From the great pitcher Sandy Koufax to Olympian Dara Torres, the tradition of great Jewish-American athletes is a long and rich one. Jewish boxer Boyd Melson is another incredible name to add to this list. “The Rainmaker,” as they call him, has made a name for himself across the country for not only his actions in the ring but also those outside of it. Melson donates all of his boxing earnings to stem cell research and has been featured on ESPN, Sports Illustrated and HBO.
Melson’s story begins in White Plains, New York, where he was born to an Israeli mother and a Creole father. Melson’s mother, Annette, was originally from Israel, and his grandparents were Holocaust survivors who fled from their native Poland. Melson’s strong Jewish faith has stayed with him his entire life. He wears the Star of David on his boxing trunks.
With encouragement from his mother, an Army veteran, Melson attended West Point Academy. He graduated with a degree in psychology and nuclear engineering. It was in school that he began boxing and competed in several collegiate boxing competitions as a cadet. Upon graduation he was selected for the U.S. Army World Class Athlete program.
A Career Begins
Upon graduation he was given the Colonel Marcus Award, which is given to the best West Point boxer each year. He also was a three-time National Collegiate Boxing Association All-American boxer. Melson won two Army Boxing Championships and two Armed Forces Boxing Championships. In 2004, Melson won his first international boxing title in the World Military Boxing Championship.
With his success came intense training from former lightweight world champion Joey Gamache. Melson began training and competing for larger competitions. He was a quarterfinalist in the 2005 World Amateur Boxing Championships, losing to the eventual gold medal winner, and also won bronze at the U.S. Amateur Boxing Championship.
Inspiring a Career
His senior year at West Point, Melson met Christan Zaccagnino, a young woman bound to a wheelchair because of a diving accident. After beginning a relationship with Zaccagnino, he spent countless hours learning about spinal cord injuries and stem cell research. The couple traveled to other countries so she could undergo experimental procedures not offered in the U.S. This inspired Melson and pushed him to devote his life to stem cell research.
Despite no longer being with Zaccagnino, Melson has donated every single dollar of profit from his matches to a group called Just A Dollar Please, which raises money for the first U.S. spinal cord injury trial using stem cells. With the help of the group, Team Fight to Walk was created to increase awareness for stem cell research. The group includes several boxers who have helped Melson in his mission.
Awards and Honors
Melson’s amazing story and career have earned him a variety of commendations and honors. He was named the 2005 Outstanding Jewish College Athlete and the National Jewish Athlete of the Year. In 2013 he was inducted into the National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, the highest honor for a Jewish athlete.
Outside of his boxing career, Melson has an MBA from Touro College in New York City and works for Johnson & Johnson. He also is still a member of the Army Reserve at Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn, New York. But Melson’s boxing career isn’t over. As of November 2014, he was 14-1-1 and looking for another fight.
Begin Your Amazing Story
At Touro University Worldwide, we strive to live by the same giving values that Boyd Melson displays throughout his life. All of our programs are offered fully online, so you can study when and where you want to. We offer a variety of scholarships and financial aid programs that help make a student’s educational dreams possible. With a foundation in Judaic values, Touro seeks to help students make a strong impact on the world around them just like Melson has. Start your own journey to greatness. Discover TUW’s online degree programs to begin your own amazing story.