Time and again over the years, Jim Raffone has been fighting to find a cure for the rare genetic disease that afflicts his 12-year-old son, Jamesy. He’s now about to take that fight to the next level, lacing up boxing gloves and stepping into the ring for a five-round bout televised live from Atlantic City.
Raffone, 50, of Manalapan, N.J., will fight boxer Tommy “The Tiger” Moose as part of an undercard matchup in a Celebrity Boxing showcase on June 11 at the Showboat Hotel. The headline attraction is a bout between former NBA star Lamar Odom and singer Aaron Carter. (The event is via pay per view; some of the showcase’s smaller bouts, Raffone’s among them, will be included in the televised extravaganza, said Damon Feldman, CEO of Official Celebrity Boxing, which is promoting the event.)
Raffone’s participation will raise money and awareness for JAR of Hope and its efforts to defeat Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), a fatal disease that mainly affects male patients and causes muscles to deteriorate over time. Because there is no known cure for DMD, treatment focuses on managing the symptoms and related complications of progressive muscle weakness and loss.
The acronym in JAR of Hope stands for James Anthony Raffone, or Jamesy, who was diagnosed with DMD in 2013. He remains ambulatory, but his father said he is not able to run like he used to.
“He has full use of his arms, and we are extremely grateful for that,” said Raffone.
Jamesy sleeps in a hyperbaric chamber several nights a week, which his father said has helped improve his son’s cardiac, pulmonary, and respiratory functions.
“For us, it is a race against time to stay ahead of the disease,” Raffone said. “He is a very happy child, and we are trying to make every day happy and exciting for him.”
He is also trying to help find a cure for DMD. Raffone left his construction business after 22 years when Jamesy was diagnosed and has focused his efforts since then on raising money and awareness through JAR of Hope. He said the organization has helped raise upwards of $8 million since 2013.
Raffone also started a biotech company three years ago called Hyper-Genetics, which is working on finding ways to combat the disease. And he’s using his own dedication to physical fitness to help the cause: He has run ultramarathons — including one from New Zealand to Australia, where he traversed 312 miles in 12 days over two continents — and the Grand 171 race, whose competitors run 171 miles over seven days in the Grand Canyon.
Compared to those endurance tests, Raffone’s five, two-minute rounds with Tommy “The Tiger” Moose at the Showboat should seem quick.
“This match offers an opportunity to increase awareness of this deadly childhood disease,” Raffone said. “And, because of COVID-19, we have to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Raffone, who also has two teenage daughters with his wife, Karen, isn’t doing the fight entirely for promotion’s sake — he’s out to win.
He’s been training for several months at Freehold Boxing and Fitness in Freehold, N.J., which is owned in part by former IBF Cruiserweight Champion Imamu Mayfield. Raffone hired Mayfield to train him for his upcoming fight.
The two have formed a tight bond, said Mayfield, because his own son, Jamir, 19, has autism and, like Jamesy, has overcome his own challenges.
“We relate to each other well,” said Mayfield of Raffone (adding that Jamir is “doing great”).
The trainer has high expectations for his boxer but is confident that Raffone will come out on top in his debut fight.
“I want him to go in and win,” Mayfield said. “If he does what I tell him to do, he will.”