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Alumni Spotlight: His Charity Lets You Literally Fight for a Cure

Haymakers for Hope is giving everyday people the chance to fight back against cancer by stepping into the boxing ring and competing in charity matches that raise both money and awareness for cancer research. The high-end fights are the real deal, featuring cheering crowds numbering in the thousands, trained boxing referees and judges calling the matches, and even ring-card girls, cancer survivors themselves, appearing in between rounds.

Co-founder Andrew Myerson (CBA ’05) got the idea for this Boston-based nonprofit in fall 2009. At the time, he was working in the asset management division of Goldman Sachs in New York City. He noticed that he and others often donated money to colleagues training for upcoming marathons. The training in Myerson’s sports of choice, boxing and mixed martial arts, is no less grueling in its physical and emotional demands.

“I took a step back and asked myself why I was donating to their marathons,” he recalls. “It wasn’t about where they finished. It was to urge them through the training process, which many say is the actual hardest part of the marathon. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if we could apply the same principles to boxing?’”

Myerson teamed up with Julie Anne Kelly, defending champion of the New York City Golden Gloves and a Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor. The two trained together and competed in the Golden Gloves tournament — Kelly won it all — and raised $5,000 in their first week. “I found that people were extremely generous with their donations and were very excited to see me get punched in the face,” Myerson says.

Haymakers for Hope was born. Two years later, it hosted its first major event, a boxing match and gala at the Castle at The Park Plaza Hotel in Boston that was attended by more than 1,000 people and raised $190,000 for Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund. Since then, a limited number of fights have been held in Boston and New York, and more are planned in those cities, as well as an upcoming match in Los Angeles. To date, Haymakers for Hope has raised more than $2.2 million, and Myerson and the charity have been featured in national media including The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and Inc. magazine.

“I was offered a big promotion at work at the time of our first big event,” he says. “I had to make a decision. I thought Haymakers for Hope had a lot of momentum and felt compelled to see things through. I decided to grow it into something special and to do that I’d need to do it full time.”

While a student at Pitt’s College of Business Administration, Myerson majored in finance and minored in economics. He was one of the first members of the school’s newly established entrepreneurship club and served on the CBA Student Council. Today he is continuing his education through the MBA program at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

After graduating from CBA, Myerson was part of the derivatives team in the Boston office of the boutique investment firm Brown Brothers Harriman & Co. He then joined Goldman Sachs and spent four years there until the call of Haymakers for Hope set him on a new path.

The beauty of Haymakers for Hope, he says, is that it gives regular people with no boxing experience the chance to lace up the gloves.  Past participants have been young and old, fit and overweight. They have been Wall Street bankers, lawyers, doctors, research scientists, firefighters, policemen, teachers, stay-at-home-moms, writers, and graphic designers. The athletic skill level has ranged from one participant who was a former NFL starter to people who have never participated in organized sports.

All participants train professionally. Haymakers for Hope connects them with a gym and trainer. That’s where the real grind, over multiple months, begins. “The training is pretty much like the movie Rocky. People jump rope, hit the heavy bag, get in the ring to spar with people, do all sorts of running and training,” Myerson says.

The fights themselves are three rounds, like the Olympics. When the bell is rung and the fight begins, all bets are off. The sweet science, as boxing is called, demands that the fighter act, adapt, and act again, under intense pressure the whole time. This is part of why Myerson loves it and why Haymakers for Hope has been so successful in raising money to fight cancer.

“Sports are a conduit to raise money for good causes. It’s great to see like-minded people coming together to make a difference,” he says.