Jim Klauba grew up listening to the wild street tales of his father and great-uncle, both Chicago cops. Klauba, now 28 and a Cook County sheriff's deputy, says he joined the force for the stories: "I was working construction, and at the end of the day what could I tell somebody? 'Hey, I put up that wall really fast today'?"
In 1996 Klauba joined the county's Special Operations Response Team, or SORT, based at 26th and California. "We handle everything: riots inside the jail, weapons and narcotics searches, chasing AWOLs from electronic monitoring." While always providing grist for a good yarn, the danger got Klauba thinking about what could happen to him on the job. Then he heard about the Hundred Club of Cook County, a private civilians-only charitable organization that provides financial assistance to spouses and children of law-enforcement personnel and firefighters killed in the line of duty.
Impressed by the club's mission, Klauba decided to organize a fund-raiser based on a passion he's nurtured since he was a teenager: martial arts. He says it was initially a struggle to win Hundred Club president Ralph G. Scheu over to the idea, since the organization refuses donations from officers. So Klauba, a 130-pound black belt who teaches at his own Freestyle Karate Academy in Dunham Park, hooked up with civilian partners Rob and Jim Zbilski, diluting the blue tinge of the proceeds.
The result was the Supercop Boxing Exhibition, featuring police pugilists mixing it up in the ring and a "good, healthy rivalry" between Cook County deputies and city cops, who fueled the bouts with dueling chants of "S-O-R-T!" and "C-P-D!" Klauba says at this year's exhibition, the third, cops from all over the state will compete for title belts in three weight classes in at least 18 three-round fights. Klauba's students will also demonstrate their skills.
"[In policing] exciting things hit and you come out of it--you can tell the story," Klauba says. "It's kind of like that with martial arts. It's an edge when you do a competition and complete it....The exhibition is a terrific cause and will surely be the safest place to be on that evening."
Supercop '99 happens Saturday in the gym of Saint Andrew School, 1650 W. Addison. Doors open at 6 and bouts begin at 7:30. Tickets are $15. For more information call 312-588-0798. --Joy Bergmann
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jim Klauba photo by Robert Drea.