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FDNY firefighter to duke it out in first-ever international match at MSG

FDNY firefighter Victor Woods punches a pad held by his trainer
FDNY firefighter Victor Woods punches a pad held by his trainer

He’s getting ready for combat — of a sporting kind.

An Army veteran who was inspired to serve after the Sept. 11 terror attacks will put some serious brawn into the Bravest this week when he steps into the boxing ring at Madison Square Garden.

Victor Woods, 34, will duke it out in the super heavyweight division, representing the Bronx’s Ladder 17 Green Berets at the FDNY’s first-ever International Battle of the Badges.

Victor Woods will represent Bronx’s Ladder 17 Green Berets at the first Battle of the Badges Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post
Victor Woods will represent Bronx’s Ladder 17 Green Berets at the first Battle of the Badges Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

“You’re always gonna have this heightened sense of drive, a hypervigilance, and every day you gotta find somewhere to put it,” Woods told The Post last week about how his years in combat with the Army helped finetune his athleticism.

On Thursday, Woods and 12 other Bravest fighters will square off against other firefighters and cops from as far away as Ireland and the UK. Proceeds will go toward the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, the nonprofit named after FDNY firefighter Stephen Siller, who died in the attacks.

It’s a battle the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Brooklyn-born dad of two has spent months training for, sparring as many as five times a week despite his long hours at the firehouse and amping up his cardio conditioning so hard, he gave himself stress fractures in his legs.

“Getting ready for the fight has been an everyday thing. Even on my off days, I would be doing stretches with resistance bands, really pulling my tendons on my arms, getting everything loose,” said Woods.

From Brooklyn to Afghanistan

The Brooklyn-born dad of two has spent months sparring and training after long hours at the firehouse. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post
The Brooklyn-born dad of two has spent months sparring and training after long hours at the firehouse. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

Woods earned his street smarts splitting his childhood between Park Slope and the Red Hook housing projects – but the Sept. 11 terror attacks shaped his future.

“It had bearing on everything that I do,” said Woods, who was in seventh grade when the Twin Towers fell.

“We lived on the fourth floor in this apartment in Brooklyn and when you looked out the window, all you saw was where Manhattan used to be, it was a cloud of smoke.”

About a month after the terror attack, Woods told his mom he was going to enlist in the Army and then join the FDNY.

Woods decided to join the military after witnessing 9/11.
Woods decided to join the military after witnessing 9/11.

“I couldn’t wait to go,” he said outside Victory Boxing gym in Midtown where he’s training. “As soon as I turned 18, I was outta there.”

Woods, who was deployed twice in 2011 and 2017, worked as a combat engineer with the 668th Engineer Company. He spent most of his time in Afghanistan clearing routes and scouring for IEDs, or improvised explosive devices, planted along roads by the Taliban.

“I’ve been in six IED explosions, two of them were pressure plates,” Woods recalled. “So basically the truck drives over it and the truck goes up. I lost five of my brothers in 2012 (from IED attacks). I still have a bracelet that I wear for them.”

Learning to heal at home

Woods survived six IED explosions while in the service. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post
Woods survived six IED explosions while in the service. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Post

While home in 2013, Woods struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder — he recalled a time he and his wife Stephanie were sitting outside on the balcony of their Rockaway home when an electrical box suddenly exploded nearby.

“I spilled my beer all over her, I dragged her, tried to put her in the house,” he said. “I went into the bathroom and broke down. I can’t believe I just did that in from of my wife.”

Stephanie was key in helping Woods connect with a therapy program tailored to veterans.

“It took me a long time after this last deployment to transition and I have to definitely credit my wife to that,” he said. “She put in the work to help me finally get comfortable at home.”

Woods’ amateur MMA fighter cousin, meanwhile, turned him into a gym rat as another way to heal.

“It was just basically to get in shape at first but I kinda fell in love with moving and stuff,” he said.

‘I know he’s gonna win’

Woods turned to fitness as a way to cope with his PTSD. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Pos
Woods turned to fitness as a way to cope with his PTSD. Stefan Jeremiah for New York Pos

In 2015, Woods fulfilled his other dream, joining the FDNY and finding a lifelong brotherhood with his fellow smoke eaters.

“This place is like a second family to me. I love going to work now,” he said.

In fact, his Ladder 17 brother, Mark Pachto, has been coaching the heavily tattooed Woods, taking time out of his own busy schedule to support him.

“He’s got a hell of a right hand. He’s really got power in both hands,” said Pachto. “Couple of times hitting the body bag kinda took the wind out of me. I’m feeling it. Honestly, I know he’s gonna win, I’m very confident in my guy, everyone’s behind him.”

Stephanie and their eldest daughter will be ringside at MSG watching Woods slug it out for the first time against a member of the Colorado Fire Department.

“I love to support my husband and I know that boxing is something that he’s loved since he was a child and when he had the opportunity to do it, I just told him to go for it,” she said. “I’m not nervous. If he gets hurt, he gets hurt. My husband gets hurt all the time. You know he comes home from work with cuts and burns so I’m used to it.

“I really don’t think that the other guy has a chance, to be quite honest.”