WATERTOWN — Just when Watertown’s Battle of the Badges boxing event was beginning to pick up momentum, Johnny Pepe received the notification from USA Boxing on Wednesday afternoon.
Pepe, the Watertown Area Boxing Club president and the event organizer, received word that USA Boxing was scrapping all sanctioned boxing events in the country for the month of March and through mid-April out of concern for the coronavirus pandemic.
“We had a good card,” said Pepe, of the scheduled March 28 competition, dubbed “Guns Vs. Hoses, Battle of the Badges 2” after last year’s popular debut. “We had policemen, probation officers, people from Syracuse, Rochester, a state trooper. There was going to be a nice card. It’s a lot of work, it’s two months of work.”
The event, which pits police officers against firefighters but also includes corrections officers and other members of law enforcement, was “three-quarters of the way to a sell-out,” Pepe said, adding that 140 tickets were sold in two hours.
Last year’s event brought out a packed house to the Savory Downtown as the police department won three of four matches against the fire department. This year’s event was scheduled for the Bruce Wright Conference Center on Faichney Drive.
“It’s kind of a letdown,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of training and I felt bad for (the fighters). ... All the probation guys, the police officers would come in on their off-day to train.”
Pepe said he plans to reschedule the event but isn’t allowed to request a new date from USA Boxing until after April 15. Meanwhile people are being refunded their ticket money, he said.
Because the new fight date is not known, boxers will have to continue to train to stay in fighting shape. Pepe said boxers try to be in peak physical condition just as the date for the bout arrives so he will continue to encourage participants to train.
“(We’ll) just keep them in the gym, keep them doing what they’re doing,” Pepe said.
Although Pepe said he was disappointed, he did bring up the benefit of having more time for the event.
“It might actually be a blessing,” he said. “There were a couple of people who wanted to participate but they didn’t think they’d have time to train. Now we have a little more time.”
Pepe mentioned he’s still looking for area police officers or firefighters who want to participate. They can call Pepe at 315-783-4980.