Team Fontane predicting victory at Palm Springs Cops for Kids

(L to R) Correctional officer Chayin Osgood, San Diego Combat Academy head boxing coach Priest “Tiger” Smalls, officer Ebeth Garza, R. J. Donovan’s head coach, Hondo Fontan, and officer Jeremiah Nelson. All are quite serious about bringing home a trophy from this year’s Battle of the Badges competition in Palm Springs. Photo: Jim Wyatt

More Battle of the Badges excitement heads our way on July 21, 2012. The next show will benefit the many youth programs run by the Cops for Kids Foundation. The 16 Bout Thriller will be at the Agua Caliente Casino, Resort & Spa on Bob Hope Drive, Ranch Mirage, CA. The show, featuring the men and women of law enforcement, pits the California Department of Corrections, basically the guards from six correctional facilities (Ironwood, CIW, CIF, R. J. Donovan, Norco State, and Chino) going up against everyone else. That all inclusive “everyone else” includes the all important first responders, Sheriff departments, Police Departments, Fire fighters, Ambulance drivers, Forrest Rangers, and even a Dog Catcher. At present there are 32 boxers in training to represent the two teams. The San Diego representatives, presently in training at the San Diego Combat Academy in Mission Valley, are under the guardianship of their longtime coach Hondo Fontan. His wards include three correctional officers from the R. J. Donovan Facility in Otay Mesa. All three are veterans of at least one show – heavyweights Jeremiah Nelson (1-0) and Chayin Osgood (2-1) plus the more petite Ebeth “Baby Bull” Garza (1-0). How these brave men and women find time to train is a mystery.

(L to R) we see Coach Fontan with his stop watch checking the progress of Ebeth Garza and Jeremiah Nelson as they get set to do their work on the heavy bag. Photo: Jim Wyatt

Ladies first – Garza, who’s 5’4” and 30 years of age, is formerly from National City but now lives in Wildomar, CA. She’s prior Military and served in the Army for six years. She had the treat of experiencing one dreadful tour in Iraq (2003-2004) while working as an MP (Military Police). Her father also served his country, a Navy veteran of 24 years.

Garza is not what you’d call a slacker. When not in training for the Battle of the Badges, she’s either working full time at the prison or in class finishing up her studies to become a registered nurse. Since women have a difficult time getting matches, she’s trained for this competition before and has been disappointed on more than a few occasions. She was ready to go in 2007 and her bout fell through. The following year, she competed and won. She didn’t train in 2009 but did so in 2010. The 2010 bout was cancelled and the same thing happened in 2011. She now has her fingers crossed that her opponent will be ready on July 21st.

Not to downplay her victory in 2008, but Garza made an even bigger splash when handling a rowdy individual at the prison. Walking a few steps behind a male prisoner, she reacted quickly when she saw this unsavory character attack a fellow prison guard. After intervening, the dukes went up and she leveled him with a straight right to the forehead. The punch opened a gash that needed several stitches. Since this thug (a robber by trade) had been beaten up by a female guard, for his own safety they moved him to a new facility. There are unwritten rules even in prison.

When asked about the prison population and the characters she has dealt with, she mentioned the recent influx of drug traffickers from the Mexican Cartels. “They’re always cozying up to you, wanting to be your friend and then testing you to see if you’re accommodating enough to do them a favor.”

Since bribing a police officer is an everyday occurrence in Mexico, one can only imagine the offers the prison guards receive to look the other way or pass along contraband.

On the right we see Chayin Osgood and on the left Jeremiah Nelson.

At last year’s Battle of the Badges at the Barona Casino in Lakeside, CA, Garza’s teammate, Jeremiah Nelson, also a corrections officer, was applauded wildly for two reasons. Not only did he win his bout, while in training he lost an amazing 65 pounds, going from 330 pounds to 265 pounds. His friends and family were astonished by his accomplishment.

To get in shape for this year’s competition, the 34 year-old corrections officer has plans to lose 20 pounds over the next four weeks. Each morning he does his running on a treadmill, currently running the equivalent of two miles.

In last year’s competition against Jesse Wright of the San Diego Combat Academy, the question became, could Nelson last at such a torrid pace. As many heavyweights do, Nelson conserved his energy and stood waiting in the center of the ring for Wright to come to him. When he did, Nelson countered with the heavier blows to win an unanimous decision.

Quizzed about his most memorable experience at the prison, he said, “It was when I ran into that dude, Shelley (Malil), from the movie, The Forty year-old Virgin. He came for a visit. He was there for beating up his girlfriend.”

On December 16, 2010, Shelley Malil, who had been found guilty of premeditated, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole for stabbing his girlfriend Kendra Beebe 23 times.

Malil first caught national attention as “Chad,” one of the Budweiser “What are you doing?” guys in Anheuser-Busch’s inspired “Whassup?” commercial which was voted best Super bowl commercial in 2000.”

Asked if he was excited about competing this year, he said: “Yes, I am. Since, we joined with the other Correctional Facilities, that means I’ll be competing on the same team as my buddies from Ironwood. I used to work there. I have more than a few very close friends from that facility. Also, my mother is on the team. Which has to be a first. The only mother and son to ever fight on the same boxing card.”

I must have looked at him strangely, because he went on to explain, “My father who’s 65 remarried, so technically, she’s my stepmother. She’s just a year older than me. Her name is Yesenia Nelson.”

The third member of the R. J. Donovan boxing team is Chayin Osgood, a former Battle of the Badges heavyweight Champion.

After breaking his thumb in Round #1 at  last year’s show, Chayin Osgood (seated) and his coach Hondo Fontan remove the gloves rather gingerly at the conclusion of their difficult bout. Photo: Jim Wyatt

After being away from the sport for two years, Osgood made his return in 2011 against David “Average Joe” Rodriguez of the San Diego Police Department, who was the defending Battle of the Badges champion. The match not only decided the heavyweight champion but with the teams, Team Unified and R. J. Donovan with the same amount of wins, the winner of his match would decide which organization won the coveted team trophy.

In Round #1, Rodriguez was busier and threw more punches while the taller Osgood at 6’ 3” tall was content to land fewer but the more powerful blows. Round #2 was more of the same with Rodriguez taking some mighty hefty shots to the head but hanging tough.

Then came Round #3 and Rodriguez took over. It appeared Osgood had suddenly ran out of gas. After several unanswered blows, the referee stepped in and stopped the bout. After the bout, it was discovered Osgood had broken his thumb in the first round and that’s why he was reluctant to throw the same amount of punches as Rodriguez.

“That thumb has healed and I’m back,” said Osgood who was peppering the heavy bag with explosive punches.

Since Rodriguez won’t be fighting in Palm Springs, Osgood’s opponent is still unknown. When Osgood, the older brother of Kassim Osgood, the former wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers, now playing for Jacksonville, was asked to do some name dropping of the celebrities who passed his way at the prison, he mentioned: Robert Downey Jr., Lane Garrison of Point Blank, singer Rick James, and the University of Nebraska running back Lawrence Phillips. Since Palm Springs has more than their share of Hollywood types, it makes you wonder if some old acquaintances might be present. Pictures will be forth coming.

(L to R) Head boxing coach, Priest Tiger Smalls, the San Diego Combat Academy’s owner, Bill Crawford, and the R. J. Donovan team coach, Hondo Fontan. Photo: Jim Wyatt

San Diego Combat Academy members gather around their invited guests, Ebeth Garza, Hondo Fontan, Jeremiah Nelson and Chayin Osgood for a group photo. Photo: J. Wyatt

Share This Post

Pin It on Pinterest