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Battle Of The Badges

June 03, 2002|By ERIC GALVAN , Sports Writer

Brawley — The sixth annual Battle of the Badges at the Planter's Lounge here Saturday meant a lot to a lot of different people.

For one Brawley native, the boxing event, which pits area law enforcement agents in the squared circle against each other, meant a chance to do battle for the first time in front of family members from around the country. For two former boxing legends, it was a chance to get in the ring one more time years after retirement with one of the most recognizable and highly touted referees in the game today. And, for the creator of Battle of the Badges, it was another opportunity to give back to the community.

Before, during and after his fight against Yuma police Officer Kevin "The Sledge Hammer" Wellard, Brawley's Albert Phillips, representing Calipatria State Prison, had only one thing on his mind — his grandmother Dora Pegues, who died May 16.


With family from Kentucky, Missouri and throughout the Imperial Valley present, Phillips put on a show in the ring, a show dedicated to Pegues.

"I'd say 110 percent of what I did was for her … she's all I could think about when I was in there. And I was glad I was able to do what I did," said the 27-year-old Phillips.

Phillips stopped Wellard in the third round, winning by a technical knockout as the referee stopped the fight.

"You know, all my family was down for the funeral and while they were here, they all finally got to see me fight," said Phillips. "It was a good fight. He's a tough guy. Kevin really deserves a lot of credit, he did a good job in there."

Also deserving of credit were the pugilists who competed in the main event, Tony "The Tiger" Lopez and Carlos Palomino, with special guest referee Joe Cortez.

In April, Brawley Police Activities League director Chris Eaton spoke to Lopez and Palomino about getting back in the ring for the charity event. At first, the two took the request lightly, but after a few weeks they were back in the gym training for the bout.

On one side it was the 39-year-old Lopez, a three-time world champion, winning titles in the junior lightweight, lightweight and junior welterweight divisions and finishing with a 59-8-1 record, with 39 knockouts. Opposite him stood 52-year-old Palomino, who held the welterweight championship for three years, going 31-4-3 with seven title defenses.

The third man in the ring was Cortez, who ranks second all-time with 148 championship bouts called.

Lopez, Palomino and Cortez entered the charity fight just as they would a world championship but still kept in mind the match was for a good cause.

"It's all a show. It's always a show, whether it's a title fight or something like this," said Lopez, who last fought in 1999 at 140 pounds and entered his fight Saturday at 202 pounds. "I know that myself, Carlos and Joe do this because we want to and we want to do what we can for charity. This is something I love doing … giving back. And by using our names, maybe we're able to get more people involved."

Those who attended Battle of the Badges were treated to a top-notch fight between boxing veterans, who despite being a few years removed from their primes, demonstrated they have not lost a step in the ring.

"I was very happy with what they did. Being a big fight fan, I was thrilled to see these two fighters in there," said Eaton. "Both these guys were great champions in their day and to watch them going at it in the ring with the world's greatest referee was just amazing."

Eaton, creator of Battle of the Badges, said in all his years watching and participating in the event as the ring announcer, Saturday's event ranks with some of the best shows he's helped put on.

For Eaton, it doesn't matter what happens in the ring, who gets knocked out or who wins because the real winners are the Brawley and Imperial PALs, which receive the event's proceeds.

Eaton said over the last two years, Battle of the Badges has netted more than $28,000.

"Honestly, no matter what anyone says, this is one of the events I really enjoy doing. Yes, a lot of work has to go into it, but it's a lot of fun, too," Eaton said. "And I really appreciate all the effort, hard work and guts that everyone involved puts into it. And I'm very proud that it's a success."

Exemplifying what Battle of the Badges is all about was a situation that occurred prior to the event itself.

Eaton was transporting Cortez, Lopez, Palomino, two-time lightweight champion Bobby Chacon and four-time bantamweight champion and pro boxing's hall of fame enshrinee Ruben Olivares to the event when a 10-year-old Brawley boy struck the car they were in with a rock.

Eaton, also a Brawley police officer, pulled his vehicle over to confront the boy. Instead of reporting the boy to the police, Eaton and the five boxing legends gave him some words of wisdom.

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