By Mariano A. Agmi
Photos: Marty Rosengarten/RingsidePhotos.com
On Wednesday, October 6th, junior welterweight New Yorican Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (11-0, 1 KO) headlines DiBella Entertainment’s “Broadway Boxing” at the BB King’s Blues Club in Times Square, NYC.
The Sunset Park, Brooklyn native returns from his most impressive performance to date, a four round thrashing of Ray Betancourt for his first career KO to face Terry Buterbagh, who returns to NYC following an upset of New Yorker Tommy Rainone at Yankee Stadium in June.
Tito, for fans outside of NYC who haven’t seen you, tell me a little about yourself.
I’ve been boxing since 9 years old. Boxing is a dream of mine. I’m a golden gloves champion and a junior Olympic champion. I had a good amateur record. Growing up, I got sidetracked: you know, hanging with knuckleheads, making the wrong decisions and getting into trouble. A lot of friends that I grew up had success in boxing, so within the past two years, I made it my responsibility to dedicate myself to boxing and to make a career out of it.
What other NYC area boxers did you come up with?
I came up with Paulie Malignaggi, Luis Collazo, Gary Stark Jr., we all won the Golden Gloves together. Paulie won the Golden Gloves at 132, I was at 139 and Luis Collazo was at 147, so we always came up around each other. Winning national tournaments together but the only thing is that I was being a knucklehead so a lot of people didn’t get to hear about me. Boxing was a dream that I never let go of, and now that’s my full time job, that’s my passion. I’m dedicated to it. My goal right now is to catch up to what those other guys have done.
You have an exciting, volume punching style, but the knock on you has been that you don’t have any power. That wasn’t so in your last bout – why is that?
I’m a stick and move fighter, and I’d been out of the ring a while, so I still had an amateur style where I’m throwing punches and I’m moving out of the way too fast, so I’ve been working with a strength and conditioning coach to help me sit down on my punches. What happened was that I was standing up too much on my punches so when I’m throwing them, I don’t have that much power on them. I’ve been practicing on slowing down my punches a little bit, sitting down more and turning my body with the punches, so now my punches are more powerful and they’re more effective.
In my last fight, I was more patient, taking my time and sitting down on my punches, and everything worked for me. I always had the power; I just wasn’t always using it. I’ve been working with John Schaefer, who runs Winning Factor. He’s an Olympic strength and conditioning trainer. He’s been teaching me a lot of new training techniques that I wasn’t aware of.
How long have you been training with Tommy Gallagher?
I turned pro with Tommy Gallagher in 2001. He’s been by my side since day one. He’s family. He brings me the experience that he has. He’s been around so many fighters and he’s been around boxing for such a long time that he not only helps me with my boxing, but he also guides me and teaches me a lot about the business of boxing.
You have a very loyal following in NYC. When you fight, even if it’s on the undercard, I see the red “Tito Bracero” t-shirts everywhere. Why is that?
A lot of my loyal fans are my friends and family, and they’ve been by me since day one and they’ve always been part of my boxing career because they knew I was good. As I overcame obstacles and had some accomplishments, they were behind me and it helped all of us. To have a friend coming up trying to make it in this world, we all encourage each other. So it’s a bunch of friends and family that support and motivate each other. I’m loyal to my fans too, so thank God that my fans feel that when I’m in the ring, they’re in the ring with me. It makes it fun for them and me.
As a matter of fact, I just finished driving around, handing out brand new “Tito Bracero” shirts. A lot of tickets were sold, so wait until you see the crowd this time.
You alluded to taking some time off earlier. There’s a 7 year gap in your career, from 2002-2009. What happened during that time?
Me being a knucklehead, I got sidetracked and in trouble, so I took an unexpected “vacation,” a time away where it cost me my freedom for a while. So I had to overcome, I had to grow up during those years and mature from a kid to a grown man. Even with my time away, I always stayed faithful to boxing, so my main goal was the day that I got back and got the chance to get right back into boxing, I was going to do it. Thank God that with Tommy’s help and Lou DiBella getting me fights, everything that I dreamed of came true, so I’m living my dream.
So you kept in shape while you were away?
It was like the Bernard Hopkins story, you know? I went away, and every night when I went to sleep, I prayed for the day when I could get back into boxing. I treated every day like I was getting ready for a boxing fight, keeping the dream alive and staying disciplined and looking forward to what I’m doing now. Only difference is that I have to move faster than the next man to try to make up for lost time.
If you could script your career, what would you accomplish and is there anyone in particular that you’d like to match your skills against?
As of right now, I think I have a good team and I leave my future to Tommy Gallagher and Lou DiBella to guide me in the right direction. I’m still getting this rust off from the years I took off. I’ve been boxing since I was a kid, so I have a lot of natural talent. In the next 6 or 7 fights, we’re going to start taking on harder competition and getting into the rankings. Eventually I want to start fighting names that make sense that will help me move forward in my career.
For now I don’t want to jump ahead; I want to put myself in the position where I can challenge the best. I want to be the best that I can be. Whoever I get in the ring with, I’m confident in myself that win or lose, I’m gonna make any fighter I face respect me. They’re gonna feel that this kid Tito is serious and he’s good. At the end of my career, I want to make sure that I make some money and can provide for my family.
What do you know about your opponent on Wednesday night?
I know that he beat a friend of mine, Tommy Rainone, at Yankee Stadium this summer. Other than that I don’t know much about him but I’m prepared for anything on Wednesday night.
When and why did you start boxing?
My father grew up in boxing. He was a professional boxer and he came up with Juan LaPorte, and we were all very close. I grew up around boxing. Everyone around me was either a boxer or was involved in the boxing business. When I was growing up, 5-7 years old, I used to get into a lot of trouble. I was a bully, I loved fighting and it got to the point where my father said that it was time for me to go to the boxing gym. Ever since I was 9 years old, boxing has been a part of my life.
Who was your toughest opponent to date and why?
My toughest opponent must have been Winston Mathis, but only because I made it hard for myself. I smothered myself, I let him head butt me. I suffered a cut in my eye, and I was bleeding into my eye. I had to fight while wiping my eyes from round one. It was a good experience because I had to fight through the blood. It actually motivated me to fight harder and get the win.
Who is your all-time favorite boxer?
I love fighters that put on shows. I loved watching Hector “Macho” Camacho when I was a kid. Every time he jumped in the ring he was putting on a show, and that made me laugh and put a smile on my face. You have to keep this sport fun, you have to be able to go in there and have some fun.
I also liked Juan LaPorte as a fighter, he was a good Puerto Rican champion and I knew him and looked up to him. I loved Felix Trinidad, he was a warrior. These are fighters that no matter if they win or lose, you respect them and you like to see them fight. Just like Miguel Cotto, I love to see him fight too. He is a gentleman, he can lose a fight, shake your hand and it’s all business. But they go in there and they fight their heart out.
Any final words for your fans?
I want to thank everybody for their support. I want everyone to stay looking out for me because I am a devoted fighter and I promise all of my fans that when they see me fight, I will fight my heart out and put on the best show possible.
I want my time to shine, and I feel that my time is now, so everything from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, it’s all boxing. It’s not like when I was younger, my time is now and I have to shine while I can.