Boxer Boyd Melson graduated from West Point and later earned an MBA. That alone makes him stand out in his sport. But his campaign to knock out paralysis has perhaps attracted the most attention. Melson (10-1-1) donates all of his prize-fight winnings to fund spinal cord research.
The 31-year-old New Yorker will fight Edgar Perez of Chicago in an undercard middleweight bout at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Saturday night. Christan Zaccagnino, whom Melson met during his senior year at West Point, will be cheering him on from her wheelchair.
Zaccagnino was paralyzed in a 1993 pool-diving accident. The two struck up a romance, and Melson pledged to help Zaccagnino walk again.
"That's my happiness -- finding this cure," he told The Huffington Post.
Although they are no longer a couple, they remain best friends, he said. They founded TeamFightToWalk, through which people can donate money to benefit clinical trials supervised by Dr. Wise Young, the director of Rutgers' W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience.
Melson said he will receive $3,500 for Saturday's bout. After he pays his trainer a percentage, he'll give the rest to his passion. Melson estimated he has raised $120,000 in funding for spinal cord research. He also has generated thousands for the Wounded Warrior Project, which supports severely injured soldiers.
Now he wants a shot at a title, he said. Fighting in higher-profile bouts could also mean more prize money.
Melson recently gave notice at his day job to train full time. His last day as a stitches salesman -- that's right, a boxer selling stitches -- for Johnson & Johnson is May 10. (Incidentally, the company has doubled Melson's charitable contributions for each fight.) The last time he made boxing his full-time priority was when he trained for the 2008 Olympics, he said. He made the U.S. team as an alternate.
"I can only imagine what I would do if I can focus on training," he said. "Everyone wants to be a world champion. My more immediate goal is for someone to believe in me and manage my career."
In the meantime, Melson said he was prepared for a possible shortfall of income.
"I don't require much," he said. "What you put out to the universe comes back to you and takes care of you."
Those who would like to donate to Melson's cause can visit TeamFightToWalk.com and click on the JustADollar icon.
Boyd Melson, right, connecting with a punch during a recent fight, donates his ring winnings to spinal cord research. Credit: Associated Press/Tim Larsen