[Interview by Pattee Mak – January 10, 2016] Professional boxer Boyd “Rainmaker” Melson (15-1-1, 4 Ko’s) from White Plains, New York has been fighting in pro boxing division since November 20, 2010 when he was victorious by UD against Andrew Jones. Prior to his pro days he was fighting in the US army, he won multiple titles including 4x US champion. He is currently the WBC United States (USNBC) super welterweight champ when he fought against Mike Ruiz back May 8, 2015 and won by UD after 10 rounds. BUT … Melson isn’t a typical fighter who fights for money. Melson has a mission. A story to tell. What drives Melson to stand out above the rest of the fighters? Why does Melson have an interest in spinal cord research and why does he give up his purse?
Pattee Mak: Your last fight in May you won the vacant WBC USNBC super welterweight title. I believe Ruiz was down in the 6th tell me more about your victory. Did your fight go according to plan?
Melson: The fight most absolutely went to plan. Mike has great timing, and a great will to win. We knew we had to throw feints throughout the fight and manage the distance. We also had to keep turning him. I had not fought in 15 months prior to this fight. We also had an extremely challenging camp. My Assistant Coach named Bernie Lenahan passed away. Then I was in the ICU at NYU Medical Center for 3 weeks by Anthony Mason. Mason is a Knicks legend and was an older brother to me. I missed only 3 days out of the 3 weeks in the ICU with him until he passed as well. Then my Head Coach Simon Bakinde had to leave for France for a month because his mother was ill. Coach Eliot Ness took over as my head coach. This was the first time we ever worked together, and we did so for 1 month. I was only able to spar 17 rounds to prepare for this as a result of everything I stated in my answer to this question. I also had Army Reserve Duty the weekend leading up to this fight. Duty was from Thursday through Sunday because we had to qualify on the range with our weapons. This was in May and it was hot outside. I finished that weekend 15 pounds overweight, all water. I had three days to lose it before the weigh-ins. I also had my regular corporate job with its daily responsibilities I had to tend to throughout this. I had never fought a 10 round fight as well. All said however, I had made the decision that I will rise for this moment once it arrives. I am proud to know that the history of my lifetime will show that I indeed did rise for that moment once it arrived.
Pattee Mak: I’m extremely sorry to hear about the loss of your friends.
Pattee Mak: This is your first title, are you looking for additional belts?
Melson: I suppose this question could also be stated asking me if I am retiring now, or if I am still boxing, am I only going to play it safe from here out. The answer to this question is that at this point in my life, I am not going to box to play it safe. If a belt is on the line, that would be extraordinary.
Pattee Mak: What separates you from all the other fighters is that you donate all of your winnings towards cutting edge research for spinal cord research. You definitely have a big heart and it shows. Not many people would even consider the thought. I understand the research was brought to your attention by Christan, a girl that you previously were in a relationship with. Besides wanting to give to a great cause what emotionally moved you to donate your purse money?
Melson: If you’re stating that Christan brought the research to my attention means that because of her, Spinal Cord Injuries were brought to my attention, then yes she did. If it means that she was the one that has made me aware of all I learned regarding Spinal Cord Injury research, then that is inaccurate. I made the choice long ago that I needed to educate myself on Spinal Cord Injuries, and educate myself to a degree where I could hold my own with medical doctors in that field as well as PhDs in that field. I realized that I needed to know what I did not know so that I would know what questions to ask to find out more about what I did not know. As far what separates me from other fighters, the answer to that I believe is nothing. Fighters live with passion, love, determination, work ethic, intelligence, and sacrifice. We all do. We show it in many different areas of our lives. I made a choice to do something that gained attention because of how all of the values I listed above centered around my dream, a cure for paralysis due to Spinal Cord Injuries. All of us fighters have something or somethings that we go all in on in our lives because that is how we are built. WE ARE FIGHTERS AND FIGHTERS FIGHT.
Pattee Mak: Team Fight to Walk. Who came up with this and tell me more about it?
Melson: The money I donate as well as that Team Fight To Walk raises (that is our Non-Profit that Christan and I created) all goes towards a specific medical study that Dr. Wise Young has worked on for years now to bring to the United States. Dr. Young is the Chairman of the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience at Rutgers University. In 2001, TIME Magazine named him “America’s Best” in the field of Spinal Cord Injury Research. He was also one of Christopher Reeve’s advisors. He is trying to get FDA Approval to conduct a medical study here that he already completed in China. He is using that data to get his FDA Approval here. The study involves injecting donated Adult Stem Cells from the Umbilical Cord directly into the spinal cord of the paralyzed person. Families bank their babies’ Adult Stem Cells from the Umbilical Cord after their babies are born. Some of them bank them for the purpose of letting doctors use them to research them. That is the case here. The study Dr. Young in China carried out involved 20 patients who were paralyzed an average of 7 years. One patient was 59 when he received the cells, one patient was injured for 14 years before receiving the cells, 3 were quadriplegics, and 17 were paraplegics. The patients have to have chronic Spinal Cord Injuries which means injured for at least 1 year so that they can participate in this study. I believe 3 years have passed in total since the cells were delivered to the last patient. There is also a highly rigorous walking protocol as part of the physical therapy involved in this trial. As of present day, 15 out of 20 of the patients are able to walk with the assistant of a walker at least 10 meters with some of them walking over 100 meters. Half of them had their voluntary bladder and bowel function return to them. Dr. Wise Young submitted the application to the United States FDA almost 2 months ago. This application he told me was over 1,000 pages. He has a meeting with them January 13th to go over the application. He shared that at this meeting, the FDA almost never approves the proposal, but instead, they share what changes they want made. He then stated that once the application is resubmitted, the FDA has 3 months to reply with a yes or no. Finally, he said that if all the changes are made, they always approve it. I do believe by this summer, after 5.5 years of me fighting and talking about this, we will finally will begin this medical study in our own country. In China, it took about a year of physical therapy after the stem cell transplants for the patients to begin. God willing, sometime this year, the first patient will be treated. God willing some time next year, that first patient will see the same results as the first patient saw in China. The study will involve 12 participants in total. The costs for the study are being raised through public donations, and that is what Team Fight To Walk has as part of its Mission Statement. The costs are close to $150,000.00 per patient, and the costs are to be provided by the researchers carrying out the study. Team Fight To Walk has helped them raise enough money to treat 4 participants. Dr. Young said he will start treating however many participants he can with what he has raised so far, and as more is raised, more will be treated.
Pattee Mak: http://teamfighttowalk.com/ - Are there any other professional boxers/athletes involved in “Team Fight to Walk” and would this be the website to go to if someone wanted to donate monies to your cause?
Melson: There are more athletes involved, and they all help in different ways. I am going to list the names of the more involved present and prior day athletes that are helping us even if it is in a minimal manner. Steve Cunningham, Danny Jacobs, Chris Algieri, Junior Jones, Paul Williams and Sugar Ray Leonard. We have had some retired athletes with gigantic hearts step up and help us also. Former NBA players John Starks and Herb Williams of the 1990’s Knicks have joined and helped. My dear beloved brother and one of my best friends Anthony Mason who is another 1990’s Knick helped me with Team Fight To Walk before he passed away. The Mason family has taken over for him with his wife Latifa (who affectionately goes by TC), his son Antoine, and is cousin Damon supporting Team Fight To Walk when whenever we ask for help. Antoine just signed to play professional basketball overseas in Cypress. Kenny Anderson of the New Jersey Nets has also helped Team Fight To Walk by spreading our word. Finally, Stephen Baker “The Touchdown Maker” of the 1990 New York Giants and I became close at a charity softball game we participated in as guests to help raise money for the Wounded Warriors. He has shown up for me when asked to help with Team Fight To Walk. He is incredible. My boxing promoter Lou DiBella is the rock behind my boxing career, and is in the shadow constantly giving me a platform to perform in the ring as well as share my message. He treats me like I am his blood and I love and thank God for bringing him into my life.
Pattee Mak: Why 100% of your purse and not save a portion for yourself. After all sometimes we do need to put food on our table as well?
Melson: I need a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries more than I want the money from my purse. I am all in. Not 99.9%. I need to lead by example to help inspire this change. I believe that by my example, I can be the raindrop that leads to the storm of change. That is why I am The Rainmaker. The Rainmaker throughout all cultures brings hope. I am trying to bring that hope for change. For my change in this instance, it is a cure for Spinal Cord Injuries.
Pattee Mak: You are definitely a blessing from above in having all of this come together.
Pattee Mak: Recently Ring Magazine named you as one of the five finalist in their “2015 RING AWARDS: Finalist for Most Inspirational”. How excited were you to hear that you were nominated as a finalist against Oscar De La Hoya, Anthony Crolla, Amir Khan and Mauro Ranallo and what does this mean to you?
Melson: This was freaking hysterical because I found this out through my brother/PR Manager Matt Yanofsky texting a screenshot of a tweet stating I am a finalist. I wonder if Oscar, Anthony, Amir or Mauro were actually called by Ring Magazine with this news. I became very emotional over the fact that I became a finalist. I still do not know who nominated me, but I do have my suspicions that it had to do with a fan of the book “The Giving Tree”. I became very emotional because of how this started with a vision and nothing else, the journey that I have traveled the past 5.5 years staying committed to this vision, and now the universe yet again conspired. It is not known that I left my job with Johnson & Johnson because it conflicted with my vision. It is not known that staying committed to this vision is the reason a romantic relationship of 3 years with an angel on this planet ended. I lost much more during these past 5.5 years that I do not ever share, but I promised myself that transforming this vision into reality is worth my life. It is supposed to be this hard because it changes the world when it happens. We are so close now. I will never stop until we are there and those paralyzed because of a Spinal Cord Injury are walking now. I can’t wait to see if this medical study is part of that storm of change.
Pattee Mak: Tell me about the documentary that you were recently in.
Melson: The United States Army Reserve had their Public Affairs Office make a 7 minute documentary on my story. Sergeant First Class Valerie Resciniti was sent directly to me by God’s most beloved angels. She created this documentary. She filmed me at Mendez Boxing Gym in Manhattan where I train, she filmed at my Army Reserve Unit, she filmed at the fight on fight night when I won this WBC title and she went to Rutgers University to film Dr. Wise Young at Rutgers. She created the most touching and inspirational visual piece on Team Fight To Walk and my story along with Christan that I ever saw. I cry every single time that I watch it. Tens of thousands have watched it over the past 2 months, and I have received so many messages sharing how the video touched their lives. The link for the video is http://www.usar.army.mil/Featured/ReserveProfiles/BoydMelson.aspx. I ask all to watch it, have tissues with you while you watch it, and share the heck out of it.
Pattee Mak: Thank you sooo much for taking the time to answer my questions.
Melson: You are the bomb Pattee. You asked me wonderful questions giving me yet another opportunity to share my story and my values. I am adding to this that my plan is to run for office in 2018. My goal is a seat in the United States House of Representatives. I need to start fighting from the inside in order to affect change. I believe this is part of my soul’s journey on this planet, and when I reflect on my life’s journey so far, it shows me that everything that has taken place has been in preparation for that. My last comment is that my story is being written and turned into a book. The author writing my book is named John Amodeo. He has written 7 books so far. I read his book “Believe: The Journey of Ken Norton”. After reading that, I was hooked. He has written about 40 pages so far. I gave him the title of the book, and he loved it and is keeping it as the title. The book will be named “Get Back Up: The Journey of the Rainmaker Boyd Melson". It should be finished by this summer, and we will need to find a Publisher at that point. I chose “Get Back Up” as the title to represent getting back up in the ring after being knocked down, getting back up in life after being knocked down, and for those paralyzed in wheelchairs, getting back up out of their chair and on standing tall on their own feet. I am so very excited for everyone to learn about my life for it has been extraordinary, and it is a life with adventures and experiences that nobody who only knows me in the public eye is aware that I ever experienced. I am talking about life events before turning pro that I experienced that at the type of life events they make movies about.
Pattee Mak: WOW that is fantastic news about you running for office and your book. Who knows maybe a movie too could be later in the works also. You never know what the future holds and I’m very excited for you. Thank you again for taking the time for this interview. You definitely opened my eyes to your cause and made me more aware of Spinal Cord Injury research.
Photo curtosy of Boyd Melson.
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