All photos by Marilyn Paulino/RBRBoxing
Gabriel Bracero lives a few short blocks away from the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, but he might as well live a world away since that’s exactly how far he has traveled to put himself in a position to fight Olympic gold medalist Felix Diaz (16-0, 8 KOs) Saturday night on the undercard of the Danny Garcia-Lamont Peterson main event on NBC as part of the Premier Boxing Champions series.
Bracero (23-1, 4 KOs) was actually supposed to fight Garcia last year before Garcia’s camp settled on Rod Salka instead.
“Garcia was just getting over the [Mauricio] Herrera fight and I think his nose was broken,” Bracero said. “They wanted a tune-up fight for him and I don’t think I was the tune-up fight they were looking for.”
Bracero feels Garcia and his camp did consider him because of his low knockout percentage before realizing it would not be an easy fight for him to take.
“I’m not the best fighter in the world,” Bracero adds, “But I’m a tough you know what. If I fought Danny Garcia I would have fought my heart out and his people chose to take the safest route so they gave me a step aside check. I took that money and took my family on vacation.”
Bracero was disappointed the fight was taken away and took it hard.
“It was a low blow. Especially because of how hard I trained and I had to wait and wait and wait.”
Now Bracero is solely focused on the task at hand, which is his current opponent, Diaz.
“There’s nothing I’m more focused on in my life than Felix Diaz,” says Bracero. “There are days I don’t even speak to my wife and kids because he is the only thing standing in the way of me and a title shot.”
Bracero has watched tapes on his southpaw opponent and knows exactly what he is up against with the Olympian from the Dominican Republic.
“He tries to be slick like [Hector] Macho Camacho, not really a high volume puncher,” says Bracero. I was supposed to fight Danny Garcia and Andre Berto last year and Diaz isn’t either of those fighters. I am going to hurt him on Saturday night and all my fans will get to see it.”
Bracero’s only professional loss was against Demarcus “Chop Chop” Corley in 2012 and Bracero admits he didn’t do himself any favors in the camp leading up to the fight.
“I went through a bad experience during training for Chop Chop. I spent four hours in the steam room the day of weigh in because I needed to lose four pounds,” recalls Bracero.
“I was depleted during the fight. I wasn’t myself and when he knocked me down I knew I couldn’t let him do that to me. It was my heart that kept me in the fight. That was my will power that knocked him down. If it was a 12 round fight I think I would have pulled off a draw I think.”
Bracero likes that opponents take his small amount of knockouts for granted and believes it works in his favor.
“Let them believe I don’t have any power, then I will come with my straight right hand.”
Bracero’s dream was nearly derailed as he served six years in prison for crimes he is certainly not proud of today.
“My biggest regret is the pain I caused my family. I am 100 percent remorseful for everything I did,” says Bracero. “But prison helped me go from a boy to a man. Back then I had one foot in the gym and one foot in the streets.”
Bracero is taking this second chance and running with it. His last fight was in November 2013 when he won an unanimous 10-round decision over fellow Brooklyn fighter, Dmitriy Salita.
Although he didn’t get the big fight he wanted immediately after that win, Bracero credits his strong faith as his way of staying motivated and physically fit for when the next opportunity would come. Bracero always believed that another door would open after one closed, and then came Diaz.
“We’re just excited this guy wants to fight us. We sat for 14 months waiting on Garcia and he didn’t want to fight us, says Tommy Gallagher, Bracero’s trainer and manager.
There’s pressure of fighting in Brooklyn and pressure that a win would put Bracero front and center for a world title shot, but Bracero would hear none of that.
“There’s no pressure because this is my destiny,” says Bracero. “I am chasing my dream and I’m so close. I’m about to become a success story.”
Garcia has hinted that he will move up to 147 for his next fight, which would mean he would vacate his 140 pound titles, opening up a mandatory fight for the vacant title and Bracero’s name will surely be in the mix.
Regardless of titles, Gabriel Bracero is already a success story.