Who's That Gal: Kimberleigh Holman, Fighter, Haymakers for Hope

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Name: Kim Holman
Age: 31
Occupation: Artistic Director of Luminarium Dance/freelance choreographer & interdisciplinary artist
Hometown: Merrimack, NH
Current ‘hood: Boston (Roslindale!)
Currently reading: The Mars Room: A Novel by Rachel Kushner
Ocean or Lake: Ocean
Most Essential Step of My Morning Routine: If we are being honest, it is getting out of bed before picking up my phone. Productivity depends on it.

What is Haymakers for Hope and how did you first hear of the organization?

Haymakers for Hope is a nonprofit that selects ordinary people to train intensely over four months to become boxers, all while raising money for a cancer charity of their choice. The organization has raised somewhere around 9 million dollars during the 8 years they’ve been around and has had over 500 participants go through the system. I first heard of Haymakers last winter—I had just started taking boxing conditioning classes on a whim at BoxSmith in West Roxbury—and was able to watch two men at my gym training for the May fight. I was impressed at how quickly two boxing newbies became skilled fighters, and how much money the event raised for cancer charities.

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What inspired you to register as a fighter?

It’s really inspiring to work out at a woman-owned boxing gym, and when Jess Smith, my incredible coach and the owner of BoxSmith, asked if I had considered applying to the program, there was instant intrigue in the idea of laying that kind of stake in a historically male-dominated sport. I went to a women’s college (Mount Holyoke represent!) and have very little tolerance for the idea that female bodies are less capable of extreme physicality.

Beyond my badass coach and wanting to assert myself as a woman in an aggressive fight sport, the fight also raises money for cancer. There’s an eight-year-old in my hometown—“Mighty Max” Mendez—that’s been battling leukemia while simultaneously fundraising tons of money so that other kids someday don’t have to deal with the cancer experience. I read bits and pieces of his story in newspapers and social media and was so inspired by Max going above and beyond while also battling leukemia. I realized that taking four months of my life to get punched in the face while raising money for Dana Farber seemed to be the least I could do! I also lost my grandfather—Harry Senanian— in 2011 to prostate cancer, and I fight in his memory. Whether or not you like the idea of fighting, we can all agree that cancer sucks and it’s about time it was eradicated.

What are your workouts like?

Intense! I work out a minimum of five days a week, and besides loads of boxing training and sparring, there’s plenty of running, strength training, HIIT, and plyo/agility work. Boxing is absurdly demanding of your body, and you need to push both cardio and strength.

Do you have a go-to move?

You’ll have to come check out the fight to find out!


Do you think your background in dance will give you an edge in the ring?

I think having a dance background and an active career in dance does help. At the very least it gives me a firm understanding of my body in space, which helps in the ring, and adds not just to my footwork skills but to my ability to pick up new movements. It’s also nice to have my boxing training give my dance skills a boost by encouraging bigger movement and more reach and pushing the athletic extremes of my artistic practice.

What have been your biggest challenges and rewards of training for Haymakers for Hope?

The process has been a simultaneous challenge and reward. Immersing myself in something scary without giving it much of a second thought has been such a wild ride, and the idea that I’m actually becoming a boxer is endlessly exciting. On a basic level, I’ve lost about 26 pounds (which I put on after two frustrating dance-related hip injuries and a surgery), and am much stronger than I’ve ever been! Also, it’s been great to become part of a cohort of strong women that have also decided to take on this challenge. I am grateful for my BoxSmith community and especially my training partner, Kristie Bezreh, who is there to share the triumphs and ridiculousness, and commiserate when training hits a low point.

What piece of advice would you give to a woman considering registering as a fighter?

Do it. Seriously. Start small, go sign up for a bag conditioning class at a boxing gym (you won’t take a single punch, promise), and see if you like it. If that goes well, try sparring with a coach that’s focused on safety and technique (yes, this is where human contact comes into play), be the badass you’ve always wanted to be, and consider signing up for Haymakers. Make sure your schedule and body can handle the commitment, of course, but don’t let the ‘what ifs’ talk you out of it.


When is the event? Can we watch?!

You can absolutely watch, and please do come to cheer me on! The event is October 10 at the House of Blues at 7 pm. It’s incredibly fun and inspiring and tends to sell out fast. Tickets can be purchased on my fighter page on the Haymakers website—just enter my last name, Holman, when it asks for a code.

There’s a bar and we have team tee-shirts if you need that kind of motivation!