LONG BRANCH, N.J. — A former professional boxer has met and thanked the man who rescued him after he nearly drowned in a rip current at the New Jersey shore.

Recently retired welterweight fighter Dustin Fleischer had been searching for his rescuer after his near-death ordeal at Long Branch beach on Friday night.

The two met Tuesday at a beachside park, according to The Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/2wY1tjU ), which had been helping Fleischer connect with the man who saved him.

Edrick Alleyne told the paper he had been playing with his two children at Seven Presidents Oceanfront Park when a man came running up saying his nephew was drowning.

“I looked at Edrick and said, ‘Go,'” said Alleyne’s girlfriend, Dawn Siciliano. “He didn’t even say anything. He just went. There were a lot of people on the shore, but Edrick was the only person who got into that water.”

He said he doesn’t know what came over him, but he had to do it. A woman on the beach was yelling at him not to go in, he said.

“A wave hit me in the chest and I thought, ‘This water is too rough for me to get into,'” said 27-year-old Alleyne, who works as a transportation supervisor for a nonprofit.

He started yelling to Fleischer to ride the wave in, but he saw Fleischer seemed exhausted and disoriented.

“I was totally helpless. I thought I was going to die,” Fleischer said.

That’s when Alleyne grabbed the 28-year-old and they rode a wave out of the rough surf together.

Unseasonable warm weather has lured big crowds to the beaches, where intense currents churned up by hurricanes off the coast caused over 130 rescues and three deaths over the weekend. Lifeguards go off duty after Labor Day, adding to the danger of the rip tides.

Fleischer boasted an impressive 6-0 record with five knockouts by the time he retired from the ring, but he said the close call in the ocean “was the toughest fight of my life.”

Fleischer said he took his story public because he wants people to know the rip currents are serious business.

On Tuesday, the two men hugged and talked about how Alleyne was in the right place at the right time.

“He’s my real-life hero,” Fleischer said.


Information from: Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, http://www.app.com