C4KC and Agua Caliente Score a KO!
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A rousing good time was had by all at the latest installment of
Cops 4 Kids & Communities’ (C4KC) SoCal “Battle of the Badges
” amateur boxing and MMA show held Saturday night at Agua Caliente Casino, Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage.
This was the very first time the nonprofit organization held their popular fight card at The Show arena at Agua Caliente. And the new venue did not disappoint as the fans turned out in droves for the sold-out affair featuring 14 bouts of combat. Here’s my special report and exclusive snapshots of what went down during this exciting evening showcasing the men and women from police, fire, corrections departments, and more.
These weekend warriors may be amateurs (with some lacing up for the first time) but each gave it their all–and all in the name of charity. Events like these help keep the charity’s doors open so that they can offer free programs, mentorships, outings and other functions to at-risk and underprivileged children and teens. An earlier Team MMA competition was also held Saturday afternoon at The Show. Sponsored by Agua Caliente and hosted by C4KC’s Executive Director and former officer Jeff Penn and Chairman Richard Perry and their squad of board members, committees and volunteers, this was a real KO bash for all.
Fueled by classic rock tunes played live by the Inland Empire’s Little George and the Big Time, the fighters all walked out to the thumping beats of “Bad to the Bone,” “Born to be Wild,” “Smoke on the Water” and more. The boxers and MMA athletes had large entourages following them out, with fans hoisting flags, wearing team shirts and waving homemade signs for their favorite heroes.
Then it was time to “SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL!”
All of the male and female peace officers were donating their time in this summer showdown–ready to rock ‘n roll and utilize their gloved fists to help C4KC raise funds for the youth. And all of the combatants brought a lot of sizzle to the ring as each squared off against their nemesis.
Celebrity judges and guests included Coachella star WBO and WBC titlist Randy Caballero and his younger brother,13-year-old amateur star Rommel Caballero, former WBC and NABF champ Stevie Quinonez, uncrowned welterweight champ and Olympian Armando Muniz, and ex-WBC featherweight champion Danny “Little Red” Lopez. The audience watched highlights of their past fights while the champs handed out autographed photos.
The festivities also the comedy stylings of ring announcers Ken Southern and Mark Blanton, a Hawaiian dance and a hip hop routine by the C4KC children, a Ring Card Girl competition, a performance by “X Factor” star Caylie Gregorio, tributes to U.S. Marine Corporal Christopher Farias, fallen Officer Jermaine Gibson and Riverside District Attorney’s Rebekah “The Cookie Lady” Ford (who is currently battling cancer).
Referees David Mendoza and Tom Taylor were the third men in the ring as the sluggers fought for championship belts. The bouts were very competitive with just a couple of knockouts delivered. The main event was between a pair of unbeatens in Orange County Sheriff’s Department’s Jamaal Brathwaite versus LASD’s Brian Stevens. An aggressive Stevens came out firing in the first two rounds before Brathwaite scored two “Standing 8″ counts in the third round. The fourth round was up for grabs.
And when the final bell rang, it was Stevens’ glove raised in victory in an unpopular decision with the crowd booing. With this official nod from the judges, Stevens claimed the United Combat Association (UCA) Cruiserweight belt. Both camps said they would like to rematch in the future–possibly in C4KC’s next show in September. Team Brathwaite says they will not leave it in the judges’ hands next time around.
The charity’s Jeff Penn says the team at Agua Caliente were great in prepping for this latest “Battle of the Badges.” It was the C4KC’s inaugural show at this desert Mecca. He and C4KC’s Richard Perry were both very appreciative of the entertainment staff at the casino, the officers donating their time and the ticket holders who came out to support the event. During a break in the action, I caught up with the guys to hear their thoughts on the night.
“Jerry Gann, Kato Moy, Savannah Cook, Therese Everett-Kerley and everyone at Agua Caliente were fantastic,” Jeff tells me. “Nights like this help keep our doors open for all the kids and teens. We couldn’t do it without everybody’s support.”
His associate Perry is just as dedicated to providing the needy youth with opportunities offered by the nonprofit. “I’ve been involved with C4KC for over 15 years,” Richard comments. “With funds raised, we’re able to help the kids who need it the most. We have a ‘School of Rock,’ a boxing club, field trips to Chargers games and so much more.”
Perry’s 14-year-old son also gave his time in volunteering at the “Battle of the Badges” gala. The redheaded teen had the enviable task of assisting the quartet of ring card girls. Saturday’s fiesta also featured a competition between the five beauties all vying for the crown to be the #1 Ring Card Girl. The ladies were also vying for a Deluxe Prize Package worth over $500 Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Casino, Resort & Spa.
And the two tall blondes and three petite brunettes competing were a huge hit with those in attendance. I observed a steady line of fans pose for photos with the five gals, all outfitted in their lime green “Battle of the Badges” tank tops. Ashley, Kori, Lindsay, Amber and Danielle all told me they had a great time struttin’ their stuff between rounds while they also got to meet the professional boxing champs at ringside. And for the tallest blonde, Kori, it was an extra special night as she told me her boyfriend Anthony “A Train” Gutierrez was one of the officers fighting on the card.
One brand new addition to this July clash was the awards presentation at the Pool Party at Agua. The revelers continued the night to witness C4KC’s Richard Perry announce the “The ‘Fight of the Night” honors and the winner of the Ring Card girl contest.
Perry revealed the “Fight of the Night” was Nate Lomeli (CDCR) vs. Farris Hisle (ICE-U.S. Immigration) and the top ring card girl was the bubbly and tattooed Ashley, the crowd fave who received whistles from the audience for changing into a bright red bathing suit. The blonde collected her prize basket of a massage, facial, salt scrub, manicure, pedicure, and goodies from the property’s Sunstone Spa.
After the victors claimed their braggin’ rights and everyone cooled off in the water, Little George and the Big Time played an encore second set under the stars, outside by the pool.
Ex-officer and C4KC founder Jeff Penn isn’t just a savior for the impoverished kids in the community–turns out he is also an accomplished musician. Toward the end of the live band’s performance, Jeff stepped in and picked up a pair of drumsticks. Bangin’ on the drums, Penn joined lead singer “Little” George Galvez for their spirited version of Credence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.”
Many in the crowd told me they loved this new venue for “Battle of the Badges” and they also really loved Little George and the Big Time (first timers at this event). It was a unanimous decision that Agua Caliente, Cops 4 Kids & Communities, all the fighters, fans and supporters were the true heroes for the kids and teens benefiting from this charity fight night.
Photos by Michele Chong
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