MIDTOWN — When it comes to a fight, Steve Reynolds is an "attacker."
For more than five years, Reynolds has had no other choice. From 2007 to 2008, he went round after round of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to fight off Stage-IV orophyrangeal cancer on his tongue and throat.
And Thursday night, he's stepping into the ring again — literally.
Reynolds, a 53-year-old father and software marketer for Microsoft in Midtown, is squaring off in a three-round fight against 59-year-old Stuart Goldfarb in one of 16 bouts at the Haymakers for Hope amateur charity boxing tournament at Hammerstein Ballroom.
"My main concern was keeping my wife calm," he joked ahead of a training session a couple weeks before the fight. "It wasn't her first suggestion."
Reynolds' neck was opened and dissected barely five years ago, he said, just one part of a cancer treatment that also included intense doses of radiation. In fact, three small dots tattooed onto the front and sides of his neck still show where technicians aimed their gamma rays.
"Some of my swallow muscles are compromised. I have some trouble chewing and swallowing," he acknowledged, adding he was also threatened with losing his entire saliva function. "So I wouldn't want to get hit in the throat too many times."
However, fighting is in Reynolds' blood. His late father fought as a semi-pro boxer, and Reynolds put on the gloves as a kid growing up. He picked up the sport again, fresh off a breakup with a girlfriend, as a young man just out of college in the '90s.
Sitting through the cancer treatments and slogging through the recovery, he soon found his thoughts circling back to boxing, he said.
"Going to treatment is a lot like a fight," Reynolds described. "You get beat up pretty bad. You hurt, you lose certain functions. You don't know what's going to happen. You're not going out the way you came in."
Reynolds, who stands 6-foot-3, lost a quarter of his weight during treatment, dropping as low as 155 pounds. Like any fighter who's taken hard shots, Reynolds wanted to prove he could rise off the canvas and get back into the fight.
"Showing myself I can take a punch, literally, and keep on going," Reynolds said. "It's easy to get into a sick rut, or a post-sick rut. You're a sick person getting by, and I wanted to break that off. I was trying to make a statement to myself: You're not sick anymore."
Reynolds' latest examination found no presence of cancer, he said. And if there any lingering doubt about his fitness, there's his training: 60-minute workouts filled with running, shadow-boxing, jumping rope, heaving medicine balls, slamming tires with sledgehammers, mitt work and more.
"Whatever s--t he thinks up," Reynolds said, gasping for air during a brief break between sets, referring to his trainer.
"I don't give him no breaks," Castillo added. "Never. Steve loves this stuff."
Reynolds is raising $15,000 for a gift to a cancer research fund in honor of a coworker, who's mother died of cancer over the summer. To find out more or to donate, visit Reynolds' page on Haymakers for Hope.