter a few matches competitively, and he became hooked on the sport.

The duo had both been affected by cancer—Kelly is a cancer survivor, and Myerson lost a good friend to the disease—and they decided to combine their love of boxing with their desire to help fund cancer research.

The two had plenty of friends who were running marathons to raise money for various charities, and they figured Haymakers for Hope could follow a similar format. Boxers would sign up for a fight and then train for several months, during which they’d raise money for the group from supporters.

After the match, the competitors could donate the funds to whichever cancer nonprofit they chose. (“If you’re getting punched in the face for this, you should have some say where the money goes,” Myerson says, laughing.)

From the get-go, the event was a success. “The joke I like to tell is that we vastly underestimated how much our friends like to see disease punched in the face,” says Myerson. “People were so amped up about it. There’s something about boxing that amps people up [in a way] that running doesn’t.”

But another important part of the charity is introducing folks to the sport. The group connects the competitors with instructors at local boxing gyms who work with them over the four-month training period prior to the fight, a set-up Myerson calls “a win-win-win.” Not only do area gyms get connected with new customers, but folks get eased into the boxing world, which can seen intimidating to a newcomer, he says.

Some of the local gyms acting as home bases for the training fighters include Urban Boxing DC, Hard Training Club, and Tysons City Boxing.

And, after the fight, a lot of the competitors find themselves hooked. “We have a lot of people who do it as a kickstart to becoming a fitter person, and then they use it as a lightning rod to continue to stay in shape,” says Myerson. “For a lot of fighters, it becomes addicting.”

While it’s cool to have a USA Boxing-sanctioned fight under your belt, Myerson says the most important focus for fighters is really on the philanthropy. “The biggest thing is the money they’re raising,” he says, “and the community environment of getting all their friends together to do something powerful for something they care about.”

Tickets for the event are $80 to $155, the proceeds of which can either go to a specific fighter’s funds or the nonprofit in general. Money raised for the nonprofit will go toward administrative costs and research it’s commissioning around a boxing program for cancer survivors.

The Anthem; 901 Wharf St. SW

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Associate Editor

Mimi Montgomery joined Washingtonian in 2018. She previously was the editorial assistant at Walter Magazine in Raleigh, North Carolina, and her work has appeared in Washington City Paper, DCist, and PoPVille. Originally from North Carolina, she now lives in Adams Morgan.