Boxing: Junior Younan

Bracero beats Salita in Brooklyn war

November, 10, 2013
NEW YORK -- Gabriel Bracero's left hook landed early, often and hard on Dmitriy Salita in the main event at the Aviator Complex in Marine Park, Brooklyn, on Saturday night. The judges got it right, bless them, and saw it 97-92, 99-90, 100-89, as Bracero picked up a regional welterweight belt.

Bracero also gets an extra bit of satisfaction, as this was an old-school-style turf war, with Sunset Park (Bracero-Town) gaining bragging rights over Flatbush (Salita-ville).

As solid as his showing was, Bracero's postfight chat with Steve Farhood, for airing on Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" show, made perhaps an even greater impact.

"I changed my life around, and I deserve to have my story out there," said the 32-year-old Bracero, addressing the major-cable network suits, who would be in a position to OK a meaningful bout, maybe even a title shot, versus a big name at 140 or 147 pounds. "I have a story!" His trainer-mentor Tommy Gallagher looked on, beaming with pride.

And Bracero, indeed, has a story to tell. He went to prison for almost six years after getting pinched for attempted murder, getting out in 2009. "I have friends still in prison who are afraid to come out," Bracero said, indicating that many believe they won't be able to navigate a complicated and expensive world. "I'm their hope!"

Salita, age 31, entered at 35-1-1, while Bracero was 22-1. An unofficial decibel poll, by the way, told me that Bracero fans vastly outnumbered Salita fans in the hangar-style arena. Would that affect the contest at all, if and when someone needed a pick-me-up?

Bracero scored the best punch of the first round, a left hook, which buzzed Salita. "Tito!" chants, for Bracero, were heard, and a roar erupted when another stiff left hook landed clean on Salita. A leaping left hook in the third for Bracero had the crowd jazzed. Salita kept dropping his right and getting popped. He picked it up in spots, but his hands were slower all night, and his reflexes weren't as sharp as we've seen, as he got hit with leads many a time.

Bracero scored a knockdown in the eighth, off the left hook. Salita backed up Bracero some in the ninth, but he was cut under his left eye and then had another gash on his hairline by Round 10. We went to the cards and breathed heavily in relief when the judges got it right.

One wonders if we'll see Salita again; the fighter had told me that he would consider exiting the sport if he couldn't beat a Bracero-level boxer. Well, he couldn't. I'm assuming there will be some serious contemplation in Salita's mind in the days ahead.

Junior featherweight Heather Hardy (7-0) heard on the grapevine that foe Laura Gomez (4-4) was no pushover, no easy "W" ripe to be picked. The Gerritsen Beach native, fighting a stone's throw from her old digs -- she now lives in Williamsburg -- pressured Gomez and had the ringside doc stepping in and pulling the plug to save the green loser from excess punishment. The end came at 1:44 of Round 2.

Promoter DiBella, "Combustible Lou" as I refer to him fondly, came to the press table and ranted -- quite rightly, I thought -- about the scorecard that read 76-76 in the Charlie Ota-Mike Ruiz fight. "I don't know the name of the judge that scored that, but I never want her working on one of my shows again!" he said. "That fight could have been stopped." (The judge in question was Robin Taylor, for the record.)

Indeed, Japan-resident Ota is a 154-pounder on the rise. He served notice, with his aggression and discipline, that he is close to a title crack in the near-ish future. He landed hard and clean on Ruiz, a Freeport, N.Y., resident, and you wouldn't have blinked twice if around Round 6 the Ruiz corner had kept their man on his stool. Instead, it went eight, and Ota needed the two cards reading 78-74 and 77-75 to rise to 24-1-1.

After, DiBella said he can see a scenario where Ota gets one more win and then nails down a title crack. Demetrius Andrade, a new 154-pound belt holder, is a name DiBella mentioned for the Ota wish list.

Bracero-Salita tops packed Aviator card

November, 8, 2013
Gabriel Bracero and Dmitriy Salita both made weight on Friday for their Saturday clash at the Aviator Complex in Brooklyn, a welterweight faceoff, which will have Brooklyn bragging rights up for grabs. Bracero, the Sunset Park, Brooklyn native who fell in with the wrong crowd, then became the wrong crowd, but righted himself after a jail stint, was 145 pounds.

The Flatbush resident Salita, who had a disappointing early night against in his debut on the megastage, against Amir Khan (TKO1 loss), in 2009, and has struggled to clamber back for another crack, was 147 pounds.

Lou DiBella will promote the card topped by the 22-1 Bracero and the 35-1-1 Salita. I expect to see a high volume scrap in this ten rounder, a distance fight, which I see as up for grabs. Salita has had good work in camp, heading to Detroit to get some Kronk nurturing from "Sugar" Hill, Emanuel Steward's nephew. Bracero has stuck local, with trainer Tommy Gallagher. But the way he's been talking has me wondering if his eye of the tiger isn't a shade fiercer.

"Woods, I'm not the fighter I was a year, or even six months ago," he's said. "I WANT this."

He said he gets it that the promoters and the networks reward heavy-duty aggression, and he knows a mere win isn't enough. He is seeking to put a stamp on it, a violent one, one that will leave a buzz bubbling among watchers and on Twitter days after. That is the way, he realizes, that he can scramble up some notches in the rankings, and get the sort of opportunity Salita had against Khan.

I expect the Aviator to enjoy one of the biggest and most electric crowds for boxing it has seen. Heather Hardy, formerly of Gerritsen Beach, now living in Williamsburg, puts her 6-0 record on the line against 4-3 Mexican Laura Gomez. Also, Charlie Ota, who makes Japan his home-base, puts his 23-1-1 mark up against 17-7 Mike Ruiz of Freeport, N.Y. Another local, a kid who puts butts in seats, Joe Smith (12-1), gloves up against Lamont Williams. of Cali. Phenom Junior Younan has his pro debut, against Ken Schmitz of St. Louis, as well.

I think so much of the card I'm DVRing HBO's triple-header tomorrow, for the record.

Bracero, Salita want to win impressively

October, 3, 2013
These sorts of fights should happen more, but don't, for various reasons. Money is probably top of the list why intra-borough, NYC-bragging-rights bouts like the Nov. 9 clash between 35-1-1 Dmitriy Salita of Flatbush and 22-1-1 Gabriel Bracero of Sunset Park don't occur but every so often.

Lou DiBella will stage the welterweight clash, which will unfold at the Aviator Complex in South Brooklyn, and will pay out of pocket decent money, the sort of checks that go to guy main eventers on ESPN's "Friday Night Fights." The joint should be sold out, as everyone who attended the Thursday presser at Marco Polo Ristorante in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn assured me, and will also feature DiBella boxers Heather Hardy, Shemuel Pagan, and debuting phenom Junior Younan, who is advised by James Prince, Andre Ward's advisor.

Bracero told me that he isn't interested in merely winning, but looking good, putting a conclusive stamp on the effort. "I've slacked off on knockouts because of my immaturity in the ring, a little too impatient, emotional, not planting when I'm throwing my punches. I've been working on all that stuff," said the 32-year-old boxer who is trained by Tommy Gallagher. "I'm going to punish Salita, and it's going to end in a KO."

Bracero, who has just four KOs to his credit, said he sparred with Salita two or three times in years past, and "it went good on my behalf." They've known each other since they were kids, but it doesn't seem like Bracero will go soft, as he struck me as being in a beast mode, a contained beast mode.

"We're two different people," he said, hinting that he owns a hunger to win that Salita doesn't. "I'm going to make a statement with my win. There's no ifs or buts. I have to make a statement. I have to make a statement for the promoters, for DiBella, for my team, for them to stay behind me."

Salita, age 31, told me that this is a must win for him. He said he respects Salita as a solid boxer, but...

But if he can't beat a Bracero, he can't continue to lobby for inclusion in the title talk with the A-grade guys at 147. "This is a high level crossroads fight," Salita told me. "After a win would come a world title opportunity, or something similar." And he agrees with Bracero, the manner in which he'd win is important. "I expect Gabe to come with it," he said. "I think it's going to be very spirited."

Bracero-Salita bout close

September, 26, 2013
A local grudge match is close to being finalized for Nov. 9 at the Aviation Complex in Brooklyn, pitting Brooklyners Gabriel Bracero and Dmitriy Salita against each other, a source tells NYFightBlog.

The card, which will feature the pro debut of Junior Younan, will be promoted by Lou DiBella.

Final monetary terms and max allowable weight are being finalized, the source said.

Sunset Park's Bracero (age 32), at 22-1, has been fighting at 140 pounds, while Flatbush resident Salita (age 31), with a 35-1 mark, fights at 147 pounds.

Junior Younan still loves boxing

September, 11, 2013
Tongues wagged when the story came out in the NY Times, on Feb. 5, 2006.

Accusatory fingers were pointed, the whispering campaign was intense and harsh condemnations were issued. Fair to say, there was no shortage of people ready to say "I told ya so" after reading about Junior Younan, who was 10 years old at the time. The Brooklyn boy was pushed in training by his father/trainer Sherif Younan Sr. Myriad critics predicted imminent burnout.

They read that dad had Junior would run miles on the treadmill. They read that the boy sometimes cried because the workout became too much. Dad said that he knew his son. Boxing was in his blood.

We would have to wait to see how this would play out down the line. Would the pressure to excel repel Younan Jr. from the sweet science?

Fast forward to today.

Far from being repelled from boxing, Junior's ardor for the game hasn't dimmed. If anything he seems to adore all elements of the sport even more. He told New York Times writer Geoffrey Gray, "I'm like Roy Jones Jr. and Floyd Mayweather Jr. combined"

"I feel in love with boxing," the now 17-year-old Junior told me, right after signing a contract to turn pro with NYC promoter Lou DiBella.

Junior's self-respect for his ring skills hasn't lessened, either. The teen, who lives with his dad in Bensonhurst, was asked to assess his skill set. How good are you, I wondered? "I'm not good, I'm great," said the teen, who turns 18 on Oct. 14.

His titles don't contradict him. With a 90-5 record, Younan won the National Junior Olympic championship in 2011, he is a nine-time Junior Olympic champion, a nine-time Junior Metro champion, an eight-time NY State Silver Gloves champion, a five-time Regional Silver Gloves champion, a four-time National Silver Gloves champion, a three-time Ringside World champion, a three-time National PAL champion and a two-time National Junior Golden Gloves champion.

His father recalls that his only child was in Gleason's when dad was readying to spar. The 15-month-old toddler pushed away a milk bottle, and crawled for some ratty headgear. He put it on his head, lopsided, and peered out through the ear hole. He had chosen his course. "I grew up in Gleason's," said Junior, whose nickname is "Sugar Boy," because of a past fondness for candy. "My second birthday was in the gym. I had a big cake with gloves on it."

Well wishers and opportunists have approached the kid, looking to join a posse, soak in the optimism and possible fortune on the horizon. But Junior says he's not falling for that, and doesn't see signing on with DiBella, and advisors James Prince and Josh Dubin, as a goal completed. It's more like a starting point. "It's not time to celebrate. The job is not even close to being done," he said. "I'm content for now, I will be happy when I'm world champion."

Neither Younan fired up an "I told ya so" to me in response to the 2006 bad buzz, which has dissipated. But one takeaway for me is clear. Dad was a stern tutor, and his methods seemed mad to many. But today, the path he cleared for Junior was the one both of them envisioned, not the one the critics railed would unfold.

I just wanted to make sure I did my due dilligence. I wanted to make very sure Junior has confounded the naysayers, isn't putting on a front, and is, in fact, in love with boxing.

Most of us are familiar with the age old deal where dad sees son as a future champ, in boxing, or tennis, or Nascar, and grinds down an original zest for competition, until the child is burnt out on the discipline, and walks away, nose turned up, headed for the shrink's couch and a lifetime's worth of wrestling with lingering resentment. I asked Junior, who has been boxing for 14 years, has he ever veered into burnout mode, considered quitting?

"You ever get burnt out on writing?" he countered, as sharply and effectively as anything Floyd Mayweather has ever thrown.