Turning 60 years old in a few months isn’t stopping Steve Bernstein from embracing a challenge that would intimidate most 20-somethings.
The president of the Southampton Hospital Foundation will be stepping into a boxing ring on November 25 to participate in the 10th annual Long Island Fight for Charity at the Long Island Hilton in Melville. Bernstein is one of more than 20 men and women who will be spending their time between now and November training for the charity event, which raises funds for the Long Island Community Chest, which provides short-term financial assistance to needy families on Long Island, as well as other Long Island charities, including the Genesis School, a school for children with autism.
Bernstein, a Old Bethpage resident, has been working with Southampton Hospital for nearly five years, and says he decided to sign up for the boxing event for two reasons: a lifelong love of boxing, and a strong desire to help people in need. Bernstein and the other “celebrity” boxers are required to raise at least $5,000 between now and November.
Bernstein said he wanted to do the event last year but was talked out of it by friends and family who were concerned for his well-being. He said that while he understood their concerns, he ultimately was disappointed that he didn’t participate last year—and he was determined to make it happen this time around.
He said he makes fitness a part of his daily life—he goes running on a regular basis—but he admits that boxing and the training it requires is a workout unlike any other he’s done. Bernstein is currently training twice a week at Fitness Through Boxing in Northport with Tony White and Rob Vanacore.
“These are some of the toughest workouts I’ve ever had,” he said. “When you get in a ring, after 40 seconds, you can’t imagine how tired you are.”
Ultimately, Bernstein will be matched up against a fellow “celebrity” boxer on November 25, and they will go three rounds. It’s real, sanctioned boxing, Bernstein said, and they are expected to take it seriously, but he also acknowledged that both the boxers and organizers will be aware of the fact that it’s a charity event, and that the people in the ring aren’t trained professionals. There will be no winners and losers declared, according to Bernstein, as each match will end in a tie.
“It’s an exhibition—it’s supposed to be fun,” Bernstein said. “But you take it seriously. I don’t think anybody’s intention is to knock anybody out. But I imagine when the adrenaline kicks in, things will happen.”
Bernstein said that the prospect of intense activity in the boxing ring is precisely what worried several of his family and friends, although he says they are starting to come around to the idea of what he’s doing.
Bernstein’s son, Andrew Bernstein, 31, who works in Manhattan, says he’s on board with what his dad is taking on. “I couldn’t be more supportive and more proud of the dedication that he put into this,” he said. “He’s been training and will be for nine or 10 months by the time November comes around. He’s loved boxing all his life, he’s an athlete, and when November rolls around, he’ll have the stamina to hold up for three or four rounds. I think he’ll be ready to go.”
Bernstein explained his motivation this way: “People think I’m crazy, and all of them encouraged me to run a marathon, or do the things you always do. But sometimes you just need to do something a little out of the box. This is it for me.”
Bernstein added that his goals are simple. “I want to be able to say that I’ve achieved a level of fitness beyond my expectations,” he said. “That I was able to do this and achieve both my fitness and fundraising goals, and help some charities and some people who were deserving of these kinds of efforts, and that I conducted myself well and didn’t make a fool out of myself.”
He added, with a laugh, “And I’ll turn pro when I’m 65.”