Frankie Filippone – Fighting for Good

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boxer_march_13By JAYNE THURBER-SMITH

Watching Frankie “The Freight Train” Filippone fighting in the ring or Officer Filippone protecting the streets of Virginia Beach can be an intimidating sight. Those who know the real Frank Filippone Jr. know that under his tough exterior is a heart of gold. He never misses a chance to use both his boxing and his badge for all the good he can.

The thirty-three year old Chesapeake resident has been a police officer for ten years and boxing professionally for five.

“Being both a boxer and policeman allows me to break through some barriers,” says Filippone. “The kids on the street look at the police force as the enemy. With boxing they see an accomplishment they respect. They can relate to the boxing.”

Filippone tries to make a difference in the lives of the teenagers who end up in the back of his police car.

“I’m just trying to be a light in a world that has a dark side,” he says. “Just the other day we met a teenage kid newly-diagnosed with Muscular Dystrophy. His prognosis is a wheelchair in two years, and he’s giving up. He’s going the wrong way with his life. He says he used to be like any other guy and now he’s losing control of movement, can’t do things like he used to.”

His motto as a police officer is “Try to save a life before you take a life,” which he takes both figuratively and physically.

“I was trying hard to reach this kid,” Filippone says, deeply concerned. “I’ll check on him in a couple days, keep him close. My partner feels the same way; we’ve reached out to help a few cases. A lot of kids we come across feel they have no way out. I want to give them some hope. I am extremely grateful for the ability to do what I can do in law enforcement and boxing.”

Last month Filippone’s name became a little better known in the boxing world, when he stepped in as a last-minute participant for the injured Dennis Hasson. He won the vacant North American Boxing Association (NABA) Light Heavyweight title by a ten-round decision in Wilmington, DE. It was the biggest win in the southpaw’s career so far.

“My motto as a boxer is ‘keep punching,’” he says. “No matter what, I keep fighting. That’s helped me through these past years when it hasn’t been an easy road.”

Filippone uses his influence earned in the ring for causes outside the ring.

“We’ve raised money through boxing for breast cancer,” he comments. “We had pink t-shirts made up that said ‘Fight like a Girl’ on the front and ‘Team Freight Train’ on the back. To look out in the crowd before a fight and see people with my t-shirt on was awesome! We’ll do something for breast cancer fundraising again this October.”

Filippone has big plans for his boxing career, and he wants to give back before he even gets there.

“This is my heart, to help others,” he says. “A friend of mine knows a three-year-old girl, who has leukemia. He asked me to help her, so I contacted Chick-fil-A in Edinburg Commons. We did a Spirit Night with raffle tickets and raised $700 for her. A lot of great businesses gave us great prizes to raffle off.”

He makes the most of every opportunity, so when he was asked to take the fight on with less than a week’s notice, he didn’t hesitate.

“When they called us on a Sunday about fighting Friday, I told my trainer, Kenny Miller, ‘I’ve been waiting for this for 15 years, let’s go for it!’” Filippone says, his face lighting up. “I was in shape, but there’s a difference between being in shape and in fight shape. We trained really hard for three days, then went up to Wilmington with my dad, Frank Sr.”

Filippone’s wife of 8 years, Rachel, remained home with their two children who each had a birthday to celebrate. Even though he had an important fight to focus on, he took time out on each day to join in their celebrations.

“Our daughter Avery turned 5 on February 7th and our son Drew turned 2 on the 8th!” Filippone smiles. “I put on my party hat and blew my noisemaker and spent time with the kids on FaceTime.”

On fight day Filippone normally only comes out of his room for breakfast and lunch and that’s it, but something else brought him out the morning of February 8th.

“We heard that Wilmington’s Police Officer Justin Wilkers had been shot in the face the Sunday before,” he says. “You know as a police officer those things can happen. So we went to see him in the hospital, gave him some boxing gloves, met his family that morning of the fight. I promised him I would bring the belt home, and I think that was my edge. I felt I was fighting for Justin.”

To open the evening event, a ceremony to honor Delaware police officers who were killed in the line of duty took place. With more than 60 policemen in the crowd watching, Filippone beat Kevin Engel, who at 6’2” was 4 inches taller than he.

“A lot of people in boxing emphasize height and reach,” he shrugs. “But I just look at it that I’ve trained hard, and if he’s trained hard it’s gonna be one heck of a fight.”

It was a heck of a fight, and Filippone looks forward to at least five more years of fighting in the ring and even more years fighting against crime, helping fight against cancer, and fighting for teenagers to have hope.

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