A Knockout Night at Pechanga
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It was a real championship night at the annual “SoCal Battle of the Badges
” held this past weekend at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula. In attendance were Southern California favorites Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez, Miguel Angel (Mikey) Garcia and Armando Muñiz.
The KO trio were special guest judges at this charity event benefiting Cops 4 Kids & Communities (C4KC).
With 84 knockouts between them, the three prizefighters sat ringside while judging 15 amateur bouts between members of law enforcement, fire department and U.S. military. Sitting in judges’ row, the celebrity boxers tallied their scorecards while meeting fans, posing with the victors and presenting the championship belts to the weekend warriors during Saturday’s competition.
The three have a lot hard-fought victories during their own careers: former WBC Super Bantamweight Champ Vazquez (44-5, 32 KOs), NABF, WBO NABO world titleholder Garcia (26-0, 22 KOs) and ex-NABF Welterweight Champ Muñiz (44-14-1, 30 KOs) have traded leather through the years while earning many titles along the way.
And unbeaten slugger Mikey Garcia will be stepping into the ring this month, facing Juan Carlos Martinez on October 22 at Madison Square Garden in New York. But he took time out from training camp to support the men and women fighting to raise money for the nonprofit children’s organization. The night also included a moving tribute to honor fallen peace officers who have died within the last year.
Also joining C4KC’s Executive Director Jeff Penn, Chairman and Board of Director Richard Perry, C4KC’s PR Director Rebekah Ford, their board, sponsors, volunteers and an estimated 2,000 fans were several other luminaries in attendance including World Boxing Hall of Fame’s Muñiz, Frank Martinez and Alex Cornejo, boxing judges and referees David Mendoza and Tom Taylor, Riverside Chief of Police Sergio Diaz, Joe Bonaminio (father of slain offcer Ryan Bonaminio), country crooner Michael Mandella, “X Factor” singer 14-year-old Caylie Gregorio–and even an NFL champion!
Chris Geile is a 1989 Super Bowl Champ who played during the legendary years with Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Roger Craig. I had fun talking to the #71 offensive guard who turned out to be a huge boxing fan. Geile played for the Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers. He held out his Super Bowl ring for all fans wanting to see the jewelry up close. This was the football player’s first time at the C4KC fundraiser and he was immediately hooked after seeing the efforts the amateur boxers put in the ring.
As I chatted with all the champs and their families, the guys said they had a great time at the gala. While seated with pens in hand, Vazquez, Garcia, Muñiz and several other special judges had their work cut out for them with some close matches during the fisticuffs.
“They fight hard!” the uncrowned welterweight champ Muñiz told me during a break in the action. “This is as close as you can get to true amateur boxing like the ‘old days’ of real guts and gumption.”
The pro fighters gave their full support to the police officers and firemen, some who were lacing up for the first time. Mikey Garcia brought one of his championship belts from his stash of prized hardware to inspire the amateur boxers. Jamaal “The Silent Knight” Brathwaite won his bout versus Juan “Bad Blood” Bustamonte in the main event and after his victory, celebrated with family and friends while greeting the featherweight titlist.
While awarding the championship belts to the 2011 winners, the crew also had to choose “Fight of the Night” honors. This year’s recipients were Bout #5′s Roger “The Beast” Serrato and Anthony “The Marlin” Gutierrez. Riverside Police Department’s Serrato was the victor in this bomb-throwing war that had the large crowd roaring.
In this exclusive look at the champs in action, check out the celebrity judges at this fight card for Cops 4 Kids & Communities. Here are my snapshots from the night of the “KO Kings” posing with some real “knockouts” (dressed in their own creative versions in a fun ode to law enforcement), meeting with Team C4KC, and congratulating the fighters who all volunteered their time in the ring.
All in all, win or lose, it was an outstanding showing by all the participants at the twice-yearly C4KC fundraising event for the kids.
Stay tuned to this column for additional interviews, reports and more exclusive photos from the “SoCal Battle of the Badges”!
Photos by Michele Chong
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