Eddie Capel stepped into the ring one spring night in 1981 and knew instinctively the mostly Irish crowd, downing glasses of Guinness, wanted to see blood.
His opponent, a 19-year-old who was leaner and taller, gave it to them, pummeling Capel to the head hard and often.
“He didn’t knock me out but there was indeed plenty of blood,” Capel said recently. “Mine.”
That was Capel’s last fight.
He won’t be looking to prove anything this time around. No, Capel will be fighting for a cause. A good one.
When he first heard of Brawl for a Cause back in July, he didn’t think much of it. People in his office were trying to convince him to participate but Capel wasn’t having it.
“It was a terrible idea,” he said. “I hadn’t been in a gym for more than 30 years.”
That’s not the kind of thing you can just ignore. One in 28 kids in this country has a parent who is in prison. What’s worse is those children are three times as likely as other kids to go to prison.
Capel thought about it a couple days and decided to give it a go. Children need their parents but if they can’t have them, they should at least have the skills needed to navigate the world without them.
Camp Hope, run by the non-profit Kidz2leaders Inc., helps foster those skills and has been doing so now for 18 years.
The incarceration of a parent can have as much impact on a child’s well-being as abuse or domestic violence. And yet, states spend heavily on corrections but provide few resources to support those left behind.
Capel will fight to help change that, to raise awareness about an epidemic that is rarely discussed in this country and the funds needed to run the camp.
The goal for this event, Thomas said, is to raise more than $100,000.
“Our mission is to train, equip and inspire everyday people to literally fight for what they believe in,” he said. “There is a hero inside each one of us, and if given the proper platform and opportunity, we can unleash that inner-hero to fight for the change we wish to see in the world,”
Satisfied, Capel set out in search of the right gym to start training. He wanted something “old school” – no cardio boxing to music. Champs Boxing Gym, about 5 miles from his Marietta office, met his qualifications.
You’ll find him there at least three times a week, his travels permitting. When he makes it, he puts in a half hour on the treadmill or elliptical to get a little sweat rolling then goes three or four rounds of shadow boxing, followed by some heavy bag work before finishing with floor work, working on body strength, sit ups, crunches and push-ups.
Meanwhile back at Manhattan Associates, in a show of support for their CEO, employees dreamed up a contest to give their resident boxer a nickname. Think “Sugar Ray” Leonard, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Tommy “The Hitman” Hearns.
Hundreds of monikers were submitted but “Steady Eddie” had a flavor about it and it stuck.
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With a month of training behind him, Capel was feeling pretty good, going to the gym, hitting inanimate objects that didn’t hit back. Then he started sparring with the 20-somethings who were showing up and he couldn’t help noticing his speed and power were, well, lacking.
“As I train and think about the grind, I think about the cause and the good it will do and it drives me on,” he said recently. “It keeps me going.”
At 56, Capel won’t likely perform as he did more than 30 years ago, but he’s undaunted. When he enters the ring Feb. 17, for Brawl for a Cause at Mercedes Benz Stadium, he’ll be just one of 30 everyday people fighting what they believe in.
Capel will be thinking of Camp Hope and the children he’ll be helping.
At the end of the day, it’s the cause that counts.
To that end, he’s already showing his real strength. Capel has raised more than $30,000 so far in direct donations for Camp Hope. During each match at Brawl for a Cause, the fighters will combine their total donations in a purse. The winner will take 60 percent of the purse for their charity; the losers gets 40 percent.
“What a great opportunity to be able to raise some money in a little bit of a different way on a pretty big stage,” Capel said.
Even if he exits the ring with broken ribs and a bruised ego, Capel believes those odds are worth fighting for.
Brawl for a Cause
6 p.m. Feb. 17. $85-$1,500. Mercedes Benz Stadium, 1414 Andrew Young International Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30313. www.brawlforacause.com