One of the first area events to be canceled in the first wave of cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 was the Watertown Area Boxing Club’s Battle of the Badges. The long-awaited second part is finally happening.
The showcase featuring fighters in law enforcement, firefighting and other emergency services is scheduled for Saturday at Jefferson Community College. It’s the WABC’s first boxing card since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago, and president and event organizer Johnny Pepe is excited to finally have some competition in the ring.
“We haven’t had anything since 2019, so it’s been a while,” Pepe said. “It’s nice to see plans that we made three or four months ago come to fruition.”
The second iteration of the event, which debuted at the Savory Downtown in 2019, sold out three-quarters of the way before USA Boxing canceled all events. The club tried to organize an event in September, but that did not get off the ground. This year’s card will take place at the McVean Gymnasium in JCC, which will have more seats than the first series of games and has attracted a lot of interest. The ring side seats for the event are sold out.
“It’s pretty cool that the front row seats are already sold out,” Pepe said. “My phone rang off the hook with people asking for tickets and I’m grateful to the community.”
Pepe is happy with the larger room. There were issues with fighting fighters, fans and the ring in the Savory Downtown location. The 2020 event was to take place at the Bruce Wright Conference Center on Faichney Drive.
“It’s a good feeling to have enough space,” Pepe said. “Last time we just didn’t have enough room for everything.”
The fighting will draw local police offers and probation officers, as well as those from Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester. JCC hosting the event will ensure fighters and fans can get on and off Interstate 81 quickly. Pepe added that the fighters have been training for weeks and are ready to go.
“I can’t believe the event has expanded because it just started with local guys,” said Pepe.
The bulk of the money will be donated to two areas, the first of which will benefit Callie Taylor. Diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, she is the daughter of Jefferson County Sheriff Deputy Jamie Taylor, who fought on the first Battle of the Badges card in 2019. The money going to Taylor will help with medical and travel expenses.
“Jamie fought at the first event and I love getting the community involved,” Pepe said. “He’s a bit like one of us.”
The second will benefit the Northern New York K-9 Fund. That was established in 2015 to assist with the medical, security and protection needs of K-9s who serve or have served in local communities. Those funds will be used to obtain K-9 vests and other expenses.
Tickets are available on the club website www.watertownareaboxingclub.com and cost $20 for general admission. For more information, call (315) 783-4980. Doors open at 5pm and fights start at 6pm