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Lacey Hayes tries her hand at boxing; raises $20,000 for Kenny Rogers Center

Lacey Hayes proudly displays her champion belt after defeating Faren Rachels. She was the champion of her bout, which was one of three; there was no overall champion of the night. Submitted photo

Rocky Balboa she is not — or is she?

Jackson native Lacey Hayes had never put on a boxing glove in her life. Music has always been her thing. But on Saturday night, Feb. 24, after less than three months of training, she entered a boxing ring in front of thousands of viewers, and won a unanimous decision over her opponent, artist/songwriter Faren Rachels, in Nashville’s Rumble on the Row.

This was the 20th annual Rumble on the Row, described by its organizer as “a charity event with a boxing component,” said Hayes. People in Nashville’s music industry come dressed in their best to enjoy cocktails, dinner and three boxing matches between music industry workers. (Besides the Hayes-Rachels fight, there were boxing matches between Chris Burrus, an agent, and Pat Pekala, a head of touring and branding; and a match between Taylor Bock, an artist and tour manager, and Anthony Sansone, a brother with Make Wake Artists.)

A sold-out crowd of 650 people packed Liberty Hall in Franklin, TN, and thousands more watched the event on a live stream.
Hayes and Rachels were very evenly matched as boxing opponents. They were the same age and height, and only 2 pounds separated their weight.

“She was a very tough opponent,” said Hayes of Rachels. “We were the only fight of the night to go all three rounds. But I won unanimously by all five judges.”

Hayes gives credit to her boxing coach for her victory. “It’s a testament to my coach,” she said. She knew nothing about boxing, and he taught her everything “from scratch, starting with square one.”

Some of the credit must also go to Hayes as well. She started training for this fight the first week of December. “I was in the gym six days a week,” she said. She went early in the morning and late at night. She also changed her diet, lost weight and got in physical shape.

Her opponent was a southpaw, but being left-handed gave Rachels no advantage over Hayes. “I was prepared,” Hayes said. Rachels delivered exactly the types of punches that Hayes was expecting from her.

“In the first round, she came out with guns blazing. But then she gassed out,” Hayes recalled. “I knew how to win.” It’s not how hard you punch, but how many clean punches you get on your opponent, she explained.

Midway through the match, the fight was stopped because it was thought that Rachels had broken Hayes’ nose. A doctor examined Hayes, said her nose might be broken and asked her if she wanted to stop the fight. Hayes had no desire to give up. She put ice on her nose and continued boxing to the end. After the fight, she learned that her nose was not broken after all.

How did this Jackson native end up in a Nashville boxing ring?

Hayes said she knew she wanted to be in the music business since she was 12. At Jackson High School she participated in choir and drama. “I was very involved in music,” she said.

After graduating from JHS in 2005, she went to Belmont University in Nashville, TN. The school has an excellent music program and is sometimes referred to as “the Julliard of the South,” Hayes said.

Southeast Missouri State University reached out to Hayes and invited her to attend its brand new River Campus, dedicated to fine arts. It was an offer she couldn’t refuse. “I was in the first class to go through the River Campus — the inaugural class,” Hayes said.

After graduating from SEMO, she moved to New York City, and then later moved to Nashville, where for the past six years, she has worked as a talent buyer and event producer for Romeo Entertainment.

One of her clients is the Sikeston Rodeo. (“I grew up going to that rodeo,” she said.) The rodeo now shows Hayes its budget and Hayes arranges contracts with musical talent who will perform there. She still attends the rodeo, but now she handles meet-and-greets, catering, etc., while she is there.

Because of her contacts in Sikeston via the rodeo, she chose the Kenny Rogers Children’s Center in Sikeston as the beneficiary of her boxing proceeds. Her boxing match raised more than $20,000 for KRCC.

Another client of Hayes is Century Casino in Cape Girardeau. With the addition of its new hotel, the casino is looking to bring in more entertainment, she said.

Hayes also handles the entertainment for the Texas State Fair. “I have a lot of clients,” she said.

It was her number of contacts that helped her get selected as a boxer in this year’s Rumble on the Row.

The Rumble on the Row is a major event for the people in the Nashville music industry. In attendance are not only musical artists, but also heads of big agencies and many others in the industry.

After attending the event last year, Hayes was encouraged by a lot of people to try out as a boxer.

A committee selects the boxers based upon how committed they are, whether they have “enough steam” to see it through, and whether they have the connections to raise a lot of funds.

Through donations, sponsorships and fundraising events, Rumble on the Row raises funds for the Charley Foundation, which helps provide relief for children who are abused, neglected or in other crises, such as suffering from chronic illness or homelessness or living in poverty. Part of the funds raised go to charities selected by the individual boxers.

“It’s an honor to get chosen,” said Hayes, who had a lot of contacts from her job, but she also reached out to people back home for donations.

“I may be living in Nashville, but I will never forget where I came from. I love my home town of Jackson. It has been very supportive of me. I received a lot of local donations.”

Hayes says she is looking for ways to “give back to my home town.” One thing she will not be doing is boxing again in the Rumble on the Row.

“You can only do it one time,” she said, explaining the rules. She will end her boxing career undefeated, stating, “I’m retiring 1-0.”

Hayes is glad that she stepped out of her comfort zone to try boxing. She says it “teaches you that you’re stronger than you think.”

It’s both a physical and a mental workout. “I recommend it for everyone,” she said. She doesn’t mean everyone should step into a ring and compete, but everyone can gain something from training as a boxer. “Boxing is top notch,” she said.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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