BOURBONNAIS — Police and firefighters are used to throwing figurative jabs at each other like a big brother and little brother.
This Saturday, they will literally throw jabs to find out who the big brother is — all while raising money for local baseball and softball teams.
House of Sportz is hosting its first-ever Police vs. Fire Fight Night. The athletic training facility already has sold all of its 250 tickets to help fund its 14 travel teams that serve a total of 160 area kids.
“It’s a community thing,” said Brian Zirkle, owner of House of Sportz. “Nowadays, police aren’t always treated the best. We want to reach out to them and put them in the public eye to have some fun.”
Zirkle’s brother, Calvin, who is a Kankakee County Sheriff’s deputy and boxer with GoldStar Gym, arranged the 17 exhibition fights. The fights will consist of three one-minute rounds. All boxers will wear either 20- or 24-ounce gloves and head gears.
“A lot of people say police are lazy and out of shape,” Calvin Zirkle said with a laugh. “We want to show them that there are still a lot of police who are in shape. Firefighters are supposedly in shape. They have all the time in the world to work out.”
The fight card features four police vs. fire bouts, three police vs. police bouts and one firefighter vs. firefighter bout.
The Red Line vs. The Blue Line
Dylan Lergner and Adam Rivard will duke it out in a police vs. fire bout.
Lergner, 27, served four years in the Air Force before becoming a deputy with the Kankakee County Sheriff’s Office in May. He will represent the blue corner. Rivard, a 21-year-old volunteer firefighter with Kankakee Township, will represent the red corner.
Lergner, who has never boxed before, is familiar with the police and firefighter relationship. His father was a firefighter for 33 years with the Kankakee Fire Department. Since he has only been a police officer for a few months, he sees Saturday night as sort of an initiation.
“There’s always this back-and-forth of ‘who’s better,’” Lergner said with a laugh. “But I’m not feeling any pressure. It’s for a good cause. It’s going to be a good time.”
Rivard also will enter the ring as a rookie fighter. The former baseball, football and water polo player decided to fight for charity.
“We all know fire is the big brother,” he said. “But there is always this stereotype. Cops are eating doughnuts. Firefighters are sitting on the couch watching TV. This is a chance to show we are in shape.”
When asked how he feels about fighting for the first time, Rivard had a classic response.
“I’ve watched all the Rocky movies and some YouTube videos,” he said. “I may get beginner’s luck. Who knows?”
Todd Scholendorf and Billy Coffey have heard all the chatter and bets among their coworkers at the Kankakee County corrections department.
The two heavyweights will square off in the main event as a classic master versus apprentice duel. Scholendorf, a 44-year-old sergeant with 24 years of experience in corrections, will battle Coffey, his 24-year-old mentee.
“He thinks it’s time I hand the reins over. I’m not ready for that,” Scholendorf said with a laugh. “This old dog still has some bite to it. We’re going to hug it out before and after, but once we get in the ring, it’s go time. As long as I’m standing at the end, I think that’s me showing him who’s boss.”
Despite working the same shift, Scholendorf and Coffey have not been trash talking. They have too much respect for each other.
“We’re really good friends, and we’re both competitive,” Coffey said. “It’s pretty mutual. A lot of coworkers are exaggerating it, but Todd is definitely someone who has mentored me. He has brought me through the mud and through the thick and thin.”
Jeremy Most and Chris Norton find themselves in a similar situation.
Most, a 38-year-old corporal at the jail, is getting into the ring to relive his days of being an athlete.
“I’m doing it for selfish reasons,” Most said. “When you’re an athlete from ages 5 to 21, you miss that. You want to get back into it.”
Like Scholendorf and Coffey, Most and Norton are not trash talking each other.
“It’s not one of those ‘you get to beat up your boss’ things,’” said the 27-year-old Norton, who fought one amateur mixed martial arts match when he was 18. “We get to blow off some steam. But at the end of the day, we both have to have each other’s back. And we will. There is no animosity whatsoever. We are friends.”