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Pugilistic cops gladly step in ring Allison K. Sampite | Sat, Apr 16 2011 12:00 PM

Law enforcement officials are training to duke it out for inner city kids.

For the last eight years, the Community Youth Athletic Center in National City has invited male and female law enforcement officials to train as boxers to benefit the center.

Each year, Barona Resort & Casino holds a charity event to raise money for programs for at-risk youth.

"I needed to find a way to to fund these great programs in the community," said center owner Carlos Barragan. "Our relationship with law enforcement made it a perfect fit."

The officers train for three months with coaches like T.A. Brown, who has a professional history with boxing.

Brown is an agent with the Chula Vista Police Department and has coached boxing participants since the event began. Brown coaches Team Unified, comprised of law enforcement officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Border Patrol, Chula Vista Police Department and the San Diego Police Department.

"Boxing is a tool for kids who may not have another outlet," Brown said.

The nonprofit center was founded 20 years ago to keep local kids out of gangs and away from drugs.

"Rather than complain about problems, my father and I decided to do something about at-risk kids in the community," Barragan said. "I grew up here, this is where my heart is."

At the center, students are given the opportunity to get their grades up and when they do they can transition back in. "The sport of boxing is just a hook to grab kids and we build upon that," Barragan said, "Once they show interest we encourage school."

Barragan said relationships built between coaches and athletes change the kids' perspectives and gives them confidence.

Jessica Severance has been a police officer with Chula Vista for four years and participated in the Battle of the Badges in 2009. Winning on a technical knock-out and earning the nickname Bad Intentions, she had everything but good intensions when she signed up for the event.

"I took the opportunity to learn how to box and do something for a good cause," she said. "It was an amazing experience I'd never change that for the world."

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