At The Way gym in Woburn, Massachusetts, you’ll find all levels of athletes working out in the big, warehouse-like space. They come from many backgrounds and arrive with different fitness goals, but share an intensity and no-pain-no-gain mentality that’s especially attractive to boxers. An added bonus: gym founder Brandon Montella’s a professional fighter with a perfect 9-0 record.

When 2019 Boston Haymakers for Hope fighter Krystian Bester found The Way, though, it wasn’t boxing that initially drew him, but Montella’s mission of working with military veterans to build strength and purpose through personal training. Bester is a former United States Marine. After a few months of working out at The Way, he attended one of his gymmate’s fights at the 2017 Boston Haymakers for Hope Fight Night. The next year brought a lot life with it (marriage! a baby!), but when 2019 signups rolled around, he was excited to apply for a fight.

In the months since starting to train for a fight, Krystian says the workouts have intensified. “My coach is old school, so we have more sparring, more running, and some double workout days, including one at  5am.” Boxing workouts are hard on anyone, but Krystian remembers a particularly tough day in March because it fell on his birthday. “I went in twice that day, first in the morning. Then I had to go back in the afternoon for sparring with a professional boxer. I got my butt kicked. Ha, that was not a good day.”

All the extra work seems to be paying off, though. Both Krystian and his coach were happy with his performance sparring against his opponent, and Bester feels confident he’s progressed a lot in the few weeks since. “After watching the tape of sparring, we have a definite game plan,” Krystian says. “We have a strategy and a backup plan.”

Bester’s looking forward to getting in the ring, but says the bigger purpose of the night has been front of mind throughout the training process. He’s raising money for the Foundation for Love, a small charity that helps people who are in their own fight with cancer.

“Everything with Haymakers for Hope has been great. The events, the fundraising, the training. You have to be dedicated to do it, you have to get ready for battle,” Krystian says. “It’s a great cause, and I think everyone who has the mentality and drive for this should try it.”

Still, Krystian acknowledges that he might have had some early preparation for a boxing match with his time in the Marines. “Marine training definitely conditioned my pain threshold. It gave me the mentality that when you get hit, you have to keep moving forward. Push through the pain, push through training.”

To support former United States Marine Krystian Bester, donate or grab your tickets to watch him fight in the 2019 Rock ‘N Rumble in Boston.

Written By Steph Kent