In 1776, America declared independence from Great Britain. On July 4, we’ll celebrate that anniversary with BBQs and fireworks. But on July 7, America will battle the Brits once again, but this time they’re taking it to the ring. FDNY Bravest Boxing and the West Midlands Fire Service of Birmingham, England will be making fireworks of their own at the Thrilla in Camilla boxing event.
On Friday, July 7, at 6 p.m. the gates will open at the St. Camillus (99-15 Rockaway Beach Boulevard) parking lot as spectators pour in to catch the first bout at 7 p.m. sharp. The night will be jam-packed with grudge matches between each team, plus a special match between two FDNY Rockaway locals.
The program includes three preliminary bouts, and eight grudge matches between welterweight, cruiserweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight contenders from FDNY and West Midlands. There’s also a special matchup. Jimmy Frontera of Ladder 113 and Thomas McVeigh of Ladder 153, both from Rockaway, have been training for months just for this showdown. “This is a match that Rockaway people are going to want to see,” event organizer and FDNY Bravest Boxing President Bobby McGuire said.
The fighters are battling it out in the ring, all for a great cause. Tickets are $25 for general admission or $50 for VIP ringside seats, plus there will be a 50/50 raffle all to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes (BHFH). The firefighting men and women who serve their city will be giving their all in honor of those who serve their country. BHFH has changed hundreds of lives by building or modifying homes, and gifting them, mortgage-free, to injured veterans and their families.
One of these heroes will be present at next Friday’s event. On June 21, 2004, US Army Specialist Hugo Gonzalez was severely injured in combat in Baqubah, Iraq. His vehicle took a direct hit from an improvised explosive device (IED) and a furious gun battle broke out with insurgents. Specialist Gonzalez suffered a traumatic brain injury. He was taken to the base camp where he was placed in a medically-induced coma, and had a piece of bone from his cranium removed to relieve the pressure of the swelling of his brain. He also suffered internal bleeding, a sinus bone fracture, a crushed optic nerve (right eye) and a hole in the left retina. He is now legally blind. SPC Gonzalez also now requires long-term therapy with anti-epileptic medications. SPC Gonzalez and his family will be receiving a home in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
FDNY Bravest Boxing has been hosting events to benefit BHFH for about five years and has raised more than $100,000 for the charity. “Ninety-six perfect of the money we receive goes right toward the cause,” McGuire said. FDNY Bravest Boxing has been boxing for charity ever since they started in 1982. Their team motto is “We’ll fight anyone,…anywhere,…anytime…as long as its for a good cause.” The team members volunteer and don’t get paid or special time off from work to compete.
McGuire serves as the president of the organization. He boxed in more than 50 matches for FDNY before retiring from boxing in 1991. The head trainer for the team is Mike Reno, who also has more than 50 matches under his belt. He trains team members who range in skill levels, with some entering the ring for their first match next Friday, to others who have been fighting for years. The team faces off against firefighters, law enforcement and other teams from all over the state, country and even world, which is how this matchup against Birmingham came to be. It's the first time the West Midlands Fire Service will be in America, but it’s not their first matchup against the FDNY. “Last year, we went overseas and fought them for the transatlantic championship. Right now, we own the belt, and they’ll be trying to win it back on Friday,” McGuire said.
In support of the event, some local groups have already made direct donations to BHFH including Georgi Vodka, RIBS, Healy's Pub, Sands Point Physical Therapy, Rockaway Wish, Bungalow Bar, Thai Rock, Epstiens Beach, The Wharf, Rogers, The Big House: Eng Co. 264, Eng Co. 328 & Lad Co. 134, Rockaway Beach Golf Club, Jamesons, Community House, Kennedy's, Whits End, Rockaway Brewery, Manhattan Beer, Oak Beverage, Long Trail and Anheuser-Busch.
If you’d like to help support this great cause, come out next Friday, July 7. Children 12 and younger can enter for free. Tickets are available at www.fdnyboxing.com
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