Battle of the Badges Returns to the Garden

NY Post - October 09, 2009


If there anything is closer than the mutual respect between New York's Police and Fire Department members, it's the results when they box.

The Battle of the Badges, back at Madison Square Garden for the first time since 1986, will take place for a 27th year tonight with New York's Finest and Bravest attempting to break a 13-13 deadlock for bragging rights certainly more enjoyable than reading Miranda rights.

"Had no problem getting guys to sign up this year to box at The Garden," FDNY coach Bob McGuire said. For $65-$30, ticket buyers will get a lot more than proof that, in the words of NYPD coach Dave Siev, "not all cops spend their time eating donuts."

No ladder any fireman ever climbed goes higher than Michael "The Bowery Bum" Reno's admiration for Luis "Bugzy" Martinez as the middleweights prepare for their rubber match. It's one of the 13 bouts on the New York Post-sponsored WaMu Theatre program that will help benefit the Firefighter's Benevolent Association and the NYPD's Fighting Finest.

"I know he's going to try to take my head off," said Reno of Engine 33, about Martinez of the Manhattan Transit Task Force. "He had beaten me already, so I was very proud to win the last one last year."

"First time I had a bad sunburn. Second time he forgot his [paperwork] and had to run home to The Bronx to get it, just got back one bout before we went on."

The referee put a stop to it in the second round, but there is no end to the courage members of the NYPD and NYFD bring to the job every day, nor to the benefits provided to charities and the participants themselves.

"The endeavors they take to become a good boxer helps them in all aspects of their lives, automatically makes the better cops," Siev said.

So did the endeavors of police officer Mark Sinatra's during two tours as a Marine Corps scout's sniper in Iraq.

No disrespect for his opponent, Ricardo (The Razor) Velazquez, an 8-year Navy veteran himself who is representing Ladder 2, but to "Muscle Shark" Sinatra three heavyweight rounds seem like a day at the beach.

"When I think about what I went through, I get a lot less nervous for a fight," Sinatra said. "I could get hurt, but not nearly as bad as I could have gotten hurt over there.

"I was there for the initial invasion, that that wasn't too bad. Second tour the insurgency had started, we had to go into Fallujah, that was a little more dangerous.

"We got ambushed a bunch of times near the Syrian border. All around us, we were getting indirect fire. We lost one guy and another guy lost a leg."

Cops and firemen risk the same everyday. Reno's company, in the East Village, lost 10 men on Sept. 11, 2001.

His wife Susan is a Golden Gloves champion, and Reno's passion for his hobby sets off five alarms tonight for Martinez, who is getting his last shot at the fireman before Reno, 35, enters a masters program.

"He caught me off guard last time," the cop said with a smile. "I have something different for him this time."