Got a beef with a fellow cop? Strap on the gloves and settle it in the ring.
Police officers who have longstanding quarrels with each other — or their bosses — can opt to duke it out at a "Smoker" grudge match hosted by the NYPD Boxing Team. The matches have been going on for decades with the city’s blessing. And they benefit charity.
A Daily News reporter witnessed 10 cops and supervisors exchange blows Thursday night in The Luck of the Irish boxing tournament. They channeled their inner Rocky Balboa, letting off steam to squash spats or earn stationhouse bragging rights.
“This is the way to do it,” said the event’s emcee Phil Tufano, an FDNY battalion chief. “Settle your differences the old fashioned way — punch a guy in the face!”
“It’s better than mitigation and other nonsense,” Tufano joked.
Thousands of cops flocked to the Resorts World Casino New York City in Queens to cheer on the fighting Finest setting disputes involving everything from on-the-job insults to conflicts over vacation time.
Money raised from the tournament — which had a 13-bout fight card before the five grudge matches — went to the Atlas Cops & Kids Foundation.
Police Officer Peter Yuen called out Sgt. Anthony Petroglia of Brooklyn’s 77th Precinct after complaining that his supervisor wouldn’t authorize his request for a few days off. He won the match, and probably his supervisor’s respect, but it wasn’t clear if he would get the days off he wanted.
During the three 1-minute rounds, Yuen used a special bull frog punch to leap high enough to clock the taller Petroglia in the face.
“He was a lot taller than I thought,” Yuen said following his victory. “I had to invent a new punch just to get him.”
“To be truthful, it’s not a deep grudge,” he said about his beef with Petroglia. “But he’s a supervisor, and we all have grudges against our supervisors.”
Most of the grudges were based on deep-seeded workplace animosities — a disdain that could be seen as they fought inside the red and black boxing ring.
Police Officers Eric (Silver Fox) Surat and Vinny (Frosted Stallion) Palmer, both assigned to the NYPD’s Staten Island Court Section, traded icy stares before trading blows.
“When he came to my unit, it started off as a little grudge,” said Palmer. “He said something insulting to me one day, and I took it to a whole other level.”
As the division between the two grew, Palmer challenged Surat to fight in the Smoker. Surat accepted — and quickly recruited the help of retired boxing prize fighter and trainer John Turner, who fought Robert De Niro in 1980’s “Raging Bull.” Surat knew Turner through a family friend.
“It’s better than fighting in the street or on the job,” Turner said about the grudge matches. “You fight in the ring and get whatever’s bothering out of your system.”
“What do men do? We don’t hold grudges, we fight it out,” Surat said. “It’s just disagreements between men. You’re at work for eight hours with the guy and some people just drive you nuts.”
In turn, Surat went nuts on Palmer in the ring, swarming him with a flurry of head and body blows during the bout, ending with the win. Palmer took the pummeling in stride.
“I think this match grew us a little closer,” Palmer said.
Over in the 113th Precinct in Jamaica, Queens, Officer Haddi Chalati challenged Officer Yevgeniy Zaytsev to a grudge match — basically to shut him up.
Zaytsev, a Marine who has been in the department for six years, constantly pestered Chalati, reminding the three-year cop how green he was, Chalati claimed.
“This kid needs to be taught a lesson,” Chalati said. “He’s got a big mouth. He doesn’t know the right time to joke and be serious. He’s the type of guy who can dish it out, but not take it back, so I called him out.”
That proved to be a mistake.
Zaytsev quickly got the upper hand — and the win — against Chalati, who had a lot of confidence and heart, but not the vision.
At times, it appeared that Chalati’s headgear slipped down over his eyes, forcing him to throw blind blows at the more seasoned boxer.
“He thought I was all talk,” said Zaytsev as he ate up the victory — the last bout of the night. “I told him it was a mistake and I proved it. I do like to talk a lot and people think I have a big mouth with nothing to back it up, but I hope I proved them wrong.”
Injuries were light during the grudge matches, save for one cop who suffered a dislocated shoulder. The fight was stopped. It wasn’t immediately clear if the East Harlem patrol officer would miss any work because of the injury.
Critics were stunned to learn that cops still use their fists to handle disputes.
“It’s surprising to see it’s still going on at this stage,” said Eugene O’Donnell, a former NYPD cop and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It’s a counter-cultural throwback, especially in this era where there are restrictions on the way people interact with each other in the workplace.”
The NYPD does not have exclusive rights to Smoker grudge matches, officials said. The FDNY also participates in the tradition.
The NYPD has no problem with cops settling spats with their fists — as long as it's within the parameters of a sporting competition.
“Boxing is a New York State approved sport,” NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel said. “The money raised goes to numerous children’s charities.”
NYPD Boxing Team member Rob Cruz, a member of Emergency Service Unit Truck 6, said matches have settled differences between cops for generations.
“In any job you always have that one guy where you say, ‘Ah! I want to get that guy today!’ ” Cruz said. “We’re able to settle it in a different way — in a way where we shake hands at the end.”
Source: NY Daily News