NEW YORK (CBSNew York) – The FDNY boxing club is preparing for its first Fight Night since the start of the pandemic.
FDNY firefighter Niko Negron takes on Brooklyn EMT Javier Rosario in an old-fashioned grudge match.
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“Real grudge matches, guys who maybe didn’t get along at work, maybe had a small score to settle and decided to settle it like gentlemen in the ring,” said Bobby McGuire, president. of the FDNY Boxing Club.
The club has been around for almost four decades.
This week they’re training at the Hit Factory Gym in Bay Ridge for Friday’s annual “Thrilla in Camilla” fundraiser in Rockaway Beach.
“We have three fights against the Massachusetts State Police, and then we have several grudge matches between FDNY and EMS,” McGuire told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
One of the most anticipated fights of the evening will feature the decorated amateur champion of the Manhattan firefighters, Nicole Malpeso.
“Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing you can do. You can do whatever you want, ”said Malpeso.
In recent years, the team had started training four months before this fight, but this year, due to COVID, they weren’t even sure if that fight was for six weeks.
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“Due to COVID, gyms were not open, sparring was not allowed. We didn’t know if we would get the necessary permits and penalties, ”McGuire said.
But many fighters trained on their own throughout the pandemic, even when gyms were closed.
“I bought a heavy bag, I put it in my garden,” said Malpeso.
Boxing has become their vital liberation.
“It was difficult from the start, a lot of calls, very sad, you know, but you know, we got there, we fought,” said Rosario.
“Once you throw that first punch, you’re just boxing. You don’t think about anything else at this point, ”said Negron.
Friday will be the club’s first Fight Night in over a year.
“We all feel the same. We are all dealing with the same thing, ”said Malpeso. “It’s a great motivator and it helps. “
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Boxing may not be a typical team sport, but the FDNY club shares a special camaraderie.