If the judges at a charity boxing event held in Aurora on Sunday handed out an award for flair, it almost surely would have gone to Aurora Alderman Richard Irvin.
Irvin, a first-time boxer, strutted into the ring Sunday under a sign that referred to him as "Sugar Richard." He wore sunglasses and pumped his fists in the air for the delighted crowd.
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"You've got to have fun with something like this," Irvin said before his match.
Irvin was one of a group of boxers from Aurora, Elgin and other communities that participated in the second annual Tuition Knock Out, a boxing event that raises money for youth scholarships. Irvin was the sole city official among the local "celebrity" boxers; the rest were law enforcement officers. Kane County Sheriff Pat Perez, Oswego Police Chief Dwight Baird, Aurora Police Chief Greg Thomas and Elgin Police Chief Jeff Swoboda were among the participants.
The event was held in front of a packed house at the La Sierra de Aurora banquet hall on New York Street. Bouts featuring local amateur boxers filled the undercard; Irvin and the area police officers comprised the main event.
Tuition Knock Out was hosted by the Aurora chapter of the National Latino Peace Officers Association. Aurora police Sgt. Alfredo Dean, president of the chapter, said he was delighted with the turnout and the response from the officers who agreed to don headgear and padded gloves on Sunday.
"They've all been such great sports, doing everything we've asked of them with no complaint," he said.
Dean said organizers hoped Sunday's event would raise between $12,000 and $15,000, which would be roughly double what it raised last year. He said that in addition to raising scholarship money, Tuition Knock Out helps build a bridge between the police and the Latino community in and around Aurora.
Irvin said he agreed to participate immediately after being asked, even though he'd never boxed before.
"It's a great cause, and I thought it would be a blast, but I didn't realize at first just how big a deal it really was," he said. "When I found out, I started taking it seriously."
Irvin said he trained for about four weeks to get a sense of the basics. His opponent, though, didn't have that luxury. Aurora police Officer Enrique Gutierrez was recruited for the event at the last minute after Irvin's original opponent had to drop out.
"They asked me on Monday," Gutierrez said with a smile.
Both men fought hard during their three-round match, but Gutierrez had a significant height and weight advantage. His longer reach enabled him to land more punches, and he was declared the winner.
Not that the loss dampened Irvin's swagger. He quickly put his sunglasses back on after the fight and then yanked his boxing jersey off while the crowd roared its approval.
Another fierce battle featured Elgin police Cmdr. Ana Lalley and Aurora police Cmdr. Kristen Ziman. Before the fight, Lalley said she felt a bit anxious about the event.
"There are a lot more people here than I thought," she said with a smile. "So yeah, I want to do OK."
Neither Lalley nor Ziman had boxed before, but they fought hard through three full rounds. The momentum shifted back and forth between them throughout the match, but in the end Lalley won by majority decision. When the final bell rang, the fighters were all smiles.
Other bouts scheduled for Sunday included a match between Baird and Perez and then a marquee battle between Swoboda and Thomas.
"I'm used to team sports, where I can rely on others," Swoboda said before his match. "So this puts me a little out of my comfort zone. But I'm happy to be a part of this. It's really a great event."