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Grandchamp Teams With ex-Heavyweight for Benefit

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Boxing legend Gail Grandchamp will appear with former heavyweight champion James Smith on Saturday at a benefit for Smith's mentoring foundation that will also serve as a kick off announcement about her biographical film.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Two athletes best known for their pugilistic skills are hoping to connect with their fans this weekend on a new level — through the "power of the pen."

Local boxing icon Gail Grandchamp is also using the benefit scheduled this Saturday beginning at 7 p.m. at the North Adams Movieplex as a kick off announcement for her long-anticipated film about her struggles to bring women's boxing to the forefront.

Grandchamp will appear with former heavyweight champion James "Bonecrusher" Smith who's dedicated his post-boxing life to working with children through the non-profit organization Champion For Kids Inc.

"We're both fighters with heart, so we're going to be talking about going from fighting to writing, about the power of the pen, about how to stop the violence and gangs," said Grandchamp on Monday. "He shows them how to write [their feelings] down and put it in a book and stop hurting to each other."

The benefit for Champion for Kids features a book signing, boxing exhibition and motivational speaking. WBRK Radio will also be on hand.

"The former champ and I are teaming up together," Grandchamp said. "We're both self-published ...  we're both helping kids and that's what we're here for."

Grandchamp is a local legend in boxing, who fought not only in the ring but for eight years in the courts for the right for women to box. It wasn't until 1992 that a Massachusetts court ruled that gender couldn't be used to deny an individual entrance to the boxing ring. Grandchamp became the first woman to receive a professional boxing license in the state.

Since then, she has run her own boxing and fitness studio in North Adams while continuing to advocate for women's rights to participate in sports, including the Olympics. In 2012, she was recognized by the Legislature for her efforts when the Olympics finally added women's boxing as a sport.

Her self-published book from 2006, "Gail Grandchamp: A Fighter with Heart Pursues an Olympic Dream," has been making the rounds in Hollywood for several years.

But Grandchamp says she's bringing Hollywood to North Adams by deciding to retain the rights to her biography and the script co-written with producer Scott Morgan.

"I own the rights to everything," said "the Champ," who once had her heart set on Olympic gold. "This is based on my true life story of getting the right for women to box."

Grandchamp estimates she's invested about a $1 million so far into the production that she plans on filming in her hometown. She's already begun casting, some of whom are expected to be at Saturday's event, and says the area has plenty of talent to showcase.

She's taking on a lot of the effort to get the film done, including directing, but has no qualms about the difficulties in putting her life up on the big screen.

"I've got the passion, the dedication and the ambition," she said.

Among those cast is Smith, who will portray a trainer.

Smith, who won 44 out of 62 fights during his heyday in the 1980s and '90s, became an ordained minister in 1996 and wrote "M.A.D.: Make A Decision," a short motivational book on leadership based on his experiences. He started Champion for Kids in 2004 as a way to mentor youngsters through the sport of boxing and encourage them to "Do Right" in living healthier lives.

Tickets for the event are $20 for adults, $10 for children and are available at the theater box office, WBRK in Pittsfield, Grandchamp's fitness studio at 141 State St., and the Hot Dog Ranch. Those bringing non-perishable foods for charity will receive a free popcorn.

Tags: boxing,   children,   fundraiser,   

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