Firefighters engage in fisticuffs for a good cause

Most of the fighting firefighters from Ireland boxed with a straight-up style, right, meaning they sacrificed punching power.  Photos by Gregory de la Haba

Most of the fighters from Ireland boxed with a straight-up style, right, meaning they sacrificed punching power. Photos by Gregory de la Haba

BY JACK BROWN | On Sat., March 26, at the classic venue of Webster Hall, the Garda Siochana Boxing Club of the Irish National Police Service engaged the Fire Department of New York’s Bravest Boxing Team in classic fisticuffs. The night of amateur boxing was billed the Easter Eve Uprising, in honor of the centennial of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland.

The motto of Bravest Boxing is “We’ll fight anyone…anytime…anywhere as long as its for a good cause.”

The worthy cause was “Building Homes for Heroes,” which raises money to provide homes for wounded war veterans.

Mixed Martial Arts is coming to New York State. The forces of commerce have overcome the resistance of those, including Assemblymember Deborah Glick, who contend that society is already saturated with violence, and that there is no need to promote the human body as a lethal weapon where asphyxiation — “choking out” one’s opponent, or making him “go to sleep” — is a virtue. Yet, on March 22, the New York State Assembly voted to approve MMA by a vote of 113 to 25.

Both MMA and boxing are in “the hurt business.” One distinction is that MMA is akin to combat while boxing — at least amateur boxing — is competition.

MMA fancies disabling an opponent. Gloves are minimal, protection nonexistent. In amateur boxing headgear is used. Gloves provide protection for hands and body parts struck.

MMA is similar to a street fight or a two-person barroom brawl. The end may come savage and swift. Injuries are grievous. Or a fight may go the distance, inflicting punishment on both combatants.

On the other hand, the Easter Eve Uprising event at Webster Hall, as sanctioned by USA Boxing, was characterized by good sportsmanship and respect — respect for the opponent and, in a moment of silence, respect for brother and sister firefighters and police officers who made the ultimate sacrifice. These are courageous individuals with dangerous jobs.

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It was a night of good sportsmanship, as firefighters from New York and police officers from Ireland slapped hands in between slugging each other in the ring.

The bouts were three two-minute rounds. No one got hurt. This was an exhibition of boxing as a discipline. A way to learn how to handle yourself and gain confidence. A way to train and stay in condition and work off stress.

The audience was enthusiastic and orderly. It was a good time for a good cause.

After the fifth bout, guest of honor former Marine Gunnery Sergeant Christopher Claude was presented with a check for $15,000 toward the purchase of a new home.

The boxing itself was spirited. There were varying levels of skill, age and conditioning displayed. There was some gray hair. But no one as seasoned as Bernard Hopkins, the 51-year-old light heavyweight phenom.

There were two categories: novice and open. Matches were made to be competitive and fair.

Josiah Rivera of F.D.N.Y. Engine 82 was scheduled to fight but he has been doing so well in the New York Golden Gloves that he had to cancel.

Most of the Garda boxers fight in the typical European style: straight up and coming at you. They are primarily arm punchers. If they only learned how to turn and get their bodies into a punch, they would hit with more power.

One exception is Daniel Houlihan, who fought an exciting bout with Julio Padilla from Engine 46 in a 165-pound open bout. Houlihan displayed good lateral movement and fast hands. And he needed it. Padilla pursued him relentlessly.

In the sixth bout of the card, Andrew Tanzi of Engine 33 showed ability and determination in a 165-pound novice fight against Garda stand-in Shawn Jansen of Champs B.C.

However, it wasn’t until the eighth and final bout that the Bravest B.C. won a fight. Daniel Oleaga of Engine 258 didn’t leave it to the judges. He stopped Michael Duggan in the second round of their novice heavyweight fight.

Some of the judges’ decisions were questionable and unpopular with the crowd. Was it pristine pugilism? No, but that’s boxing.
It was a good time for a good cause.

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