By Sophia Ricco
Put your mitts up and get ready to rumble. The Long Island Fight for Charity, a fundraising event that sends amateur boxers into the ring to duke it out for a good cause, is set for Nov. 19.
The 15th annual Fight for Charity is looking at another successful year of fundraising for the Long Island Community Chest, a charity that benefits local individuals who are struggling to get by. The event raises funds through ticket sales, sponsorship, advertising and fundraising done by the volunteer boxers.
“There are many people living on Long Island who need help… We have to consider ourselves fortunate for what we have and it’s important for us to give back to our community and help those who are less fortunate,” Fight for Charity co-founder Jamie Austin said.
Austin, Jeff Cohen, and Matt Silver dreamed up the event when former boxer Cohen wanted to get back in the ring. Austin joked that he and Silver could be a good undercard match. This sparked the idea to bring business people together for a fun but serious match to raised money for charity. The boxers participating are dedicated to helping others, even if it means getting physical.
“We get new business people every year who are interested in supporting their local community,” Austin said. “They’re willing to learn how to box and we train them with professional trainers. They’re willing to go into the ring and take punches to raise money for charity.”
The 24 boxers will fighting a total of 12 matches, with each pair clashing for three short rounds. More that 1,000 spectators are expected to watch the bouts, which will see several local boxers in the ring. Representing Huntington township are Grant “The Bull” Havasy, Jamie “The Trainer” O’Mara and Mikey “Boom Bots” Zaharios.
“After learning its mission, I volunteered to be a charity boxer in a memorial for Vincent Alterbrando, Walt Whitman High School teacher and wrestling coach,” Zaharios of South Huntington said. “It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community, plus I will get to better myself both mentally and physically.”
The Fight for Charity also doubles a networking event. Attendees can mingle throughout the night of the event, with “boxing as its keynote speaker.” They can also enjoy complimentary eats from the food court featuring 25 Long Island restaurants.
“We have a play-by-play announcer, a commentator, some surprise celebrity guests coming this year and music,” Austin said. “This is a full-fledged boxing extravaganza.”
In its first year, the Fight for Charity raised $36,000. This year the goal is $250,000. Organizers are asking each boxer to raise $10,000. Those who go beyond the goal may elect to have half the difference go to a charity of their choice.
“Fight for Charity has contributed so much to struggling people living on Long Island; I can’t think of a more appropriate cause to be connected with,” O’Mara of Huntington said. “My experience in 2017 was so great. Now I’m getting ready to step in the ring again to throw a few punches in support of the Long Island charities that day in and day out serve those who have the most needs.”
The Long Island Community Chest was founded by Austin and Silver to help people in need. The charity gets referrals from non-profits.
“We wanted to do something where we actually saw where the money went,” Austin said. “The Community Chest helps individuals, we don’t give them money but we help pay their bills.”
The volunteer boxers have been hitting the gym multiple times a week for the past six months to prepare for their matches, with many losing 5-10 pounds and feeling healthier.
“I saw an opportunity to give back to children in need and have something that requires me to train, forcing me to get back into shape,” Havasy of Lloyd Harbor said. “It’s not easy to maintain a workout regimen with a busy work schedule and three kids at home.”
The boxers will be throwing real punches at the Fight for Charity. Austin, who boxed three different years in past events, said the event requires a level of commitment beyond the normal fundraiser.
“It is so out of the norm for so many business people that that’s why I think it’s such an attraction,” Austin said. “If we did bowling… well, anyone can bowl. But not just anybody is willing to train for the six months, get into the ring and get hit.”
The fight will be held Monday, Nov. 19, 6-9 p.m. at the Hilton Long Island in Melville. Tickets can be purchased at lifightforcharity.org.