"Guns and Hoses" charity event pulls no punches - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

"Guns and Hoses" charity event pulls no punches

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Demetrius Johnson is no stranger to a good fight.

Wearing gloves in one, though, is quite foreign to the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga wrestler.

"The first time I was in the ring I grabbed my sparring partner like four or five times, so I had to adjust," Johnson said with a smile.

He'll prove just how much he's learned in his transition from the mat to the boxing ring when he competes for the police squad in Friday's fourth annual Guns and Hoses event at McKenzie Arena.

Dubbed the "Battle of the Badges," local law enforcement personnel team up to fight area firefighters to benefit The Forgotten Child Fund and YMCA's YCap program at Westside Boxing.

"They were looking for some smaller guys to volunteer, and I still have that competitive edge from wrestling," Johnson said. "I figured it's for charity, and it sounded like a lot of fun."

This year's fight card is the largest yet, with 30 total participants scheduled to compete in 15 bouts.

But volunteers haven't always come that easy.

"That first year, people were hesitant until they saw that these guys didn't get hurt too bad," joked Lieutenant Keith Liles, a three-time Guns and Hoses champ from the Chattanooga Fire Department.

That's not to say the charity event is a cakewalk.

Westside Boxing Club coaches Andy and Joe Smith pull no punches in training. Each fighter has gone through grueling training sessions several times a week for the past four months.

"I have a new respect for boxers I never had before," said Lt. Robert Starns of the Hamilton County Sheriff's office, who won his debut bout last year. "When you get punched in the face, you learn how to defend yourself. We take it very seriously. Everybody has worked for three or four months, dedicating themselves to this."

The Smiths got the idea to bring the event to Chattanooga after seeing its success in St. Louis. The Arch City's long-running showdown attracts more than 12,000 people annually and raised more than $100,000 this year for local charities.

"These folks put their lives on the line every day when they go to work, so we know they are tough or they couldn't do the work they do," Joe Smith said. "They approach it very seriously and they understand what it takes to get in the ring and compete,

"And they do compete."

While charity is the primary motivation, it's safe to say there's also a little more on the line once the egos get involved.

"There's bragging rights that go along with it," Lt. Starnes said. "No one wants to hurt anyone, but if you're a champion, you're a champion for a whole year."

Added Liles: "Obviously it's a charity boxing match, but nobody wants to go to work the next day and get made fun of."

The Hoses team will be looking to stay undefeated in this year's showdown, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET. The 16-bout card will feature the event's first-ever female bout, as well as an exhibition match between two of Westside Boxing's 101-pound youth fighters.

In addition to Chattanooga PD, Chattanooga FD and the Hamilton County Sheriff's department, the event is also pulling fighters from Red Bank FD, Soddy-Daisy FD, Tri-Community FD, Trion (GA) FD, Summerville FD, Soddy-Daisy PD, Puckett EMS, Hamilton County EMS and Collegedale PD.

"Once that bell rings, it's on from there," said Johnson. "But afterwards, we'll all be buddies, shake hands and have a good laugh probably."

Single tickets and ringside tables are available in advance at ChattanoogaGunsAndHoses.com, or by calling (423)400-8472. Tickets will also be sold at the door Friday night.

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