When Anthony Dirrell steps into the ring against Badou Jack in Chicago on April 24, the 168-pound champion will have a special fan rooting him on at the UIC Pavilion.
Dirrell, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the end of 2006 and returned to fighting in October 2008, will gain added motivation from 9-year-old Amya (last name withheld), another survivor of the disease, when he defends his title against Jack.
"She's my little friend who I talk to on the regular," Dirrell said. "It's just tremendous the way that she looks up to me, and how we've just clicked since I first spoke to her, and that's why she's going to be at the fight. That's what I want to keep happening. I want to continue to talk to kids and cancer survivors and cancer patients to let them know that anything is possible."
Dirrell, 30, met Amya during a December visit to the Hurley Medical Center in his hometown of Flint, Michigan. The fighter donated $3,000 to the facility, passed out teddy bears and signed autographs for the children there.
"Amya was one of the kids who was there when I went to the cancer institute to see the kids and to just make them feel happy. It really feels good to see the kids smile when they're down, and that's what I want to keep doing," said Dirrell, who recently established the Dirrell’s Chance Foundation.
"I'll be having all sorts of outings for the kids, like sporting events, and of course I want to do everything that I can to help people with cancer and to help to find a cure for this disease. It's terrible. It's breaking up homes. I want people to know that, like me, you can overcome it and be healthy."