- Michael Woods, Boxing
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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.