HARVEY | You've got to hand it to these guys, they sure are brave.
Of course they have to be. It's a job requirement. But to step into the ring for the first time at 52 years old ...
"I'm making my maiden voyage," Calumet City police officer Marco Glumac said of his amateur boxing debut at the "Battle of the Badges" to be held Nov. 15 at the Restoration Ministries' Harvey Boxing Club.
The show is being coordinated by the South Holland Professional Firefighters Local 4109, and will feature separate teams of firefighters and police officers, both of which were culled from local departments.
Proceeds from the event will benefit the Harvey Boxing Club and other Restoration Ministries' youth outreach programs.
"I know I'll probably get my head beat in, but I didn't have to be asked twice," said Bill Siems, another Calumet City police officer making his boxing debut. "I grew up on the South Side, and I know places like this are needed for youths in less-fortunate areas."
Professional undefeated welterweight boxer Alex Martin, who has trained at the HBC since it opened in 2003, is now one of its coaches. He is working with the police team. Cristian Williams, another HBC coach who is vying to make USA Boxing Team as a 119-pounder for the 2016 Olympics, is training the firefighters.
"I didn't realize there was so much to learn," Siems said of Martin's training sessions, which are akin to teaching someone how to dance and juggle at the same time.
"We also get to work with our booking officer who's also a MMA fighter," Glumac said of Alex Eisen. "So he's also showing us the ropes."
As for ropes, Williams was quick to correct his fighters on a basic conditioning staple.
"How many times do I have to tell you guys? You don't jump rope like girls in a playground," Williams lectured.
Markham firefighter Vance Woods hopes to get all the bugs out for his 160-pound bout.
"The main thing they got me working on is to protect my face," Woods said. "I've been a firefighter for 11 years, and the last seven I've been doing some athletic event for charity, whether it being basketball games against police ... tower runs ...
"This may be my toughest charity event. Yeah, I'm a little nervous."
So is Robbins firefighter Anton Sykes, who will battle in the heavyweight division.
"I just got to be quick and not get beat by a cop," Sykes said.
Though Martin will be busy training the police officers, he also has to get ready for his own fight.
"It's going to be part of a Showtime card at the UIC Pavilion," Martin said of his Nov. 1 fight against Jonathan Perez, "but it probably won't be one of the televised fights."
Martin, who was the 152-pound Golden Gloves Chicago and National Champion in 2012, made his professional debut in April of 2013 and is undefeated in six fights.
"I can't say the competition has improved since I turned professional because I was fighting the top amateurs when I was an amateur," Martin said. "I haven't faced the top professionals yet, but the guy I'm fighting is pretty good."
Perez is 5-1 with three knockouts.
Martin already has five knockouts, but says he's still not throwing pro-caliber punches.
"I'm not sitting down on my punches like I should," Martin said in reference of not attaining a low enough center of gravity to unleash more power.
"I'm still fighting Olympic style, punching for points, than professional style, punching to do damage," Martin said. "That's among the things I need to work on."
Though Martin is working on becoming a seasoned pro, all 24 fighters on the Battle of the Badges' 12-bout card will be making their ring debuts.
"We didn't want any former Golden Gloves champions coming in and cleaning house," said South Holland firefighter Jeff Vincent, who recruited the fighters. "These guys have never boxed before, but you know, most of us have Type A personalities and are willing to do something like this in the name of charity."
There will be several preliminary bouts featuring fighters from the HBC. Band of Brothers Pipes and Drums will perform during the opening ceremonies, and the Association of Firefighters of Illinois will present the colors while the national anthem is being sung by a Restoration Ministries performing arts student.