Boxing in one of your first bouts is something a boxer will always remember, and for Matt Thomas of Atlanta, Ga., it had even more meaning.
When his arm was raised, the same right arm that he had dislocated his shoulder during his first round of that bout, he knew there was more to that victory. He quickly realized he needed to make the Brawl for a Cause events he had been working for years to get started a reality. The event could give those boxing the same feeling he had in his first amateur bout.
The work to get to that victory, as well as getting the event to where it is today, was not easy.
The blueprint for Brawl for a Cause began during his college fraternity days of wishing to put together a boxing event for charity but his plans didn’t come easy and were shut down numerous times. Wanting to get involved, Thomas began working with UGA HEROs which helps with Hero for Children, an organization providing aid to children affected by AIDS in Georgia. But, UGA HEROs did not have the budget to produce such an event. This final rejection led Matt to step out on his own.
After having an initial goal to break even for the first event, Matt did so in just sponsorship sales, which allowed him to use ticket sales for his donation. His goal was set for $12,000, $1 for every child affected by AIDS in Georgia. After selling 864 tickets, he came up short, only raising $6,000, a feat many would feel successful as most charity events lose money in their first event.
His check to UGA HEROs for $6,000 was the largest donation by any student, and just the start to this event.
Now, Brawl for a Cause has grown to a philanthropic event with a Vegas-style environment filled with black-tie attire and casino tables to gamble with play money during the bouts.
“It has grown up with me, it is more refined,” stated Thomas. “It is no longer a college fraternity fight fest.”
Tickets for the event cost $150, with ticket sales added to the brawlers’ charities donation amount, resulting in all twenty charities benefiting from the event no matter the outcome. His goal is to not only raise money, but introduce another demographic to the sport of boxing.
“Instead of actual boxers, or even amateur boxers, we get everyday people like doctors or lawyers, and convince them to literally fight for what they believe in,” said Thomas. “You can look at Brawl for a Cause as the gateway to boxing, as many of these people have never boxed before.”
The recruitment for boxers has grown. Using his mentality from his fraternity days, he looks to feature people that others would want to watch box, like a policeman against a firefighter or one rival consulting firm against another.
“These people have a very positive introduction to the sport of boxing, and many continue to keep the sport in their workout routine or end up competing at other events later on,” stated Thomas. “My goal is not to build an Olympic team and compete against the world’s best, but I am trying to do the opposite. I am trying to get people that have never boxed before to try a new sport and to do it for a really good reason.”
When the boxers sign up for the event, they train full force for their first boxing bout, as well as generate exposure for their cause. As they post their training and workout videos on social media, participants generate content and thousands of impressions for their charity.
With interest continuing to grow, Matt has goals of turning this “passion project” into a full-time gig. Fully pursing Brawl for a Cause will help him reach his goals of expanding the event to a national or potentially world wide event. Thomas already has a few cities in mind to bring the charity boxing event to, with hopes of doing so in the next year or two.
The 2017 edition will take place the night before Thanksgiving. His reasoning behind that date? ‘Everyone is off the next day and the boxers can pig out after months of training and cutting weight for their boxing debut.’