Lights Out 4 Leukemia Uses Boxing to Fight Cancer

The charity event will be held Sept. 13 in Watertown.

Lights Out 4 Leukemia

Fighters on the first day of training. Photo provided to bostonmagazine.com

Update: Lights Out 4 Leukemia will hold its 2015 event on Sept. 19 at St. James Hall, 465 Mount Auburn St., Watertown.

Five years ago, Joe LaFrange says that he watched his friend die of a potentially curable stomach cancer because he couldn’t afford treatment. Now, he’s fighting back—literally.

LaFrange, along with his business partner Dante Boyer, has put together an event called Lights Out 4 Leukemia, which will be held Sept. 13 in Watertown using boxing to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). “I’ve never been diagnosed with a blood disease, or any type of cancer, but boxing, I would imagine, is very similar to being diagnosed with cancer. You’re fighting for your life,” says LaFrange, who has been involved with the event’s host organization, Boston Boxing & Fitness, for 10 years.

Though LaFrange is a veteran in the boxing community, the majority of Lights Out fighters are amateurs who have completed a grueling four-month training program to prepare for their first fight. “One of our boxers, Sam, has a 13-year-old daughter with leukemia,” LaFrange says. “He has no control about how things turn out for his daughter. He is certainly standing by her side through fighting the disease, but he wanted to do a little more.”

Wanting to do more is a feeling LaFrange knows well. After his friend died of cancer, LaFrange says he was consumed by the desire to do something for others in similar situations. “For a while it haunted me, and I wanted to do more,” he remembers. That feeling lead him to get involved with Haymakers For Hope, a group that also hosts charity boxing matches, and the LLS’ Light the Night Walk. He now part of the LLS’ Executive Leadership Committee.

“I didn’t realize how many people have been affected by blood cancers that are in our close circle,” he says. “It’s nice to do something positive for the community and be a part of something that’s above you.”

Plus, boxing, LaFrange says, is a perfect way to do that. “People that don’t have a close connection as far as being diagnosed with a cancer don’t really understand what it is to go through a cancer for themselves. The only thing that they can relate it to is by getting in the ring and fighting for their lives,” he says. “You’re not really fighting for your life in the boxing ring, but it gives these people a sense of accomplishment and a sense of hope.”

Clearly, LaFrange’s model is working. Lights Out has already surpassed its $20,000 fundraising goal and is is rapidly closing in on $30,000. Money aside, LaFrange says the day is about boxers like Sam, the father of a leukemia patient, who are able to show their loved ones support. “Just to be able to have him compete on the day-of with his daughter by his side,” LaFrange says, “is such a true testament to his character and the character of the community.”

Lights Out 4 Leukemia will be held at St. James Hall, 465 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown at 7 p.m. on September 13. Tickets are available for $30 at Facebook.com/lightsout4leukemia or at the door (space permitting).