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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ready to Spar

Fighters undergo weeks of conditioning before annual Guns & Hoses

Firefighters sweated and panted as they worked on drills in the basement of the Old Vanderburgh County Courthouse.

“That’s how I want y’all throwing punches, like someone kicked your dog,” says Evansville Fire Department Inspector Mike Doran.

No, they weren’t prepping to literally fight fire with punches — the group
was training for the 16th annual Guns & Hoses, a charity boxing event pitting Tri-State firefighters against law enforcement.

The bouts are only three one-minute rounds, but it takes months of work for the 15 fighters to prepare.

Photo by Zach Straw

In the 12 weeks prior to the main event, fighters train with experienced coaches on alternating days in a gym at the Old Courthouse. Practices include sparring, heavy-hitting cardio, and drills to punch up participants’ offensive and defensive skills. In addition to local fighters, others come from agencies in Owensboro and Henderson, Kentucky, Mount Carmel, Illinois, and elsewhere.

Daniel Orange is an experienced fighter, and not just from his four Guns & Hoses bouts. The Evansville firefighter also is a two-time Indiana Golden Gloves champion.

“One of the big things I tell new guys is don’t worry about losing,” Orange says. “The more you focus on it … the more nervous you’re going to get.”

Evansville Police Department Sgt. Sam Smith has fought in every Guns & Hoses since 2015. He admits he can be intense when it comes down to the match.

What helped him relax two years ago? Dancing down the aisle to Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff.”

Bragging rights also are on the line. Team Hoses has edged Team Guns in overall wins, 8-7.

Evansville Police Department’s Special Projects Coordinator Taylor Merriss is readying for her third match. Preparing can be extensive, including dietary changes and individual regimens, but it’s worth it for her.

Guns & Hoses has raised approximately $2 million for 911 Gives Hope since 2008. The local nonprofit has helped Prader-Willi Syndrome causes, constructed Mickey’s Kingdom playground, and grants money to dozens of regional children’s organizations and charities each year.

“I’ve been able to see where the money goes, and it is so important for our community,” Merriss says.

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Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti
Maggie Valenti joined Tucker Publishing Group in September 2022 as a staff writer. She graduated from Gettysburg College in 2020 with a bachelors degree in English. A Connecticut native, Maggie has ridden horses for 15 years and has hunt seat competition experience on the East Coast.

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