LIVINGSTON, NJ — Greg Feig, a 43-year-old Livingston resident, was recently declared a loser by decision in the first competitive boxing match of his life. But when he walked out of the ring earlier this month, Feig felt like he'd already won—no matter what the result of the match was.
Three years ago, Feig's daughter, Jolie, was diagnosed with AML Leukemia at the age of 9. Today, in honor of his healthy, active 12-year-old daughter, the grateful father has taken to raising money for the Gift of Life Marrow Registry, which is hosted by Haymakers for Hope.
An official 501©3 charitable organization, Haymakers for Hope (H4H) gives participants an opportunity to fight back against cancer by helping them to train for and compete in a sanctioned charity boxing event to raise funds for cancer research, care, awareness and survivorship.
To prepare for each event, H4H combines the efforts of local boxing gyms and volunteers, and match participants up with someone of a similar experience level, where they will eventually compete in front of thousands of supporters.
"My daughter’s donor match was someone who cannot get leukemia, so she now has this person’s immunity system after the transplant," said Feig. "Her match, who came through an international registry, was an Iranian who is studying engineering in Germany. Nowadays, my wife is in frequent contact with him."
He added that donating to Gift of Life "is the most direct way to throw a punch back" because "they directly cure the previously incurable cancers."
Feig's match on Nov. 14 was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, and, though he did not win against his opponent in the ring, he exceeded his fundraising goal of $40,000 by raising $51,149.
"My original goal was $10,000, but as I enticed more people to contribute, I raised the goal," said Feig. "As for the fight itself, my training went phenomenally. My daughter is perfect now. I lived with her for seven months at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
"I weighed 230 pounds when we got out of hospital, so to get back in shape, I started to take cardio boxing classes. One day, a substitute teacher, Ricky Young, who teaches boxing classes, mentioned that he is training someone for this cancer training charity boxing event. I asked 'Can you train me? He said 'I can train anybody.' I hadn’t even watched boxing since Mike Tyson in the 1980s."
Feig found out in July that he would be invited to participate in this year's H4H event, so he began intense training six days a week.
"And I felt phenomenal about a month out from the fight, but then I started to get exhaustion in my left arm," he said. "Urgent care said I was fine. I went a week, went to an orthopedist, he said the same thing.
"I fought the fight. There were 2,200 people at ballroom, and close to 50 of my friends were there. Thank God I was so highly trained that my opponent never got a hand on me, but I couldn’t throw the combinations I wanted to either. He won by decision."
The officially sanctioned amateur match went three rounds of two minutes each.
But less than two weeks after the fight, Feig was diagnosed as having two blood clots in his arm--the result of the training, he said, and the cause of the weakness he felt in his left arm leading up to the match.
The day after Thanksgiving, Feig was to undergo surgery for the removal of the clots--a new battle for a family used to fighting—and winning—them.
"I should be fine," said Feig. "I am an upbeat person."