When Grace Bloodwell and Andrew Myerson cemented their friendship as neighbors, Bloodwell had no idea that
first meeting in Charlestown would lead to her getting in the boxing ring and duking it out for charity.
Yet, that’s exactly what happened last week as Bloodwell, a local realtor and governor of the Friends of City Square, was on the fight card for the 6th annual Belles of the Brawl cancer fundraiser on Oct. 17 at the House of Blues in Fenway – facing off and winning her “brawl” against Boston therapist Kristie Bezreh.
“The purpose of the Brawl was you get two people in a ring who otherwise have no experience boxing, give them a little bit of training and let them experience a real fight – all for our cancer charity,” said Myerson, a Charlestown resident and co-founder of Haymakers for Hope. “The requirement is that they have never boxed before, and they can’t box ever again in our event afterwards…Grace and I are actually neighbors and every day we would see her on our street. One of my two kids would always ask her, ‘Grace will you please fight?’ It wasn’t very subtle, but she was more than happy to give it a try when I asked.”
Bloodwell said she has a background in sports and athletics, and keeps physically fit nowadays as well. So, she was open to giving boxing a try. However, when that bell rang, she said it was a surreal moment of total focus and primal instinct.
“I did win by decision, but it was a close match,” said Bloodwell. “It sounds overly dramatic, but there is a real primal feeling when everything gets drowned out and you focus just on winning and keeping your feet and countering your opponent. It’s very simple, but very hard. It takes tremendous focus.”
Myerson began Haymakers several years ago after taking up boxing in New York City at a gym next to his finance job at Goldman Sachs. After a while, he and his co-founder began having fight nights for charity. He said they underestimated how many of their friends “wanted to step up and get punched in the face.” Soon after, they started pairing inexperienced opponents with a trainer an equally inexperienced opponent. On the fight night, they would duke it out in the ring for their first and only match.
Eventually, Myerson moved to Charlestown and Haymakers became an official non-profit and both founders were able to quit their full-time jobs and devote their time to the Haymakers cause. The centerpiece fundraising event has become the high-end Belles of the Brawl.
“To date, we’ve raised $10 million cumulative for cancer research,” he said. “All of our participants love being able to raise money for cancer, but a side benefit has been how many have been able to regain their fitness or drop 40 or 50 pounds while training. It has also promoted a healthier lifestyle for the participants.”
All fights go three rounds, with two-minute rounds, and are sanctioned by USA Boxing, which provides the referees. In between rounds, cancer survivors are invited to come up and display the round card while their stories are told.
Bloodwell announced her intention to fight in the Belles of the Brawl earlier this summer, and trained with Combat Sports Boston for the fight.
Myerson, who has seen scores of fights at the event, said he really appreciated a community leader in the Town committing to fighting for cancer research.
“Grace is the best,” he said. “She’s kind of like the mayor of our little corner of Charlestown. If you don’t know Grace, you must be a shut-in because she is everywhere and very involved.”
Said Bloodwell, “It was a great experience. The way the charity has constructed the event makes it very easy to promote because of the unique boxing component. If you don’t win your fight, or you’re facing an opponent you can’t beat, you can still win by raising a lot of money for a great cause. Nobody loses. I was impressed and extremely happy with the numbers of people who came out and bought a ticket or donated. It was something else. People really, really, gave.”