By Connor Beach
A group of 16 Long Islanders, including three Town of Huntington residents, have volunteered to participate in the 14th Long Island Fight for Charity amateur boxing event. The volunteers have been training for the past several months in five gyms across the Island to get ready to square off against each other in the ring on Nov. 20 at the Hilton in Melville.
Fight for Charity co-founders Jamie Austin, Jeff Cohen and Matt Silver came up with the idea in 2002 at a charity event for arthritis.
“Jeff used to box, and he said, ‘I want to box for charity,’” Austin said. “Matt and I decided it would be funny if we fought as the undercard, and everyone thought that was a great idea.”
In 2002, the first main event, which featured six fights, raised $36,000, according to Austin. Since then the Long Island Fight for Charity has raised over $1 million for local Long Island charities, primarily the Long Island Community Chest. Austin and Silver founded the Community Chest to provide financial assistance to help Long Islanders recover from a variety of short-term financial crises.
“We used to attend different charity events and outings, but we never saw where the money actually went,” Austin said.
The growing success of the Long Island Fight for Charity has led to more people expressing interest in boxing in the main event. This year three Town of Huntington residents have volunteered to box.
Returning boxer Gregg Aramanda, of Huntington, a 61-year-old sales director for GE Aviation, said the camaraderie between the boxers when he competed in 2009 is one of the main reasons why he decided to volunteer to fight again in 2017.
“Getting introduced in front of 1,000 people was an exhilarating experience,” Aramanda said. “I am a competitive person by nature, and boxing gives me a chance to get the competitive juices flowing.”
Huntington resident Eliud Custodio found out about the event through a trainer and decided to volunteer when he heard about the work that the Long Island Community Chest did for Long Islanders. The 40-year-old Custodio, who works for ICD Publications in Islandia, has enjoyed the added fitness of training five days a weeks as well as meeting the other boxers.
“It’s great that we are all from the Island, but we all have diverse backgrounds,” he said.
John Kraft, 29, was originally not interested in competing, but, with a little convincing, he decided to join up. The Huntington resident, who works at the Imperial Meat Company in Huntington village, has a background in combat sports. Kraft is happy he decided to take part in the Long Island Fight for Charity.
“So far everybody I’ve met there is an outstanding person, and the community they are building will continue this tradition,” he said.
Ahead of the main event, the boxers will find out their opponents on Oct. 3, when a matchup announcement event will be held at SIMPLAY (180 Commerce Drive, Hauppauge) from 6:30-8:30 p.m. For more info, log on to Lifightforcharity.org.