By Phil Doherty
Boxers well know the dangers awaiting them within the blink of an eye. They depend on their managers, promoters and especially trainers to prepare them to face (and to overcome) the unknown. But who does a boxing trainer turn to when caught off guard with a professional one-two shot? Ask Florida Boxing Hall of Fame and former Don King Promotions trainer and matchmaker Al Bonanni–he’ll give it to you straight with no punches pulled.
Bonanni –who’s trained or co-trained eleven world champions over the years– faced a “Thunder”clap last fall when former IBF World light heavyweight Tavoris Cloud suddenly let him go. A stunned Bonanni suffered yet another blow weeks later when Don King cut him loose in December. Depressed, he retreated from society, locking himself in his bedroom for over a day. The Italian-born Bonanni admitted: “I didn’t shave or bathe for twenty-four hours; I prayed a lot using my mom and my former wife’s old prayer books.”
“I’d lost my fighter and my job within weeks of each other. It was tough.” Bonanni explains. “I don’t have any animosity towards Don; we’d been friends for thirty four years. I just don’t like the way our professional relationship ended.”
However, much like the brave men he trains years after learning his craft from the legendary Al Braverman, Bonanni got up, cleaned up and started scrapping again.
He reformed Tiburon Promotions, the boxing promotional company he’d run with his father, uncle and dearly departed wife Laura. Then he reached out to The Miami Jai Alai Casino, where he’d first started promoting cards in the sixties and seventies.
He explains: “There are a lot of people in the business that can acquire money but it’s tougher for me. Maybe it’s my name, maybe my former affiliation with Don King Promotions, but I had to borrow the money. I give a lot of credit to Casino Miami Jai Alai and CEO Dan Licciardi for stepping up.”
Fittingly titled “The Homecoming,” Bonanni intends the April 6th card to reflect his return to local promotions, but also a return to the old school style of promoting the event, not the fighters.
Bonanni says: “I want to showcase young hungry fighters to bring back the glory days of Miami Jai Alai where so many greats started their careers. Guys like Lupe Pintor, Miguel “Happy” Lora, “Sugar Baby” Rojas and Randall Bailey.” When asked what motivates him to push forward despite his recent setbacks, Bonanni confides: “There’s only a select few that become wealthy in boxing, the rest of the pack are starving: managers, trainers and fighters.
“I’ve been very lucky as I’ve always been the middle-class guy and that’s very rare. But believe me if I had another skill, I would use it. Boxing is all I know.”
Then, with a knowing look in his eye, Bonanni leans over and says: “Boxing is like a woman. You love her but you never know how she’s gonna treat you.”
The 10 round main-event will be a cruiserweight battle between the “Haitian Hitman” Azea Augustama (13-1, 8 KO) and rugged veteran Paul Jennette.
There will be six other bouts, highlighted by “The Jewish Dragon” Hunter Levy Sundberg, who is trained by Stacy McKinley, in a four round junior welterweight attraction against Jose Rivera of Puerto Rico. Also, Stan “The Iron Man” Staniclasse, a former amateur standout from Boynton Beach, tries to improve his record to 4-0 with 4 KO when he takes on Jerrod Caldwell (2-1, 1 KO) from Gainesville. Two-time Olympian and 2008 bronze medalist Kanat Islam, of Kazakhstan, is also scheduled to appear on the card. The Chinese born Islam is a perfect 8-0, 8 KO as a pro.
Ticket prices: $17.50 general admission, $35 ringside, and $75 VIP Ringside.
To purchase tickets call the Casino Miami Jai-Alai at 305-633-6400.