Boyd “Rainmaker” Melson may be the only fighter in boxing history not in the sport for financial gain and even came out of retirement for one final match to raise funds for others.
A multi-time champion as an amateur that defeated future pro standouts Keith Thurman, Charles Hatley, and Deandre Latimore, Melson had a different vision of what boxing would do. The 2003 West Point graduate and Army Reserve Officer used boxing as a vehicle and a voice for causes close to his heart throughout his 18 fight career, donating 100% of the money he earned in the ring.
Overall, Melson helped raise $400,000 between his boxing purses and charity galas. The majority of the funds was for Team Fight to Walk, a 501(C)3 which raises funds and awareness for a clinical trial focused on to curing Chronic Spinal Cord Injuries. He also donated one of his purses to a childhood friend that had a son battling brain cancer and another to Big Vision, which helps people battle drug addictions among young adults.
Fighting for causes was his ultimate passion, but the literal fights were often very difficult. Melson spent the first few years of his professional boxing career traveling from his New York City residence to New Jersey where he worked for Johnson&Johnson as a medical device sales rep. When he was preparing for a fight, he'd run on his lunch break, train in the evening after working a full day and often run again in the middle of the night to help cut weight. At the same time, Melson served in the U.S. Army Reserve, having military duties one weekend a month and two weeks a year.
In addition, Melson would teach fitness classes at Equinox Fitness to earn extra money and regularly traveled to public schools providing motivational speeches to students for free. The exhausting schedule was hard for Melson, who suffered multiple injuries including a stretched brachial plexus which temporarily paralyzed his right arm during his fight against Donald Ward, multiple tears in his left rotator cuff, kidney stones due to dehydration and a fracture in his left orbital bone. Still, he made weight for every fight in his career and finished 15-2-1 with 4 wins by knockout, winning the WBC USNBC junior middleweight title against Mike Ruiz in May 2015.
Melson believed his championship winning performance would be his last bout as lingering injuries from boxing still bothered him and a laundry list of other commitments occupied much of his time. He came out of his unofficial retirement for one final match last November against Courtney Pennington. Melson's fight financially assisted the aforementioned Big Vision, an organization which he works very closely with that has a mission of helping young adults battling drug addictions return to sobriety. Unfortunately, Melson took extreme measures to cut 30 pounds in 8 weeks and entered the ring devoid of energy, losing via 7th round stoppage.
Following the fight, Melson officially announced his retirement and plans to run for U.S. Congress in 2018. Promoter Lou DiBella, who promoted most of Melson's fights including his career finale, said to the crowd at the Foxwoods Casino “I've never promoted a better man than Boyd Melson.”
Overall, Melson is satisfied with his boxing career and is greatly appreciative for the incredible support from the boxing community.
“When I turned pro, I had no idea how far or long professional boxing would take me. This is a brutal sport not just physically but mentally as well. There were many days where I wanted to stop fighting for a number of reasons, but it was on those days that I had to always remind myself that I needed to fight to help others. The causes I fought for and continue to fight for outside of the ring are as important as anything in my life. Through boxing, I made many great friends and am incredibly thankful for that. I also appreciate everybody that donated to Team Fight to Walk or Big Vision as well as all the media that helped raise awareness for these great causes by covering my career.”
With the gloves hung up, Melson's focused on running for United States Congress, advancing his career in the US Army Reserve, assisting others in need and continuing his growing career as a public and motivational speaker.
“I fell on my sword in order to compete in this last fight. The weight loss took the fight from my body, so I used every bit of strength in my mind to give whatever I had. I had one purpose for this last fight, and that was to raise awareness and money to help combat the heroin epidemic in Staten Island. I took a beating for this mission and I hope my example demonstrated the need to risk everything, even your body, when you believe it will help the lives of others suffering. Boxing has created a future that has continued to allow me to serve mankind now that I have left the ring as a competitor. I am on the board for the charities Boxer Inc., Stop Soldier Suicide, Team Fight To Walk, and hopefully Big Vision sometime soon. I was recently asked to join the 501c3 titled "The In Bed and Chair Recovery Foundation" so that I can serve on their board. They have a patented multi-faceted exercise apparatus which is meant for anyone who is confined to a wheelchair or a bed. They've asked me to help raise money through donations so that they can provide their unit, free of charge to groups of people in need such as disabled veterans and children battling cancer. There is a lot of pressure I continue to put on myself through various commitments and organizations I’m involved with, but this is what makes my world go round as I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“I continue to have more opportunities presented to me so that I can positively reach children through my words. Although I have only fought once in order to help create a larger awareness regarding the heroin epidemic in Staten Island, my mission for this cause has only begun. My goal is to begin offering my time to host free boxing clinics on the Island at Rustam's Boxing Gym as well as one of Teddy Atlas's boxing gyms. These clinics will be meant for heroin addicts, and the aim is to knockout heroin on Staten Island. My hope is to help Staten Island's heroin addicts fall in love with boxing and have that as a vehicle to help overcome the addiction. These human beings are sick but they're are not criminals. Sometimes people who are sick are not able to be healed on their own and when that happens it is upon us as human beings to come together to help heal them.”
Melson is currently on military orders at Fort Meade, Maryland for 9 weeks in total. He is in school there being trained for his new duty as a Public Affairs Officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. Upon completing training in March, Melson will be looked at in April for a much welcomed promotion to the rank of Major. When he is finished, Melson looks to take his political aspirations to the next level.
If elected, Melson’s mission will involve helping many aspects of human beings' daily lives with a focus on battling bullying, sickness and disease, poor health care for veterans, veteran suicide, heroin addiction, racism, hunger and unemployment.
“Every part of my journey these past 6 years as a professional boxer has led me to my decision to run for U.S. Congress in 2018. I hope to make my official announcement some time in 2017. Various celebrities and generals have given me their words that they will stand by my side in the public during this run. I am tired of being the human being always asking for help and never being the one asked for help. My mission is to bring the type of fight I brought every fight into the ring and implement it while serving the people as an elected official. I’m confident I can be very effective in using my abilities to help improve the lives of human beings that I am responsible to and for. Most importantly, I need to inspire the hearts and minds of those necessary to help get me elected.”
Melson is also proud to announce that the cause that brought him to boxing, Team Fight To Walk, should have FDA Approval to conduct the clinical trial here in the United States by this Fall. Melson, along with Christan Zaccagnino and publicist Matt Yanofsky have raised $400,000 to help conduct this clinical trial. The trial will consist of 27 Spinal Cord Injured human beings in total. It will divide the 27 into three groups of nine treated between the University of Newark Hospital in New Jersey along with Mount Sinai and Long Island Jewish Hospitals in New York.
The study presented to the FDA was published in May of 2016 in the Medical Journal “Cell Transplantation," with its results being heavily investigated by American physicians. All reviewing physicians agreed with the results, a requirement in order to be published. This exact study conducted in China resulted in 15 out of 20 Spinal Cord Injured patients, as a group paralyzed an average of 7 years, now able to walk at least 10 meters with the help of a walker. The results also showed that 12 out of these same 20 had their bladder and bowel functions restored. Melson, Zaccagnino and the rest of Team Fight to Walk believe this is the beginning of our long awaited cure for Spinal Cord Injuries in the United States.
Fans can keep up with the latest on Boyd and contact him via Twitter @Boydmelson, Facebook at Boyd Melson, and Instagram @BoydMelson