The 2016 Haymakers for Hope charity fight in New York City is still close to nine months away, but that isn’t stopping Steve Reynolds or Adam Glazer from talking up the event to anyone they meet at Gotham Gym or elsewhere. As alumni boxers from the 2013 Haymakers fight in New York, the two can’t say enough good things about the experience, or about the gym that brought them there.

“We’re always scouting for new Haymakers fighters,” says Glazer, who has maintained his boxing fitness with three to four workouts a week at Gotham. “Then when new guys or girls come in to train, we work out with them, we encourage them and we spar with them. We’re a team. We train together.”

The way Glazer sees it, Gotham Gym has become a kind of second home, and its trainers—in particular Mike Castle, Sechew Powell and owner Rob Piela— along with his Haymakers teammates, have become family.

“Mike Castle works like a dog for any of us doing Haymakers,” says Glazer. “All of the trainers do. It’s just the culture here. We call it the Gotham family. I think it’s really special. This place is my sanctuary.”

Reynolds couldn’t agree more, noting that Gotham has become a feeder gym for Haymakers precisely because the experience inspires the fighters to encourage others to sign up. To date, Gotham has sent 25 fighters to the Haymakers ring to fight cancer.

“I always tell the new guys, you’ll never forget this. It will be one of the top 10 things you will ever do in your life,” says Reynolds, who also remains an active part of the boxing team at Gotham.

Indeed, Haymakers played a pivotal role in helping both Glazer and Reynolds move on from the debilitating effects of cancer treatment.

Reynolds was diagnosed with neck cancer in the fall of 2006, and had surgery and treatment the following winter. Declared cancer-free by that April, the tall, formerly athletic Reynolds slowly returned to his career in the tech industry, but he was “weak and very thin.” It took another year before he could work full time.

“When I hit the five-year ‘officially clear’ mark in 2012, I realized I had not been physically active for a long time,” says Reynolds. “I felt a bit defeated, so I decided to get into the gym and start pushing myself back into shape.”

Reynolds joined Gotham in the spring of 2012, and that’s where he first heard about Haymakers for Hope.

“It just hit me like, wow! That was something I wanted to do,” he says. “But I was too late for the cut-off and there was no match. And really I was so new to it all that I just decided I would get ready for the next one. I made 2012 my year to get back. My first goal was just to be able to run a mile.”

Meanwhile, Glazer had been fighting his own battle against cancer.

“In 2010, I underwent a year of treatment for cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital,” he says. “I was fortunate in that the cancer I had was highly treatable, though the surgery and chemo were pretty taxing. It took a year of my life. I remember coming out of that knowing I wanted to get back to myself. I thought I’d try boxing.”

When Glazer read an article about Haymakers, he knew what he was going to do. “I wanted to give something back,” he says. He signed up in 2013.

“When I walked into Gotham, Mike Castleimmediately took me under his wing and got me ready to fight,” says Glazer. “I’ll never forget my first spar. It was terrible! It’s the most unnatural thing to do. It’s counterintuitive to NOT turn away, but you have to shrug it off. It’s also counterintuitive to hit somebody!”

Glazer met Reynolds during training and they’ve been close friends ever since, just as they’ve become friends with the many Haymakers fighters who have come along after them. And both remain active in the gym, helping fighters prepare both physically and mentally, promoting fundraising efforts and even, in Reynolds’ case, serving as a second corner man for some of his teammates.

“Haymakers has been the beacon,” says Glazer. “Combine that with the culture in our gym and the amazing trainers, and it all culminates perfectly to make the experience even greater.”

That’s what both Glazer and Reynolds want the next team of fighters to understand: Haymakers gave them far more than the fitness they’d been looking for when they walked into Gotham almost three years ago.

“When I was training for my fight, every aspect of my life was better,” says Glazer. “My work was more focused. I was more alert. It crystallized everything in my life. And really, I think the training was almost better than the event because it put me on this path to some amazing friendships with my trainers and teammates. That’s worth more, somehow, than winning.

“That’s why we stay involved here,” he adds. “It’s great, and look how much money we’re raising! I often think if people had not raised money in the past, then maybe my treatment wouldn’t have been there for me. So I’m very grateful for Haymakers.”

Both Glazer and Reynolds were treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, so it was only fitting that, in 2015, the pair accepted a Donor Recognition Award from the hospital on behalf of Haymakers for Hope. It’s no surprise that both also chose to direct most of their raised funds there.

“Fighting in Haymakers was a demonstration that I was alive again,” says Reynolds. “It’s important for me to keep that going, which is why I stay connected to our team at the gym.”

Reynolds took that connection deeper in the last year, when he worked with Gotham’s trainers to start a winter boxing program for kids.

“We just started our second year, with about a dozen kids coming in to train every Saturday. It’s been really fun,” he says. “I’m so grateful. This whole experience has changed me. I have a physical life again and I have a way to channel my goal to give back. Gotham gave me a whole new community.”

***Margie Kelley is a mom, freelance writer, master gardener and sometimes boxer. She fought in the 2013 Belles of the Brawl in Boston, and managed to convince her husband, Chris Fitzpatrick, to fight in the Rock ‘n Rumble in May. Settling arguments has taken on a whole new meaning in their house!