By Tim HippsApril 16, 2013
SAN ANTONIO (April 16, 2013) -- Capt. Boyd Melson did not make the U.S. Olympic team, but he's still in the ring, leading a significant battle in the fight against spinal-cord injuries.
The Army Reserve officer's dream of helping friend Christan Zaccagnino walk again debuted April 16 on HBO's "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble."
While training for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, the former U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, or WCAP, boxer was focused on helping Zaccagnino, then his girlfriend, overcome paralysis sustained in a diving accident at age 10. She was paralyzed from the neck down and told by doctors that she would never walk again.
Sports journalist Frank DeFord interviewed the best friends, who met while Melson was attending the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
Melson, 31, who drills at Fort Totten, N.Y., is a professional boxer with a 10-1-1 record with four knockouts. He sets aside his winnings for spinal-cord research to help Zaccagnino achieve their dream. They also created "Team Fight to Walk," a group of injured athletes and professional boxers dedicated to the cause.
The lineup includes Eric LeGrand, who severely injured his spinal cord while tackling Army kick returner Malcolm Brown, ending LeGrand's football career at Rutgers University. LeGrand received the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2012 ESPYs.
Olympian Demetrius "Boo Boo" Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs) of Providence, R.I., joined the group, as did Melson's former WCAP teammate Jeff Spencer (3-0, 1 TKO) of Tacoma, Wash., and former Army boxer and WCAP assistant coach Fareed Samad of Denver, who retired from the ring with an unblemished 10-0 pro record with nine knockouts.
"I have an uncle who's in a wheelchair and is willing to fight to walk," Andrade said. "The opportunity to help those in need means a lot to me."
"I'm all for helping people and Boyd is like a brother to me," Spencer added. "Once I found out about Team Fight to Walk, I was 100 percent behind it. Boyd is doing a great thing, and like him, I want to make things better for less fortunate people."
Melson presents his winnings to JustADollarPlease.org to support spinal-cord injury clinical trials in the United States. He and Zaccagnino twice traveled to China to learn more about spinal-cord injury treatments.
Melson's next bout is scheduled for April 27, against Troy "TNT" Lowry (28-12, 7 KOs) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. It will be the first bout since last October for Melson, who fought seven times in the previous 12 months and said he needed a break after going 5-1-1 during that stretch.
"I never thought I would turn pro, period," Melson said. "It was the last thing on my mind. I left boxing for three years, thought I was done. I got depressed in my life, not knowing why I was so sad. And it came between two things: I wasn't boxing and expressing myself and trying to do something different when everybody else was going to the bar after work.
"I wasn't fitting into the corporate world. I had nothing else to balance my life out. I wasn't trying to do anything extraordinary in life. And I wasn't doing anything to help create and increase extra awareness of spinal-cord injuries, and that really hit me hard."
Therefore, Melson resorted to what he knows best: climbing back in the ring with the hardest hit men in New York.
Olympian Shawn Estrada (15-0, 13 KOs) of Los Angeles, Hector "Machito" Camacho Jr. (54-5-1, 29 Kos) of Orlando, Fla., son of Hector "Macho" Camacho, along with Sid "The Messenger" El Harrak (10-2-1, 5 Kos), of Santa Clara, Calif., and Danny McDermott (9-5-2, 4 KOs) of Jersey City, N.J., also box for "Team Fight to Walk." Ahmed "Prince of Egypt" Samir (11-0, 4 KOs) journeyed from Alexandria, Egypt, to Queens, N.Y., and promptly joined the group.
"I like to help others, and making a difference means a lot to me," Samir said.
Steve "USS" Cunningham (25-2, 12 KOs), a two-time cruiserweight champion from Philadelphia, is one of the original members of the group, along with Will Rosinsky (17-2, 9 KOs) of Queens, and Deandre "The Bull" Latimore (23-4, 17 KOs) of Las Vegas.
Melson said he can't thank those boxers enough. He simply asks that everyone else donate one dollar to the cause.
"What I'm praying is everybody who watches this show will donate a dollar while they're watching," Melson said. "There will be millions of people that watch, and we need millions of dollars. It should generate the money. I can't imagine people watching it and not giving a dollar, but it could just be that they think, 'What's my dollar going to do?' But this is our best chance ever.
"I'm praying also this creates bigger and bigger things and better chances to be brought onto different networks to show that if you'll just donate the dollar, those are my hopes. Just stop what you're doing right now and give one dollar, we need a lot of raindrops."