By Ali Bauman

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The FDNY‘s boxing club is getting ready for its first Fight Night since the start of the pandemic.

FDNY firefighter Niko Negron is taking on Brooklyn EMT Javier Rosario in an old-fashioned grudge match.

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“True grudge matches, guys that maybe didn’t get along on the job, maybe had a little score to settle and have decided to settle it like gentlemen in the ring,” said Bobby McGuire, president of the FDNY Boxing Club.

The club has been around nearly four decades.

This week, they’re training at the Hit Factory gym in Bay Ridge for Friday’s annual “Thrilla in Camilla” charity fundraiser at Rockaway Beach.

“We have three fights versus the Massachusetts State Police, then we have several FDNY versus EMS grudge matches,” McGuire told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.

One of the most anticipated fights of the night will feature decorated amateur champ Manhattan firefighter Nicole Malpeso.

“Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do anything. You can do anything you want,” Malpeso said.

In past years, the team would start training four months before this fight, but this year, because of COVID, they didn’t even know if this fight was on until six weeks out.

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“Due to COVID, gyms weren’t open, sparring wasn’t allowed. We didn’t know if we would get the permits and sanctions needed,” McGuire said.

But many fighters have been training on their own throughout the pandemic, even when gyms were closed.

“I bought a heavy bag, put it in my backyard,” Malpeso said.

Boxing became their vital release.

“It’s been rough since the beginning a lot of calls, very sad, you know, but you know, we got through it, we fought through it,” Rosario said.

“Once you throw that first punch, you’re just boxing. You’re not thinking about anything else at that point,” Negron said.

Friday will be the club’s first Fight Night all together in over a year.

“We’re all feeling the same thing. We’re all dealing with the same thing,” Malpeso said. “It’s a great motivator and it helps.”

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Boxing may not be a typical team sport, but the FDNY’s club shares a special comradery.

Ali Bauman