Retired Boxer Boyd Melson Starts Free Boxing Clinics to Fight Addiction

By Britni de la Cretaz 03/01/17

The humanitarian plans to run for Congress in 2018. 

Boxer Boyd Melson in the ring.
Boyd "Rainmaker" Melson Photo via YouTube

Retired professional boxer Boyd “Rainmaker” Melson is hoping to knock out addiction on Staten Island by offering free monthly boxing clinics to people struggling with addiction. He hosted his first one on February 25, and the next one is planned for March 11.

Melson spent his 18-fight career donating money to charities. His last fight was in November 2016. He donated 100% of his earnings—a few thousand dollars—to a local charity called Big Vision, which helps fight drug addiction among young adults. "I want to help spread the word," Melson said at the time. "I read about how much drugs have affected the Island, and I have family who've battled addictions."

Drug addiction on Staten Island, like in the rest of the country, has increasingly become a problem in the last several years. The New York Times reported last fall that since 2010, the number of arrests on the island in which heroin or pills were found on the suspect has increased tenfold—to over 1,000 in 2015. 

In September 2016, there were nine overdose deaths in 10 days. At that time, there had been an estimated 70 drug-related deaths on the island that year, on pace to more than double the record that had been set two years prior, the Richmond County district attorney told the New York Times.

Melson told that they finished out the year with more than 90 heroin-related deaths. It could have been worse—first responders administered the overdose antidote, naloxone (or Narcan), with alarming frequency on the island.

Michael McMahon, the Staten Island district attorney who has met with Melson to discuss the issue, said last year that too few resources were being directed towards the problem, and the ones that were haven’t been working. "The goal with these free monthly clinics on Staten Island is to get the men and women battling or recovering from addiction to get hooked on boxing while having it be an avenue to help them overcome,” Melson explained. 

In 2015, a program called Let It Out in Randolph, Massachusetts, began with a similar philosophy for people who had lost loved ones to addiction. Christine Fennelly started the class. "It's amazing what you do when you hit something. It does release everything from you," she told FOX25 in 2015. "It's such pent up bottled up rage, frustration, emotion. What other way are you gonna get it out?" Fennelly lost her son, Paul Connolly, to addiction.

"I talk to young people about getting involved in positive activities once they get out of rehab and they're back on the street," Melson said. "I have a message, and boxing is part of it."

Melson announced his plans to run for Congress in 2018 after his final boxing match last year.

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.