By Phil Doherty
Photos by Sam Cohen
Pugilistic Promotions proudly welcomed assembled media, fight teams, and friends to the upscale Italian restaurant, Randazzo’s, in Coral Gables today to announce this Friday night’s fight card. The event served an enthusiastic secondary purpose: the announcement of promoter Ramiro Ortiz’s pending induction to the Florida Boxing Hall-of-Fame.
This is the third installment of Pugilistic Promotions Badia Spices “Friday Night Fight” series at Miami’s Magic City Casino. The impressive match-ups demonstrate matchmaker Richard Dobal’s commitment to provide local fight fans the most “bang” for their buck. Indeed, eight undefeated fighters will risk their unbeaten status; some of them head-to-head. Mr. Ortiz could not conceal his enthusiasm for the entire card, confiding to Fightnews, “In the main event, somebody’s got to lose their zero… As a fight fan, these are fights I can’t wait to see.”
The main event features undefeated light heavyweight Azea Augustama (9-0, 6 KOs) against fellow undefeated fighter Denis “The Pirate” Grachev (8-0-1, 5 KOs). The rugged Russian-born Grachev fights a multitude of disciplines including boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Augustama boasts an impressive amateur career including the 2008 National Golden Gloves title and the representation of Haiti in the Olympic Games the same year. Augustama praised Grachev for “stepping up to take this fight” but cautioned: ”I heard of his (Grachev’s) Muay Thai and kickboxing experience. Whatever his forté is, my forté is boxing and this fight’s gonna come down to who’s the better boxer.”
Augustama appeared in fighting trim and good spirits despite the admitted disappointment of his last scheduled bout against Colombian veteran Epifanio Mendoza. (30-10-1, 26 KOs) Augustama found himself without a fight last December at the Seminole Hard Rock when Mendoza left the country unexpectedly and unannounced just hours prior to the weigh-in. Augustama confirmed that, “Although the last fight was a complete disappointment that took some of the spirit out of the Holidays,” he was immediately prepared to, “Step in and see what Grachev has.”
The future appears very bright indeed for Augustama with an IBO Latin American light heavyweight opportunity possibly looming as early as March. Augustama admitted a desire to stay busy and fight, “At least six times this year.”
The talent-laden undercard features local junior welterweight Xavier “X-Factor” Burgos (6-1, 2 KOs) against Ray Betancourt (8-5, 3 KOs) from nearby Boca Raton. “X-Factor” looks to bring his vocal fans another crowd-pleasing performance similar to last November’s TKO victory against Mexican Mario Galan (4-6, 3 KOs). Burgos noted, “When a guy comes at me, that makes it easier for me to land my punches…this guy’s tough, he comes forward and if he can take my punches I’ll just keep chipping away until he goes.”
Noteworthy Cuban prospects in action include lightweight Puro Pairol (2-0-1, 1 KO), heavyweight Glendys Hernandez (3-0, 1 KO) cruiserweight Yunieski Gonzalez (1-0, 1 KO) and lightweight Larry Yanez (0-1).
Puerto Rican puncher Wilson Feliciano (1-0, 1 KO) rounds out the card looking for his second professional victory.
Promoter Ramiro Ortiz’s personal investment in boxing continues to yield the esteemed Cuban-American dividends almost five decades after falling in love with the sport. Ortiz haunted the hallowed 5th St Gym along with fellow Florida Boxing Hall of Famer and Pugilistic Promotions partner and historian, Enrique Encinosa. It was invaluable instruction for his ascent through the ranks.
Ortiz’s résumé includes stints as amateur boxer, boxing historian, promoter and chairman of the Florida Boxing Commission. Amazingly, Ortiz achieved such heights “moonlighting” in boxing while enjoying a successful full-time banking career as president of SunTrust and subsequently BankUnited.
During this incredible ride, Ortiz became close friends with legendary boxing historian Hank Kaplan. The two promoted highly entertaining and competitive bouts in Ft Lauderdale during the early 1980’s under the same “Pugilistic Promotions” banner.
Mr. Ortiz reflected on his induction: “It’s a thrill beyond words to be recognized by my peers…that 40 years worth of work, of passion, has not gone unnoticed. It’s truly a thrill beyond words.”
The official announcement of the 2011 Florida Boxing Hall of Fame induction class will take place this Saturday at the grand re-opening of the SJC Boxing Gym in Ft Myers.
Fans may also view inductees at the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame website: www.floridaboxinghalloffame.com.
Tickets for Badia Spices “Friday Night Fights: Augustama vs. Grachev” start at just $15 and are available at the box office, by calling (305) 460-6579 or online at www.magiccitycasino.com.