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Reservist boxer donates winnings to spinal injury research

Oct. 13, 2011 - 01:55PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 13, 2011 - 01:55PM  |  
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Army Reserve Capt. Boyd Melson is fighting for a cause.

Literally.

With an undefeated record, along with three knockouts to his credit, Melson is an up-and-coming pro boxer who is donating the proceeds from all his fights to research for spinal cord injuries.

Melson started boxing as a cadet at the U.S. Military Academy, from which he graduated in 2003 with a psychology degree and a minor in nuclear engineering.

While at West Point, he met Christan Zaccangino, a fiery young woman in a wheelchair who had been paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident at age 10.

"I was taken with her," Melson said. "She had such heart — such a warrior spirit. She refused to take any crap. I soon realized it could just as easily be me — or anyone else — in that wheelchair."

After graduating, Melson earned the armed forces' top boxing title twice and took gold in the 2004 World Military Boxing Championships. He was tapped as an alternate for the 2008 Olympic team but decided to withdraw after an injury.

After leaving active duty — and with his injuries healed — Melson decided to give boxing another go late last year while working as a personal trainer in New York City. He and Zaccangino have remained friends, and with researchers preparing for promising new trials to treat spinal injuries with umbilical cord stem cells, he decided to donate all his winnings to the cause.

On Oct. 1, the 154-pound junior middleweight won his sixth pro fight against Russ Niggemyer in Atlantic City, N.J. His winnings so far total almost $10,000. His employer, Johnson & Johnson, is matching his contributions by 200 percent.

His next bout is scheduled for Oct. 22 at Madison Square Garden, New York.

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