FDNY vs. NYPD has nice ring to it

After the funerals, memorials and anniversary ceremonies, after the overdose of grief in this wounded city, it's time for a night of knock-down, drag-out, old-fashioned fun.

This time when the pipe bands play it will be to lead the FDNY and NYPD boxing teams into the ring. On Thursday night at 7, the traditional feud between the Fighting Finest and the Battling Bravest will be settled in a boxing showdown at KeySpan Park in Coney Island.

Tickets are scaled from $20 to $50 at ringside, but anyone who has been to this marvelous venue knows there isn't a bad seat in the House That Rudy Built.

"We have some terrific bouts scheduled this year," says Pat Russo, a retired NYPD narcotics detective who still runs boxing programs in all boroughs except Staten Island. "The proceeds this year will be going to each department's widows and orphans fund, but not earmarked specifically for those lost on Sept. 11. This is for the families of all members of both services who died in the line of duty at any time."

In addition, a portion of the proceeds will go to two boxing charities, Ring 8 and F.I.S.T., run by Gerry Cooney, who will be on hand that evening, sitting ringside with NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly and FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta.

"And some of the money will be going to PAL, specifically to open a badly needed PAL boxing center in Staten Island," Russo says of the forgotten borough that has given boxing two of its best professional trainers in Teddy Atlas and Kevin Rooney. "Brooklyn has three boxing programs. Staten Island deserves at least one."

With cold beer flowing and a late summer breeze tumbling in off the Atlantic, 26 gutsy pugs will climb the steps to the squared circle to vie for blue bragging rights. But, come on, after all these guys have been through in the last year, there will be no losers on Thursday night. Everybody wins.

"Maybe it's the cops' fast-food diet and the firefighters spending too much time cooking, but we're top-heavy with heavyweight fights this year," Russo says. "Actually, I think the reason we have so many heavyweights is because most of the fighters are in their 30s. I can't get the younger guys to fight. ... The main event between former 67th Precinct Police Officer Thomas Cadote, now of FDNY Ladder 170, versus Detective Dwight Hovington of the 100th Precinct detective squad should be a real doozie."

Golden Gloves success

Hovington won two silver titles in Daily News Golden Gloves tournaments. And last year, Cadote, while still a cop, beat a firefighter 50 pounds heavier in the Toughman Competition at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

"The best part of this one is that Cadote has since transferred from NYPD to FDNY, and the guy who taught him how to box is none other than Detective Dwight Hovington," says Russo, with a giddy laugh. "So this is faceoff between teacher and student, baby. Between a cop and a guy who switched departments. Adrenaline will be running on high in Coney!"

When it is suggested that maybe the tribunal for Ramzi Binalshibh - recently collared accused Al Qaeda mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - be held in the ring just before the main event, Russo laughed. "Oh, man, I couldn't print enough tickets for that. Maybe we can have the five skells from the Buffalo terrorist cell perp-walk him into the ring, too."

And for the first time, a couple of women will put up their dukes when Firefighter Francesca Smith of Ladder 18 exchanges leather with Police Officer Kim Shafidaya of the 75th Precinct. Two brothers - Detective Mike Wheeler from the 60th Precinct and Brian Wheeler of Ladder 123 - will also fight on the card, but thankfully not against each other.

Sgt. Dave Siev of the 67th Precinct will coach the NYPD team while Firefighter John Signorelli wrangles the FDNY stable. FDNY Capt. Manny Fernandez and Detective Carl Schroeder, both retired, will referee.

"After all both departments have been through we all need a good night out at the fights," Russo says.

"Nothing else gets you back to basics like boxing. And when you can do this to raise money for the families of those who make the ultimate sacrifice for this city, that's a truly great New York night out," Russo says. "So I urge people .. . toplease come down on Thursday night. We all owe it to our cops and firefighters."

For tickets, call (718) 449-8497. For more information, call Pat Russo at (917) 682-6997.