WATERTOWN — Even Watertown Area Boxing Club president Johnny Pepe was amazed that he was looking at a full Jefferson Community College gymnasium at Saturday’s third Battle of the Badges.
A raucous crowd enjoyed the 16-bout card for Battle of the Badges 3, which had fights between police, corrections officers and other community organizations.
The event has come a long way from its origins when it was first held in 2019 at the ballroom of the Savory Downtown in Watertown.
“I’m just overwhelmed because we started in a small ballroom and now we’re at a gym in a college,” Pepe said. “I got it started with some city fireman in Watertown and look at where it’s gone.”
The event was held at JCC’s McVean Gymnasium for the second straight edition. Many of the VIP tables at ringside were filled and the stands were nearly packed to capacity with a number of fans coming from Oswego and Gouverneur. This year’s event expanded from 14 bouts to 16. Pepe said the event has become the club’s biggest event on their calendar.
“This Battle of the Badges has become our best show and one that’s really close to my heart,” Pepe said. “These people are heroes and I’m overwhelmed and humbled by the support.”
Fort Drum Sgt. Anthony Parker was also amazed by the size of the crowd. He is grateful to see the local community support first responder and community agencies.
“I’ve been to a couple of events in Watertown, but I’ve never seen a turnout like this,” Parker said. “For these people to come out to support the fireman and police officers is great,”
This year’s installment helped raise money for Northern New York K-9s, which helps police dogs obtain items that aren’t funded by agencies. Many patrons snapped up souvenir shirts and filled donation buckets, which many involved with the event were glad to see.
Fighters came from as far as way as Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Ottawa, Ontario, to compete.
Local fighter Ron England, who lost a narrow decision to John Angotti of Syracuse at 165 pounds, loves seeing competitors from out of the area make the trek to Watertown.
“The dedication that boxing, MMA and combat sports in general to make that trek up north despite it being a possible whiteout or a foot of snow is great to see,” England said. “It’s awesome to see everybody come and compete up here.”
There were also plenty of local fighters that squared off in the ring. Parker, who won his match via stoppage in the third round at 175 against Rochester’s Marlon Williams, credits the boxing club with helping him out.
“John Pepe is a great dude and these fighters at the club keep me mentally grounded,” Parker said. “I was going through a lot of stuff in life, but being surrounded by those people made me feel a lot better.”
Corrections took home the team trophy after sharing honors with state police in last year’s event. Police won the inaugural installment over firefighters in 2019. Despite the success of this year’s Battle of the Badges, Pepe is already looking ahead to the next year’s fourth edition.
“We’re going to finish this up and then work on Battle of the Badges 4,” Pepe said.
n NOTES: Guest of honor Kevin William Kelly, age 3, helped sing the national anthem along with Ashlyn England. ... Former lightweight boxing contender Tony Luis attended the event. The Cornwall, Ontario, native amassed a pro record of 29-6 with 10 knockouts. ... The next WABC event will be Sept. 16.
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.