Outside the Ring: Boyd Melson

By Jill Diamond on October 12, 2015
Outside the Ring: Boyd Melson
“I want a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries. I want my angel on this planet to walk again.”

“I need my best friend Christan Zaccagnino to walk again. I am very close with three-time World Boxing Champion Paul Williams. I need him to walk again…”

Sports and Philanthropy: A series of articles dedicated to those who’ve given their all and still give more. Each article will feature a different community champion; no belts, no medals, no ratings… just good people passing it on.

Boyd Melson was a champion long before he ever stepped into the ring.

His amateur career was stunning (four times US Army Championship gold medal winner, three times NCBA All-American Boxer, four times West Point Brigade Open Boxing Champion, etc….) and he currently holds the WBC USNBC Super Welterweight Champion and is winner of the NABF Humanitarian Award for 2014. All that’s listed on BoxRec or Wikipedia or any of the other search sites you choose to google.

So what makes Boyd different from the many, talented and courageous men and women that get inside the ropes?

Well, part of the lure is a love story that turned into the fiercest and most dedicated friendship ever known, and the other part is his authentic generosity and altruistic compulsion to give away every penny he earns boxing to Spinal Cord Research, particularly to one study run by Dr. Wise Young. 

Boyd works his cause, 24/7, sometimes to the deficit of the rest of his life. There is nothing more important to him; not even boxing, which he sees as a platform and a ripe tool for public awareness. To put it in his own words, he has decided to cure paralysis, injustice and illnesses “one punch at a time.”

On Thursday, October 15th, 20015, his group, Team Fight to Walk, will hold their second fundraiser, “Fighting for the Cure,” at Beckwith Pointe in New Rochelle, NY. It’s a gala supported by NBA Cares and with help from other organizations and believers. I know. I’m attending. So whether you’re a boxing fan or a hoops fan or just someone who wants to see a person you care about rise out of that chair and walk, take a giant step forward with them, and join us.

What first interested you in boxing?

Boxing as a sport always interested me. When I say interested me, I suppose more conceptually as well as a spectator, and if presented for fun with friends, definitely as a participant. I grew up with an extremely physical nature. I loved roughhousing with my friends, and I loved when my older sister’s friends used to playfully beat up on me as a child. Something about playfully testing my strength and determination against another person always had me raise my hand to volunteer since my earliest memories as a child. It wasn’t until my Plebe (freshman) year at West Point that boxing as a competitive amateur entered my life. Like all male Plebes at West Point, I had to take boxing as a mandatory graduation requirement class, and that was when I first put on the boxing gloves. So the answer to your question is—I HAD NO CHOICE.

Tell me about life at West Point?

In short, you learn how to laugh and have fun while life sucks. I believe one of West Point’s purposes is to overwhelm you purposely so that you learn how to perform under great stress. Every cadet has to play a sport, either Division 1, Club, or intramural. Every Cadet graduates with a Bachelor of Science degree, so every Cadet takes the same core curriculum their first two years. On average, an academic semester has each cadet taking 20+ credit hours of courses. Every Cadet is assigned a mandatory military position amongst their peers. All three categories require significant time, and every Cadet is graded in each area. On top of this, there is a fat book called the Cadet SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) with a million rules and regulations that every Cadet has to follow every moment that they are a Cadet at West Point. Yet, through this all, we learn how to be silly and laugh and tease each other and ourselves about our self-induced misery.

Your parents have an interesting story. Care to share?

My parents met in Germany while they both were Soldiers in the United States Army. They both were Enlisted (so not Officers), and they met when my father was an instructor for a military science course that my mother had to take. My father claims that although he was my mother’s Instructor, he pointed my mother out to his friend on the first day of class. Till this day he holds strong that he told his friend that he is going to marry and have babies one day with my mother.

What led to your passion for spinal cord research?

Once upon a time, at the end of my Junior Year at West Point, I was out at a dance club and met a young girl who was also in college. She was 19 at the time. She broke her neck when she was 10, paralyzing her. She lived her life in a wheelchair. We ended up becoming a couple for many years, and after about the first year of being together, her dream to walk again became my dream. It was from that moment on, and every moment since, learning about Spinal Cord Injury research has been the center of my life. I realized that I needed to know what I did not know so that I would know what questions to ask. I have spent many years now learning about the spinal cord, stem cells, regenerating the spinal cord and research going on around the world trying to cure Spinal Cord Injuries. My dream to help Christan achieve her dream is what led to my passion for Spinal Cord Injury research

Tell us about Team Fight to Walk.

Team Fight to Walk is a 501c3 Non-Profit founded by Christan and me. The mission is to raise funds for clinical trials aimed at curing Spinal Cord Injuries as well as to raise awareness for the need to conduct clinical trials in order to find this cure. Personally, I donate my entire boxing purses to Team Fight to Walk after every fight. Christan handles the day-to-day administrative duties for the organization, and I serve more as the face. Currently, we are using our donated funds to help Dr. Wise Young conduct a clinical trial in the United States with the aim of curing Chronic Spinal Cord Injuries. A Chronic Spinal Cord Injury means that the injury is over a year old, and an acute injury is when the injury is less than a year old. The science behind a cure for a chronic Spinal Cord Injury does not mean that it will work for an acute Spinal Cord Injury and vice-versa. Dr. Wise Young was one of Christopher Reeve’s (Superman) advisers, was named by TIME magazine “America’s Best In Spinal Cord Research,” and this study involves transplanting adult stem cells, from donated umbilical cords AFTER the baby is born, and injecting them into the Spinal Cord. 100% of the funding for this trial is being raised through donations. The study is supposed to take place at the University of Newark Hospital in Newark, New Jersey, will involve 12 patients, will cost $1.8 million to conduct, and we are still $1.2 million shy of what is needed to raise to conduct the study.

Who in the community supports your organization?

In the boxing community, Team Fight to Walk has found significant constant support from Mauricio Sulaiman and Jill Diamond of the WBC and the WBC Cares, from Lou DiBella and DiBella Entertainment, and from thousands of boxing fans. Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions have also shown their support on two occasions, and Roc Nation’s COO of Boxing Dave Itskowitch has shown up to help me with Team Fight to Walk just about any singe time I have ever asked him for help. The New York Chapter for Spinal Cord Injuries at Mt. Sinai in Manhattan has come out to support us, and in different ways at different times. Different leading Spinal Cord Injury researchers have also supported Team Fight to Walk. The late Anthony Mason of the Knicks along with his entire family have shown great support for Team Fight to Walk. John Starks of the Knicks picked up where Anthony Mason left off with showing support for Team Fight to Walk. Paul Williams, Demetrius Andrade, Deontay Wilder, Steve Cunningham, Junior Jones, Luis Collazo, and Peter Quillin have shown up in person at events of our to show support. Comedian Artie Lang donated his time to do standup comedy to support our organization. The United States Army Reserve Public Affairs has shown great support as well.

You give away your purse. How do you support yourself?

I am an Officer in the rank of Captain in the Army Reserve. This involves me showing up for duty at least one weekend a month and two weeks a year. As a Captain in the Reserve, when I have duty, I get paid a salary. I work as a Medical Device Sales Representative for a start-up medical company. This involves me selling our product to clinicians in hospitals as well as being in the operating room during the surgeries as the subject matter expert on my company’s product. I teach one boxing and abs class a week at the Equinox Fitness Club in Manhattan, and rarely, when I have time, I substitute classes. I am a Public Speaker, and depending on the venue, I charge a fee to speak.

You market yourself in a manner most boxers don’t. What tools does it take?

I am fortunate in that the only thing I have to do to gain peoples’ attentions in the boxing community is be successful in the ring. Who I am without professional boxing is a 33-year-old man who is a Captain in the Army Reserve, went to West Point, has his MBA, is mixed with Black and White being Jewish and Creole, was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic Boxing Team, and has dedicated the last 11 years of his life towards helping his friend to try to walk again. Put that storyline into the boxing ring, and now incorporate that person donating everything they earn in the ring to Spinal Cord Injury Research, you have a machine that markets itself without making any intentional efforts to market itself. I need to win in the ring, speak coherently, and show character and personality. The rest takes care of itself because of everything else that makes me who I am at 33 years old.

Who is on your Team?

I am only going to speak to the members of the team who have contributed in some form and are current or former professional athletes. The Anthony Mason family, John Starks, Demetrius Andrade, Steve Cunningham, Danny Jacobs, Paul Williams, Peter Quillin, Junior Jones, Lou Collazo, Frank Galarza, Deontay Wilder, Stephen Baker, Herb Williams, Chris Algieri, and Deandre Latimore. There are many more members who have all helped contribute towards our present state within our organization.

Who are your role models?

My role models are parents who take care of their children, people who hold a space of love at all times and offer that love unconditionally, and people who live believing that we share this planet.

Who inspires you?

Fathers who sacrifice to provide for their families, any person trying to better another person’s life, any person doing what it takes to better their own life, people acting selflessly, people willingly accepting suffering when they know it will help them achieve their goal, and people continuing to push forward to achieve their goal when nobody would blame them for stopping at any given point.

Who has let you down?

When people’s actions show that they forgot that we share this planet. When nastiness and ugliness is shown from one person to another. When people judge others based off of a snapshot of a moment they are seeing, and they fail to take into account that there is much more to what has led up to that moment than what they are seeing. When people fake their smiles.

A fight you’d like to see?

Erislandy Lara vs. Floyd Mayweather.

A decision that stunned you?

Erislandy Lara vs. Paul Williams.

Can boxing be safer? If so, how?

My dear brother Dr. Nitin Sethi is a ringside physician and a world-class neurologist at Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan. He said one of the greatest health risks boxers face is returning to sparring or competition post-concussion when they are not ready to return. First he claimed concussions are being missed, so mandating more script post-fight evaluations for concussions, according to him, would significantly help make boxing safer. He then also said that a boxer should have a baseline neurological assessment performed when they are not in a normal neurological state. This assessment would allow for a baseline to be set. After every fight, they should perform this same assessment. If their scores do not meet what their baseline scores were, then they should not be allowed to spar or compete. Once they are able to meet their baseline scores, then they should be cleared. He believes this is another mechanism that should ensure that boxing is more safe, and I defer to his judgment.

You’re the USNBC light middleweight champion. What does that title mean to you?

It instantly makes wonder how the heck I got here. What made me decide to go to West Point? What made me go to that dance club that night where I met Christan? Why did I sign up for that boxing tournament my Plebe year at West Point where I knocked out the West Point Boxing Team Captain in the finals? How the heck did I go from winning that to winning a WBC Championship? How I pray that this gives me legitimacy in the boxing public so that I can get interviewed more in order to talk about Team Fight to Walk. How I hope this gets me invited to more non-boxing events as a special guest so that I can talk about Team Fight to Walk. How I remembered when I was a Cadet at West Point on the boxing team, and I told my Coach Chris Hart in a jokingly manner that I am going to go pro one day and win a title and you are going to be in my corner, and when I did win this belt, I asked that Coach to be in the corner with my Head Coach at the time. Coach Chris Hart had not been in my corner since I was a Firstie (senior) at West Point in 2003. If we are able to make that vision come true (which trust me was about as impossible sounding at the time as it could come, which was why I said it jokingly) we can make this vision come true of raising the necessary funds we need to in order to conduct this trial that will hopefully cure Spinal Cord Injuries.

Is boxing more than a platform for you?

It is my peace. It is a place where you get to completely wear your heart on your sleeve, and in the gym, you never have to worry about someone faking a smile. You get to be a child. You get to make fun and tease yourself and everyone around you in a playful nature, and you get hugs and smiles of brotherhood by those around you. The only thing people care about in the gym is that you come to work and you try hard. If you do that, you are accepted. Outside of playful teasing, you never have to worry about being judged, and you get to show as much or as little raw emotion as you would like without being judged. You are also surrounded by youth who are the type of youth that are usually in need of guidance in life. Boxing allows you to offer wisdom and mentorship to these youth, and that is extraordinary.

Rate yourself?

As a human being with loving intention—10
As a human being who does his best to live remembering that we share this planet—9
As a competitor—9
As a compassionate human being—10
My present boxing ability—8
My ability to find a way to win in the ring—9
My potential in the ring—10

What awards or honors have you gotten?

St. Judes Heart of a Champion Award, The WBC Cares Humanitarian Award, The WBC Cares Ambassador of Peace.

What are your goals?

To keep this part short, I will list them instead of going into detail about each. I want to help find a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries. I want my angel on this planet to walk again. I want to become a full-time paid motivational speaker always donating a significant portion of my speaking fee to help find a cure for any medical condition that is currently without a cure. I want to have my own family, and I want to be the best husband and father I can possibly be. I want to be a Congressman so that I can help create policy to help human beings who are suffering. I want to fight on national television, and I would love to fight James Kirkland for that national television fight. I want to always find a way to make people remember who they were when they were children.

Upcoming projects?

Team Fight to Walk has its Third Annual “Fighting for the Cure” Gala October 15th at Beckwith Pointe in New Rochelle, NY. Christan Zaccaganino is my inspiration and my fellow Founder, and she has worked her butt off putting this event together. Immediately after the Gala, there is a hospital in Bilwi, Nicaragua that I was able to have a personal tour of, and they need $5,000 to replace all of their mattresses in thehospital. This hospital is the main medical facility for a population of 66,000 people, and they need 120 mattresses to replace their bacteria infested mattresses. For my 34th birthday on October 16th, I am going to have a GoFundMe page set up, and I will ask every person on Facebook that reads my message to donate two dollars. I have a few thousand friends on Facebook, so hopefully that will help raise this much needed money for this Nicaraguan city’s hospital. In November, the PIVOT Network will be filming me for two days; I was one of two Veterans that they chose to create a minute and a half documentary highlighting Veterans who served on Active Duty and are trying to better their communities. I found another way to immediately raise funds for Spinal Cord Injuries. I was invited to be a guest speaker at an event for Jewish Doctors in Monmouth, New Jersey on December 7th, and they are paying me a speaking fee. I was also asked to speak at the annual Gala for the Connecticut Chapter for Spinal Cord Injuries on March 12th and they are going to pay me a speaking fee. I will be donating both of these speaking fees to Team Fight to Walk. The United States Army Reserve created a five-minute mini-documentary that I was allowed to watch already. It tells the story of Christan and my fight to help fund a medical study that may cure Spinal Cord Injuries through the sport of Professional Boxing. It is extremely emotional and made me cry, even though it is my own story, and will be released very soon. Producers from ESPN and FOX Sports are waiting to see it.

What message would you like to send to the public?

I believe that we all share this planet. We were once children, and when we were children, I believe we did not care what anyone’s race or ethnicity was, what their religion was, or where they were from. We accepted everyone, and we did not judge. We only wanted to love people around us and be loved by them. I believe that children, merely by being alive as children, live understanding that we all share this planet. I believe that if we find our inner-child, we will remember that we all share this planet, and we have the chance to be the best versions of ourselves as human beings.

What is your dream?

I will only state my current greatest dream. I need my best friend Christan Zaccagnino to walk again. She dove into a pool when she was 10 years and broke her neck, instantly paralyzing her. She is now 32 years old and has lived paralyzed in a wheelchair since that day. Her walking again is my current greatest dream, and for that, we need to find a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries. Christan and I created a 501c3 named Team Fight to Walk,and donations can be made at teamfighttowalk.com. I need Christan to walk. I am very close with three-time World Boxing Champion Paul Williams. I need him to walk. With your help we can raise enough money to realize my dream of Christan and Paul and the 300,000 Americans paralyzed in wheelchairs to walk again.

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Boyd Melson: Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel (April 2013 Edition)



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  1. peter 05:38pm, 10/14/2015

    Thank you for this inspiring article, Jill Diamond. Boyd Melson is a unique individual. He once popped into my high school English classroom at White Plains High School where he had graduated. He spoke to my students and was an inspiration to us all. By all measures, Boyd is a gentleman, a warrior and a true champion. I can see him out-thinking and outpointing a rugged James Kirkland…Plato, the ancient philosopher, stated that one of the requirements for being a successful political leader was first being a proven leader on the playing field. Boyd Melson has certainly done that. Congressman Melson—yes!

  2. KB 07:15am, 10/12/2015

    Marvelous, simply marvelous. A rare human being, If only there were more like him.

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