Drew Graziadei has experienced success on the gridiron, in the shot put circle and even in the cage.
Now, though, it’s the boxing ring that has become the behemoth’s home.
The former Sweet Home football and weight throwing standout dabbled in mixed-martial arts with a few amateur bouts before taking his talents to the ring, highlighted by tonight’s matchup with Eric Rogers of the Northwest Community Center at the Statler City Golden Ballroom.
The contest is for the super heavyweight open division title of the New York State Golden Gloves Tournament.
The winner will advance to the national tournament beginning April 30 in Mesquite, Nev.
“There is no one left in the heavyweight division in America because all the big guys are going to football, basketball and even MMA now,” the 23-year old said after a recent workout at Casal’s Boxing Cub. “I did the opposite. I went from football and MMA to boxing because I think there is a chance for me to do some real big things.”
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Graziadei got into the fighting arts through the Empire Academy in Rochester, which is run by one of Ray Casal’s former coaches.
The Amherst resident then transferred his fighting training to Casal’s, while incorporating olympic-style weightlifting at Gill’s Personal Training in Clarence.
“This kid made a choice to be serious about this,” Ray Casal said. “He’s a straight-action fighter — a true puncher. He’s got a hell of a right. Anybody he’s ever hit with it, he’s hurt. I have a lot of confidence in him. This is his time.”
And after beating a much more experienced fighter in the previous round of the tournament, Grazaidei has that same bravado about him.
“The last kid I fought had over (60) fights and he threw a beating on me for a while, but I took it and gave it right back and then some,” he said. “I’ve realized that boxing guys are a little more crisp than MMA guys. I wanted that test, though. I believe I’m ready for this. Sometimes you just have to go in there and see what you’re made of.”
Besides a weight advantage of nearly 40 pounds, Grazaidei may also have the edge in the crowd, despite the bout taking place in Rogers’ backyard.
“One thing I always have is one of the biggest crowds,” he said. “I guarantee my friends and family are the loudest ones there. They’ll be ready to tear the roof off.”
On the undercard, Eugene Marchenko of Casal’s will fight in a matched bout.