Boyd Melson Interview with Boxing Insider
By: John Freund
On November 19, 2016, former WBC USNBC Super Welterweight champ Boyd Melson returned to the ring after an 18-month long retirement. Boyd, who turned professional to raise awareness for spinal cord research, and who donated all of his boxing proceeds towards researching a cure for paralysis, was inspired to return to the ring for one last fight to raise awareness for the growing heroin problem in Staten Island, New York.
Boyd brought a 15-1 record into the fight, his only loss coming against Delen Parsley in a somewhat controversial decision. Boyd struggled to make weight, however, and was injured in the opening round. He lost the fight by KO to opponent Courtney Pennington.
We spoke with Boyd about what happened during the fight, what it’s like to get back into the ring after such a long layoff, and what he accomplished with his latest endeavor.
What happened during the fight?
I went in completely flat. Weigh-ins ended up running later than I thought they would, and that small window made all the difference. I had sweat out about 8 pounds the night before, and I was doing well that morning, but by the time I had to go into the weigh in I had nothing left. I tried to go on the pads, and I had nothing. For the weigh-in I had to put the sauna suit on, I put on a long sleeve shirt underneath the top, wrapped two towels around my torso, put the pads on and had the hat on. Went from the steam room to the sauna back to the steam room. I almost died. I was exhausted. I had to take a cold shower because I started getting nauseous. And the last round I did in the steam room I started burning my hands because the wraps from the gloves were cutting into my skin. So I actually started praying to God, I said “God please give me the strength to go through this, because I have to make this weight or I won’t be able to fight, and it’s for the cause of bringing awareness to heroin on Staten Island and I have to do my part.”
Tell me about the injury you sustained in the opening round.
I went in there and got tagged in my left eye. Turns out I got a small hole in the retina and they have to close it with surgery. I couldn’t even see, because blood was pouring into it. I wanted to quit that first round because I kept getting scared I was going blind, that my retina was detached. And I kept pawing at it and pawing at it, and when I went in the corner I asked coach, “Am I bleeding, am I bleeding?” And he was like, ‘No, there’s nothing there. What are you pawing at?’
I wanted to quit because I was scared about losing my vision, but I thought to myself, ‘It’s only the first round, I can’t quit, I have to fight for this cause. I can’t give up now.’
The worst part was being scared, not knowing what had happened. After that, my reaction time was off, I couldn’t move, couldn’t get out of the way. I couldn’t generate any power. It’s what happens when you get dehydrated. I couldn’t get any spacing and I couldn’t hit hard.
It was scheduled for 8 and the fight went until 20 seconds left in the 7th. Courtney is a great boxer. I wanted to say to him, ‘Can you carry me please?’ but I wasn’t going to do that (laughs).
At what point did you realize the fight wasn’t going your way?
Everyone always says, ‘You never start fighting until you get hit hard.’ And I always feel The Hulk come out when I do get hit hard. And I remember after getting knocked down in the 2nd round, I stood up with no emotion, no Hulk no nothing, the well was completely empty, and I thought to myself, ‘This is not good.’
When Steve Farwood interviewed me after, the first thing he said was, ‘We know this is not the normal Boyd Melson.’ And I said, ‘Thank you for acknowledging it, because I had nothing.’
You retired last year, and this was your one-time coming out of retirement fight. Why now? Why this fight?
The whole purpose of turning professional was to raise money and awareness for this clinical trial that one of Christopher Reeves’ doctors is trying to conduct here in the U.S. to cure paralysis, injecting umbilical cord stem cells where they are matching 6 out of 6 HLAs. After about 6 years and around $400k raised, at age 33 I told family I’m done.
But now I see Staten Island – the second burough of my childhood – I see what’s going on there, 40 Vets ODing on heroin, and now maybe the number is even higher, like some have said 74. So I hooked up with Abe Goldberg, the founder of Big Vision (bigvision.nyc), they do events all the time to raise money and awareness. So I said let’s do a boxing match.
It turns out there was an event at Foxwoods for Veteran’s Appreciation day, and they said, ‘Would you like to fight?’ And it was perfect timing, I’m on track to make Major, God willing (Boyd is an Army vet). So I decided to fight to raise money and awareness for Staten Island. I believed that by doing this the Universe would open up and inspire the media to come, and I’ll be able to use that as a platform to talk about heroin addiction on Staten Island. And whatever I earn I’m going to donate to Big Vision, so we can help Staten Island.
I know it sucks to lose a fight, but how do you feel now that it’s over?
I remember I told my family, for this fight, I wanted it to be a war so everyone would be inspired by how hard I was willing to fight for this cause, it doesn’t even matter if I win or lose. And it was a war.
Was the training more difficult this time around, cause you’ve been off for a year?
The first 2 weeks was tough on my body. I had some knee issues that never happened before. I started needing shots of Cortisone. I also started having radial issues with both arms, so they put me on Pretasone for 5 days. I had all these challenges but I was in shape. I was in shape like a dog. But it was having to get on that scale and lose all that weight… I prayed, I prayed like I never prayed before in my life. When I got on the scale, I was 1/10th of a pound heavy, and I started crying, because I wasn’t going to fight, and I was embarrassing myself. I started jogging in place and flinging my arms, and just trying to get every bead of sweat out. And that did it. The scale flickered between 63 and 62.9 and 63 and 62.9, and it held. I was dejected and dehydrated, with no food in my body.
That was about 24 hours before the fight. And I probably put on 15-20 pounds in that 24 hours. I was so bloated.
What advice do you have for boxers considering coming out of a long layoff or retirement?
Get yourself a weighted vest. And don’t worry about running in the beginning because you’re probably going to be a little heavier, and that extra weight will be hitting your knees. Put on the vest, wear it for your shadowing, wear it on the bag, just to start getting your joints loose again. Don’t worry about footwork so much. Get on that elliptical with the vest on, and do some sprints on the elliptical – 30 seconds. Give yourself about 6-10 minutes, 30 seconds easy, 30 seconds hard. Just to get your metabolism up. Keep doing that for a week or two before you start running. You’ll lose some weight pretty quick with that. You need to get your body loose.
Can you give me an update on spinal cord injury research? How is that going?
By early fall of next year we should have clearance to conduct a study here in the U.S. – it was originally published in the May 2016 issue of ‘Cell Transplantation,’ a prestigious scientific journal. 15 of 20 paralyzed individuals can now walk with a walker, and 12 out of 20 had their bladder and bowel functions return. So God willing we’ll get FDA approval to continue that study next year.
What’s next for you in your career?
I want people in Staten Island to know, I have shown by example now – outside of many things I have on my resume in regard to philanthropy – what I’m willing to do to help that borough with its most grave problem. And my hope is, come 2018, I get elected in some official capacity to a leadership position so I can help serve the people of Staten Island. I risked my life for that.
Are you planning on running for an official position?
Yes, I would like to run for Congress in 2018. I fought this fight to bring awareness to a growing problem in the borough I love, that I grew up in, and even after barely making weight and nearly going blind in the first round, I kept fighting for 6 more rounds. It was a blood and guts fight, and I fought it for the people of Staten Island. I look forward to continuing to fight for them.