This time, instead of their gear, they donned boxing gloves.
Several FDNY firefighters took part in the “Battle of the Badges” on Friday, September 14 at Resorts World Casino New York City — the first-ever boxing match at a city casino.
The action in the ring started with the first match of amateur boxers Ali Salem and Omawaie Adewale.
The night really began, however, when Todd Velten, a firefighter in Lower Manhattan, took off his robe — fashioned after an FDNY service jacket. Every blow from the boxer resulted in cheers from his fellow firefighters. Nearly every spectator from the FDNY became a coach, yelling advice for Velten as he took on opponent Angel Castro.
When the referee lifted Velten’s arm to officiate his victory, the cheers from the scores of firefighters and FDNY supporters could be heard throughout the third floor of the Racino.
Velten’s match was followed by super heavyweight and fellow FDNY John Phillips, who faced John Rosales from Universal Boxing Organization. Though the two tired as the match went on, the energy from the crowd only continued to grow.
Eddie Brown, the Bronx trustee for the Uniformed Firefighters Association, sat ringside and was one of those cheering on the FDNY boxers. A former fighter and trainer on the FDNY team, Brown said it was amazing how dedicated some blaze battlers were to another kind of fight during their downtime.
“These guys work hard,” Brown said. “They’re going to fight fires, and then they’re training on their days off.”
The matches were intended to be primarily against members of the New England Law Enforcement team, whom the FDNY fought at Foxwoods in Connecticut earlier this year, said Bobby Maguire, who organized the event. Because of problems with the northeastern team, only a few were able to fight, including Jose De la Rosa, who sparred off against Shariff Farrow from the FDNY.
Most of the money raised by ticket sales to the event, after costs to organize the matches are handled, will go toward a number of charities to help veterans and fellow firefighters, Maguire said. Along with ticket sales, a 50/50 raffle raised about $2,600 to go toward the Wounded Warriors Foundation, which helps disabled veterans get new homes.