DUARTE – Rasheed Martin stood in the doorway of his third-floor room at the City of Hope, taking care not to tangle the cluster of IV tubes snaking down from under his shirt. Rasheed, a 9-year-old cancer patient, was surrounded by Los Angeles police officers showering him with gifts – T-shirts, football cards and, his favorite, a stuffed bear. “It looks like a police officer,” Rasheed said, pointing to the miniature uniform and gold badge. Rasheed didn’t know why he had checked into City of Hope three days earlier. When asked, he shrugged, then slammed his right hand on the hospital bed, trying to catch the attention of his deaf mother. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week Then he asked her – in sign language. On a piece of paper, she wrote, “Stem cell transplant.” It’s kids like Rasheed who Los Angeles police, firemen and sheriff’s deputies will be supporting tonight when they participate in Fight for Life, a series of boxing matches to raise money for the renowned cancer center. During a pre-fight visit Thursday to the young patients on the third floor, the officers’ tough exteriors melted away, and trash talk gave way to words of encouragement for sick children. Robert Morales, an anti-gang officer at the LAPD’s Newton Area station, handed 9-year-old Rasheed a T-shirt. Then he put his arm around the boy and snapped a picture with his camera-phone. “This is special,” Morales said. “Regardless of what happens (tonight), this is something special we can do for these kids.” Tonight, Morales will be pitted against a deputy from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. There’s not bad blood between the two organizations, but bragging rights are at stake, and Morales takes that seriously. When he enters the ring, he’ll be going for blood. “That’s what he’s going to be thinking, too,” Morales said. “It’s kind of like the Marine Corps and the Navy.” In the event’s first 11 years, the officers have raised about $350,000 for the City of Hope, money that goes to the hospital’s general fund and is used for cancer treatment, research and education programs. The fighters flock to the event. Officer Rudy Barragan, boxer/coach of the Los Angeles Police Department team, said officers seek him out to join his team. Sheriff’s Cmdr. Gil Jurado said he looks for potential boxers in the training academy, picking out officers who excel in hand-to-hand combat training. “Most of them do it for two, three or four years, and then fall back and become assistant coaches and develop the younger guys,” Jurado said. Tonight’s marquee fight pits Barragan, the 37-year-old veteran, against Jorge Caamal, a 24-year-old deputy who thinks he has the speed and the power to knock out the LAPD’s coach. “Out with the old, in with the new,” Caamal said. “I like to put on a show. I like to be a brawler. I have a little Rocky in me.” Barragan’s not worried. “I’m tired of beating up on these young guys,” he said. Barragan is a veteran at the Fight for Life. When he entered the third floor, he knew what to expect. Others, such as David Cartlidge, a lifeguard for the county Fire Department, weren’t so sure. “I’ve never done a whole lot with kids,” Cartlidge said. He seemed right at home Thursday with 17-year-old Jesse Castro, a leukemia patient awaiting a bone-marrow transplant. “Check out this T-shirt,” Cartlidge said to Jesse, holding up a Fight for Life shirt. “This is from the fight we’re going to have.” Jesse’s answer’s were short – “cool,” and “thank you,” – but the smile on his face spoke for him. As the group filed out of Jesse’s room, Cartlidge wasn’t ready to go. He asked for a hug. Jesse’s smile broadened and he nodded. “When I gave him that hug, I almost lost it,” Cartlidge said. “This is not what I expected.” Josh Kleinbaum, (818) 713-3669 [email protected] IF YOU GO Fight for Life, a fund-raiser for the City of Hope, will start at 6:30 tonight at the Grand Olympic Auditorium, 1801 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. Tickets are $10-$50 and are available by calling Ticketmaster, (213) 480-3232; the City of Hope, (213) 241-7249; or at the auditorium box office. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!