Stepping into the boxing ring — sometimes for the first time — left them nervous, apprehensive.
But fraidy cats, they were not.
Eighteen police, fire, jail and military service officers — including two women — fought scheduled three-ring bouts Saturday night on the flight deck of the USS Midway Museum at the 17th annual “Battle of the Badges.”
No knockouts resulted, but several fights didn’t go the distance in the marquee fund-raiser for National City’s Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC) with partnership of the National Latino Peace Officers Association.
Story continues below
Ticket sales for the event (with ringside seats going for $150) fund programs to help keep youth off the streets and in school through boxing and mentoring programs.
The CYAC features a boxing gym as well as computer facilities and tutorial /enrichment mentoring center. Serving kids from 8 to 18, the facility can accommodate up to 100 young people per day.
William Bingham, 21, of the U.S. Marines opened the card against Frank “The Tank” Batac of the Air Force Reserve.
(Other nicknames included “Black Python” and “Super Soy Sauce.” Jen “The Pit” Pitassi of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department fought Samantha De la Cruz of the Palm Springs PD, aka “La Blanca de Palm Springs.”)
“This is my first match,” Bingham said. “I’m pretty nervous. It’s truly humbling. You know, your opponent works just as hard as you do. So … you gotta respect your opponent when you compete.”
He’d been training only eight months.
“We’re doing it for a good cause,” said Bingham of Youngstown, Ohio. “Getting the kids off the street, you know, out of … gang violence and drug houses and stuff like that… one by e at a time. So I mean, it’s a good cause.”
David Ardilla of the National Latino POA said past events had raised over $50,000, “but tonight is going to be bigger. Yeah, there’s no doubt in my mind.” (An “Opportunity Drawing” also was held for donated items.)
“I have done this since 1999,” he said. “Battle of the Badges started out where we were at a gym. And I personally was flipping burgers and turning hot dogs. So yeah, it’s got big. … And the kids are all worth it. … I’ve seen the kids go to college out of this.
“I’ve seen them all at risk, and they’re doing a great job,” Ardilla added.
Others represented the Glendale and Las Vegas police departments, Nevada Corrections and the Otay Mesa Detention Center, Murrieta and Sycuan fire services, Chula Vista and Carlsbad fire departments, the Border Patrol and Navy.
“Yes, these are all amateurs,” Ardilla said. “Some may have had other boxing experiences … maybe they have two or three fights or maybe five or six fights under their belt. And they do a lot of Police Olympics, the Police Games.”
But Ardilla said they tried to match skill levels.
The audience of hundreds, which ate and danced at intermission, cheered their own departments. Some sat at VIP tables ($3,000 for 10), others on folding chairs ($50 general admission).
Ardilla said the National City center provides cultural experiences, like going to the Old Globe, “and they can see other different things that they wouldn’t normally see.”
Young people get to mix with professional boxers and law enforcement, he said — “people from all sorts of walks of life, to see what they’re going to do, and help guide them in their further education and their life goal.”
Bingham, whose bout was called after he was injured, summed up his role : “It makes me feel like I’m doing something right.”