Bruise Brothers

People were shocked a few weeks ago when New York City firefighters and police officers scuffled during protests at Ground Zero; the firefighters wanted to continue digging out the remains of their brothers with full manpower. And while this spectacle was disheartening, there are some cases in which a little interdepartmental combat is healthy: For instance, this Wednesday evening, when some of Denver's finest and bravest go hand-to-hand at a Police vs. Fire Fight Night to benefit the families of civil servants lost in the collapse of the World Trade Center.

"All these guys are brand-new," says DPD referee, coach and ring coordinator C.C. Edwards of the brave young brawlers who've volunteered for the charity bouts. "This is their first time in ring." For the most part, then, this is strictly an amateur card, not an armada of Alis.

Yet Edwards, who also coordinates the police department's regular boxing team, is certain there will be plenty of excitement, if history is any guide. And the boys in blue want to get some delayed payback.

"We had this happen a long time ago, and in all of our matches, the police have not showed well," Edwards says. "Some of these guys on the fire team are very good boxers -- they have higher levels of physical fitness and endurance, and they have more time to train." But, he adds hastily, "The police are planning on taking the trophy."

He pauses, then adds, "I'd better go talk to those guys: I just put 'em on the spot."

Edwards credits another cohort and former police boxer, George Gray, with jump-starting the event, which will take place after barely six weeks of planning.

Like Edwards, Gray isn't sure what to expect from pitching a whole crop of rookies with a few weeks' worth of training into the ring, but he's wholehearted in his promotion of the fundraiser. "It's a chance to get the fire and police departments together," Gray says. "We're not enemies, but we always dog each other."

Regardless of the outcome, both teams will be winners: Each side will split door donations (1,000 spectators will pay $15 a head) for police and firefighter relief funds.

Gray is pushing for wham-bam "tough man"-style one-minute rounds. "They'd get right in and out. They're not spending time feeling each other out -- they just go right after each other," he says, noting that such a format will level the field for first-time fighters.

"We have our own gym and trainers, but it's hard to coordinate with shift workers," he explains. "But at the fire department, they all work together; they can spar with each other. And they're in better shape -- and I hear they've been workin' out." Still, he's cheerfully optimistic about a secret weapon: The department's SWAT team, he boasts, is "in awesome condition!"

Pat Rhoads, Gray's counterpart for the fire department and an adamant supporter of the event's cause, agrees that the spirit beyond the punches is brotherly. Rhoads rejects the idea that Fight Night is an eruption of a deep-seated rivalry between the two departments. "Well, the public might see it that way," he says. "But it's more of a brotherhood-type thing. We all basically do the same job. We all wear the badge." So he thinks of this more as just a friendly competition?

"Yes," Rhoads affirms. "But hard-hitting!"

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd