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City Can't Stop Fight For Charity

By T.J. Wilham
Journal Staff Writer
    The fight is on.
    Despite objections from city leaders, Albuquerque firefighters and police officers will throw punches in the "Rumble in Rio" charity boxing match.
    But they won't call themselves Albuquerque police officers or firefighters.
    This week, organizers of the event— which raises money to buy bicycles for needy children— said about 15 Albuquerque firefighters and police officers have signed up for the Oct. 21 event at Santa Ana Star Casino. The rumble features boxing matches between firefighters and police officers from across the state.
    But because of an ongoing dispute between the event's organizers and Albuquerque officials, the fighters will have to come up with a different name such as "Duke City cops and firefighters."
    On Thursday, Nick Bakas, Albuquerque's chief public safety officer, said city employees who participate will be "on their own" and not have insurance coverage.
    "My position still is that this event sends the wrong message," Bakas said. "They can call themselves whatever they want to call themselves."
    After attending the charity event last year, Bakas said he was disgusted by the scantily dressed ring girls, the flow of beer and the overall behavior. At the time, he said he was going to look into banning city employees from future events.
    On Thursday, Bakas said he could do nothing to stop employees from participating. He warned the event is not sanctioned by the city.
    "They need to consider the ramifications if they get injured. The taxpayers are not going to foot the bill," he said.
    Pete Camacho, a Rio Rancho police officer who organizes the event, said even if Albuquerque employees couldn't participate, the fight would go on.
    Camacho said Albuquerque employees who participate will fight as independents.
    "When (you) get down to it, it is just semantics," Camacho said. "Everyone is going to know what department they are with."
    Last year, the "Rumble in Rio" raised more than $36,000 to buy New Mexico children 500 bikes for Christmas. More than 2,600 people attended.