Bracero faces Salita in a battle for Brooklyn bragging rights (Photo by Ed Diller, DiBella Entertainment)
Written by John Archibald, Resolution Sports
Four years into the second round of his professional boxing campaign, Brooklyn welterweight Gabriel “Tito” Bracero (22-1, 4 KOs) is now just days away from the biggest fight of his career when he meets fellow Brooklynite Dmitriy Salita (35-1-1, 18 KOs) on Saturday night. The bout, which will be the main event of the latest installment of DiBella Entertainment’s Broadway Boxing series, will go down at the Aviator Sports Complex in the same borough that the two combatants call home.
“Training is already done. I’m at weight, and I’m just pretty much looking forward to Saturday,” Bracero confirmed. “I’m just looking forward to getting in there and performing. The hard work is done already. Now it’s time for the easy part, which is to go in there and have fun.”
Bracero has been a mainstay as the feature bout for Broadway Boxing over the years, but, with this battle for Brooklyn bragging rights on tap for this weekend, he says there is an extra emphasis that he is placing on the fight.
“It’s an exciting feeling, being in Brooklyn where all of my friends, family and fans can come out and support me,” he remarked. “I’m from Brooklyn, so it’s more of an honor than anything. I’m at the point right now in my career where I’m not the same fighter I was six months ago, a year ago. It doesn’t matter who they put in front of me. This is a big fight. Each fight is getting bigger and bigger, and my confidence is growing and growing. I’m ready for a fight like this. I’m ready to put on for Brooklyn. I’m ready to represent. I’m ready to let everybody know that I’m serious.
“Everybody has seen me grow through Broadway Boxing, even though I’m 32-years-old. I had a setback in life. Me being away and coming back, people had the chance to see me grow on Broadway Boxing. I’m excited and looking forward to going in there and performing Saturday because people are going to see a whole new Tito Bracero. I want to go in there Saturday and make a statement to let everybody know that I’m ready for bigger opportunities and more significant fights.”
The setback to which Bracero refers came in 2002. Undefeated in five professional contests at the time, he was sentenced to a prison term that saw him lose seven years of his boxing career, and, more importantly, seven years of his freedom.
“Boxing was a childhood dream of mine,” Bracero reflected. “When I was younger, boxing was just fun for me. I always had a dream of becoming a world champion, but, it was just fun for me when I was a kid. I wasn’t 100% dedicated. It was just fun, and I was good at it. I won tournaments. I won Golden Gloves. It was all fun to me. When I had that setback in life, it made me mature from being a boy to a man. It made me look at life in a different view. Growing up, I was always a hyper kid, running around. Whenever I was in the gym, I was happy, and I stayed out of trouble. But whenever I wasn’t in the gym, I was getting caught up in the streets.”
With the temptation of street life too much for him to overcome, Bracero seemingly saw his dreams and aspirations of being a boxing superstar diminish. However, it was behind prison walls that he made the personal decision to live his life differently, which eventually led to the more focused fighter and family man that he is today.
“When I was put away, it changed my life around,” he continued. “I always knew God’s Word. When I got locked up, I set my mind on turning my life around. Nothing could ever take away the pain and disappointment of knowing that I was put away, and I had disappointed my family and put them through unnecessary bullshit. I started to realize that the only friends I really had were my family. My family were the people who stood by me. When I was away, I was reading in magazines about people who used to box when I was younger and were doing their thing. It was truly a life changing experience. I was around people who were never, ever coming home in their lives again. So I knew that if I was given an opportunity, I was going to capitalize on it. I was already getting older, so I wasn’t going to have much time. What it did is make me come out here with a vengeance. I came out here with a hunger. I came out here determined.”
When he was released in 2009, promoter Lou DiBella recognized the newfound determination that Bracero had within him, and he started placing him on his Broadway Boxing cards. The reformed Puerto Rican fighter did not disappoint, railing off win after win on the series until suffering his only professional setback in a decision loss to former world title challenger DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in January of 2012. Much like the setback in his personal life, Bracero overcame it and returned with three consecutive victories to close out the year, also winning his lone bout of 2013 as well.
“If you told me no, I’m going to tell you yeah. If you told me it was impossible, I was going to show you it was possible,” Bracero said of his perseverance. “God is good. This boxing has saved my life. Boxing has become my outlet. Boxing is my meal ticket, and God gave me that as a gift. This was my calling, and I couldn’t let it slip out of my hands again. I’m fortunate to be able to come back and be given a second chance in life. It made me realize that I have a purpose in life, and this is a gift and an opportunity that not too many get. Ever since that, I’ve just been focused 100%.”
That focus has enabled Bracero to reach the level that he is currently sitting, both professionally and personally. He knows that a major opportunity is in front of him on Saturday night, with a win over a fellow welterweight contender truly placing him into the conversation among the top challengers in the division. That outcome would also bear some significantly positive benefits for his family as well.
“I have a dream, you know? Where I come from, not too many people make it,” he stated. “I have a dream that I’m making a reality. It’s crazy how I touch lives. Kids see me on TV. People run up to me and want autographs and pictures, but I’m just the same Tito from around the way. To accomplish those things is amazing. I have a fan base. When my fan base goes to my fights, they yell, they scream. They go crazy. My fan base believes in me, and they back me up 100%. Every time I accomplish a dream, my fan base is there accomplishing that dream with me.
“I just want to be a success story. Once I become champion of the world and I get up there, it’s going to send a wave through kids everywhere. Everybody who knows me, knows that I’m a humble guy, a regular guy. It’s going to turn a wave of people who believe in dream chasing. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how many times you’ve been set back in life. You have to believe in yourself. Anything you believe in, you can accomplish. I want to be that success story that when kids see me, they’re going to be motivated to do the same thing, whether it be to become a boxer, play another sport or anything else. Anything they put their mind to, they can accomplish. I’m living proof of that.”
Tickets for Saturday’s Broadway Boxing are currently on sale at price points of $125, $85, $65 and $45, and they can be purchased by calling the DiBella Entertainment office at (212) 947-2577.