One of the first events in the area 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 will finally appear.
The showcase featuring fighters from law enforcement, firefighters and other emergency services is scheduled for Saturday at Jefferson Community College. It’s the first boxing card the WABC has released since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, and president and promoter Johnny Pepe is looking forward to finally having 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 we made three or four months ago coming to fruition.”
The second version of the event, which debuted at the Savory Downtown in 2019, was three quarters sold out before USA Boxing canceled all events. The club tried to host an event in September but that didn’t materialize. This year’s map will be held at McVean High School at JCC, which will have more seating than the first fight series and has generated a lot of interest. Ringside seating for the event is sold out.
“It’s pretty cool that the seats at the Ring are already sold out,” said Pepe. “My phone keeps ringing when people ask for tickets and I’m grateful to the community.”
Pepe is happy to have the larger venue. There were issues with integrating fighters, fans, and the ring into the Savory Downtown location. The 2020 event was scheduled to take place at the Bruce Wright Conference Center on Faichney Drive.
“It’s a good feeling to have enough space,” said Pepe. “Last time we just didn’t have enough space for everything.”
The fights will attract offers from local police and parole officers, as well as those from Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. JCC, which is hosting the event, allows fighters and fans to quickly hop on and off Interstate 81. 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 locals,” said Pepe.
Most of the funds will be donated to two areas, the first benefiting Callie Taylor. She was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma and is the daughter of Jefferson County Sheriff’s Deputy Jamie Taylor, who fought on the first Battle of the Badges map in 2019. The money going to Taylor will help with medical and travel expenses.
“Jamie fought in the first event and I just want to get the community involved,” said Pepe. “He’s like one of us.”
The second benefits the Northern New York K-9 Fund. This was established in 2015 to assist with the medical, security and protection needs of K-9s who serve or have served in local communities. These funds are used to obtain K-9 vests and other expenses.
Tickets are available on the club website www.watertownareaboxingclub.com and costs $20 for general admission. For more information, call (315) 783-4980. Doors open at 5pm and fights start at 6pm