If you’re an affordable housing developer plying your trade in New York City, you’ve got to be able to roll with the punches. And, in some cases, deliver them.
Steven Wissak, a 53-year-old managing director at affordable housing developer POKO Partners, squared off last night in front of a 1,200-strong crowd against another wannabe 53-year-old pugilist, finance executive Jerry Burke. The occasion: “Haymakers for Hope,” a charity boxing event for cancer treatment and research, held at the Best Buy Theater at 1515 Broadway.
The bell rang and the two got right into it, trading jabs and rights while their respective trainers barked commands at them. “Body! Body! Defense! Right!” Burke was two inches taller than Wissak and outweighed him by 10 pounds, but the developer immediately got the better of him with several good body shots. After he landed one particularly ferocious body-body-hook combo early in the second round, the referee took a look at his opponent and called a stop to the fight. TKO.
“It’s chaotic for a 53-year-old to get into the gym,” Wissak, drenched with sweat, told The Real Deal just moments after he emerged victorious from the ring. “He definitely stunned me once, but I had great trainers, and I did exactly what they told me to do.”
Outside the ring, Wissak is involved in rehabilitating Section 8 affordable housing projects such as 2404-16 Crotona Avenue and 2431 Belmont Avenue in the Bronx. “I’m in shock that he even did this,” said Steve Klein, who’s known Wissak for three decades and was sitting ringside. “He was nervous- believe me. This is a guy who’s never picked up gloves in his life.”
Wissak’s win wasn’t the industry’s only triumph of the night. CBRE broker Jeff Sharon took his opponent out in the first minute of their fight. Douglaston Development’s Ben Levine, who had his own moment of glory last year, was spotted cheering Sharon on.
All told, Haymakers for Hope, now in its third year in New York City, raised over $600,000 last night, according to the event’s co-founder Andrew Myerson.
“The fighters go through this amazing transformation,” Myerson said. “Some people lost 20 percent of their bodyweight [over the course of training.]”