Dan Letz

Teacher/coach Dan Letz, of LetzBox Chicago boxing club, enjoys a moment at last year’s Thursday Night Fights with two of the competitors, Vinnie Miceli (left) of Mt. Greenwood and Liam Winters of Christ the King. The annual event benefits Christmas Without Cancer and will be held on May 21 at 115 Bourbon Street.

Each poster taped to the walls of the new LetzBox Chicago boxing club, 3524 W. 111th St., in Mt. Greenwood, has its own back-story, much like any boxer who gets in the ring to dish out and take punishment.

Club Owner Dan Letz likes to point to the poster for Christmas Without Cancer, both for the cause and because it’s weighing on his mind, as the event is only a couple flips of the calendar away.

The third annual Thursday Night Fights, a fundraiser for Christmas Without Cancer, will be held on Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m., at 115 Bourbon Street, 3359 W. 115th St., in Merrionette Park.

Multiple posters decorate the walls of the boxing club and point to Letz’s “give back” attitude, but those for St. Cajetan Warrior events and Mt. Carmel’s Caravan Boxing Night stand out.

In those three years, Letz has grown closer to Gerri Neylon, founder of Christmas Without Cancer, who was in disbelief when first approached about a boxing fundraiser to support her mission of helping families with bills piling up from cancer treatments.

“We’re helping Gerri, and all her volunteers help local families,” said Letz. “What we do comes together in one night of boxing entertainment, while what they do is almost year round to keep families tightly focused on one another, instead of mounting debt.”

Neylon, a retired oncology nurse, would know more about stitching up a pugilist’s mug than she would know about a rabbit punch, but she jumped through the ropes of the ring two years ago, grabbed the microphone and revved up Bourbon Street’s full house with her version of the “Rumble” call.

“I was floored when they told me boxing would bring crowds,” said Neylon. “I couldn’t believe how many people showed up.”

The talk around ringside at LetzBox figures this fight card to be another big draw for the boxing-hungry South Side, especially with young fighters from Mt. Greenwood, Beverly/Morgan Park, Evergreen Park and Oak Lawn.

“USA Boxing has been canceled. Golden Gloves has been postponed,” said Letz, “but, if all goes well, we will draw a supportive crowd again, put on a great show and have fun raising funds for families.”

Letz, the teacher/coach of the “sweet science,” is always promoting conditioning first, then progress, fundamentals and proper technique.

At any time of day, LetzBox Chicago has professionals from all walks of life maintaining and improving their conditioning. If someone never throws a punch but stays a step ahead of sickness and aging, Letz feels he’s done his job.

Due to the strange times that have surrounded us, the same college kids who have learned to embrace discipline in and out of the classroom through Letz’s “building block program” are now home, returning last week due to the corona virus pandemic.

“I’m really fortunate because these young guys want to come back and work with the younger kids,” said Letz. “As restrictions on social distancing are cleared, they can be of huge help to these young people. In the meantime, they can work out independently, lifting, jumping rope or hitting the bags. The gym is always active with fitness enthusiasts. People love coming here.”

Some of last year’s athletes are already committed to helping out at LetzBox: Ryan Clancy, 19, (junior novice Golden Gloves champion) of Mt. Greenwood; Marist senior Mike Egan; Jake Moriarty, 21, of Evergreen Park (2019 165-pound Golden Gloves semi-finalist); and Elijah Pearson, 19, of Washington Heights (2019 178-pound novice division Golden Gloves champion).

Letz has also compiled a list of boxers—both boys and girls—for fans to watch for on the upcoming fight card, if not for this event, for the next: Bella Rivera, Shane Dougherty, Sean Carrol, Quinn O’Neill, Brendan O’Boyle, Ben Somers, Donovan Motti, Jake Assleborn and Max Milivickas.

In all, LetzBox Chicago will present 10 boxing matches. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for those under 21, with all proceeds benefiting families served by Christmas Without Cancer.

Without people like Letz investing time and their own resources, the Christmas Without Cancer coffers would be empty.

“This is the kind of community we live in,” said Letz, “where people come out for a good cause and to help others.”

Christmas Without Cancer is a nonprofit charity that identifies need and then provides gifts and basic necessities to Chicago area families who have members stricken by cancer. Its efforts allow the beauty of Christmas to shine through while family members find comfort in their devotion to one another.

For more information, visit the website for Christmas Without Cancer.

To sponsor, donate or for more information about Thursday Night Fights, contact Letz at (773) 443-0624 or danletz@yahoo.com.