By Chris Maza
BOSTON – Many people are actively involved in the fight against cancer, but few like Longmeadow native Will O’Malley can say they have literally fought for the cause.
O’Malley is one of 28 amateur fighters who will take part in the Haymakers for Hope Rock ‘n Rumble boxing tournament at the House of Blues in Boston on May 15 to raise money for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
What would possess someone who has never stepped in a boxing ring in his life to take on such a task? According to O’Malley it’s because the impact cancer has had on his life far outweighs that of his opponent’s punches.
“It’s a lot of work. You beat down your body, but I have had a lot of friends who had cancer or passed away from cancer, so I figured this was the least I could do to help out with cancer research,” he said.
O’Malley is fighting in memory of Diane Stambovsky – “she was like a second mother to me” – whose life was claimed by cancer a couple of years ago, as well as in honor of his Godmother MaryLou Gilman, a cancer survivor, and friends currently fighting breast cancer.
He explained that the opportunity presented itself while he was taking a boxing class at a local gym he belongs to in Boston, where he now calls home while working as vice president of investments at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. One of the gym’s instructors suggested he take part in the event and when O’Malley learned more about the effectiveness of the program’s fundraising efforts, he was sold.
“It’s a fairly new fundraiser – it’s been around since 2011 – and they’ve already raised over $2.2 million that goes to Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund,” he said. “Our group is on pace to raise $300,000, which I just find to be an unbelievable number. It’s not like running a race or some of these other things people do to raise money. I saw this as a way to participate in a program that is making a huge difference in how much money they get to donate.”
Fighters participating in the tournament, all of whom are amateurs, certainly don’t enter the ring unprepared. Each fighter spends months training with boxing experts in the Greater Boston area. O’Malley was assigned to The Club in South Boston, run by George Foreman III, son of the former heavyweight champion.
The training program is not one for the faint of heart, a lesson O’Malley said he learned very quickly.
“For the last four months I have been training with George basically every single day,” he said. “I’ve played sports my whole life and I thought I was in shape. When I first stepped into the ring against George, we did three-minute rounds, and 30 seconds in, I was completely done; I had nothing left. That’s when I realized I really wasn’t in shape.”
In order to get into fighting shape, every day, O’Malley has gotten up in the morning – “really early in the morning” – to go for a run, which started at two miles a day and went as long as six miles a day before getting scaled back recently in anticipation of the fight. After a full day of work ending at approximately 5 p.m., he then heads to the gym for two hours of training in the ring.
“It’s mostly sparring and they have people over there who are actual fighters that we’re going up against, so the talent level is pretty good,” he said.
In addition to being a constant endurance test, the training also carries with it an element of danger.
“About a month ago, I got hit really hard in the ribs and fractured one of my ribs. They eventually heal slowly, but it was very, very painful for a while,” O’Malley said. “But once you get smacked around the first time, you learn very quickly how to defend yourself.”
Tickets for general admission/standing room only admission to the event are $75. VIP packages are available for $150 and box seating and sponsorship packages are also available starting at $250.
For more information on Haymakers for Hope, visit the organization’s website at www.haymakersforhope.org