The magnetic pull of the boxing ring has grabbed another one. Mike Reno, a 38-year-old Kips Bay resident, and a member of the FDNY since 2002, hung up the gloves in 2010. But the boxer couldn't quell the desire to compete. Reno will glove up Friday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in the 31st annual Battle of the Badges.
"The man" tried to encourage his exit and inactive status. Until recently, there was a rule in place for amateur boxers over 35. They were only allowed to fight other "oldsters." USA Boxing has scrubbed, so Reno's urge to scrap was awakened. That, combined with an FDNY hiring freeze, and shortage of experienced pugilists, means that Reno will be back in the mix Friday night.
Mike Reno could be excused if on his downtime he just wanted to decompress, watch football and get quality sofa time. His dad was FDNY, and was in fact hurt during the World Trade Center Sept. 11 attack. "He got buried a little bit," Mike said of father Armando Reno (Engine 65, Midtown), "but he survived."
These guys don't typically stop to ponder excessively the potential downsides of what they do, I have found. They focus on the service aspect of the job, and the pride that comes with being tasked as a life-saver and community leader.
No, Mike Reno sees his boxing as another point of pride, and a potent method to decompress and shed job-related stress. "Entering The Battle of the Badges is about bragging rights. We have a brotherly rivalry with the NYPD. We both protect and serve, and of course the great charities we're fighting for," he said.
Funds raised will go to the Atlas Cops & Kids Boxing Program and the Building Homes for Heroes Organization.
In the ring with Reno, who works at Engine 33 in the East Village, will be a familiar face, his trainer, who doubles as his wife, Susan Reno. She holds a 1-1-1 record as professional hitter, and the two train boxers together at The Wat gym downtown. "This is the first fight for her training me," he said. "She's always been there, helping me out, and in my last fight she took a big step in my training."
The duo by and large doesn't step on each others' toes during all that together time, he said. "You can end up quarreling a little bit, getting into each others' hair, but I go away for work, 24-hour shifts, so she gets to miss me."
Susan Reno chimed in. "I try to be careful so we don't get on each others' nerves," she said. "If he gets tired of me telling him to keep his hands up, I will ask one of the boxers we train to yell that."
And does any part of her wish Mike would stay on the sideline, and just train others? "No, I know how much he loves it," she said. "He missed it so much."