EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - Saturday night, fighters will step in the ring for the 12th annual Guns and Hoses charity boxing event.
Each fighter has their own special reason for competing.
Daniel Hopper is entering his eighth fight with a 5-2 record, looking to avenge a loss from a few years ago. But that’s not the reason he gets in the ring. For Daniel, that reason began in 2010 with the birth of his first daughter Lila.
“She was born with spina bifida and she needed to be born in Louisville because she would have to have multiple surgeries immediately after birth,” said Hopper.
Due to her condition, Lila spent three months in that Louisville hospital before she could come home to Wabash County, Illinois. In that time, the Hoppers received aid from many different charities, all with a common thread. They were supported by 911 Gives Hope, an organization founded by a group of local law enforcement and firefighters. The same organization that puts on Guns and Hoses every year.
“I’m going down the list and I’m like yeah they helped me out, they helped me out, they helped me out," said Hopper. "So I decided that I wanted to do this as a way to say thank you to those different charities.”
Daniel reached out to Pat Phernetton, one of the founders of 911 Gives Hope, and the first fight was set.
“2011 was my first fight. I fought Dylan Woods who’s a fireman from here in Mt. Carmel. I won that fight," Hopper said.
For two years Daniel fought to give back to the organization that helped him in his families time of need. In 2013 that motivation changed when Lila passed away.
“[That year] I was trying to be convinced not to fight, and I told them I had to," Hopper said. "To me this is therapy.”
During his first two fights, Lila was there every step of the way, helping her father train for when he stepped between the ropes. It’s those memories that come back to Daniel when he prepares for his upcoming fights.
“She would be down there with me, you know and she would just laugh and giggle every time I would punch the bag,” said Hopper. “When I’d get in the zone I would grunt and the more I grunt the more she would laugh.”
Lila’s passing didn’t stop Daniel from competing in 2013. If anything her death motivated him to win even more, in a match he dedicated especially to her.
“You know nobody wants to lose, but if you do it’s for a great cause,” Hopper said. "I knew I wasn’t going to lose that fight.”
“I honestly didn’t remember the fight until I went back and watched it. The emotions just took over, as soon as the fight was over, I knew that I’d won and in the video you can see me I walk to the corner, I give Lila a fist bump, and I just say we did it.”
Now, six years after Lila’s passing, Daniel continues to fight.
He says he wants to get to ten fights before he considers hanging up his gloves, meaning he still has a few years to fight. Fight to say thank you for the support he received. Fight for the families and the children who benefit from 911 Gives Hope, just like his family. And fight for his little girl.