By Tom Gallagher
Niagara Gazette — Drew Graziadei isn't looking past anybody when the 2013 New York State Golden Gloves Tournament kicks off today at The Tralf in downtown Buffalo.
Graziadei, winner of the 2012 super heavyweight open-division title, is focused on one match – his first bout of the tournament.
"I’m not looking over anybody and I’m not thinking about anything but this fight," he said. "I’m not thinking about the next round, just about this first fight and my opponent, who’s not a slouch whatsoever.”
Graziadei, who has trained with Casal's Boxing Club for nearly five years, is slated to compete against Patrick Thompson of WNY Mixed Martial Arts and Fitness in the tournament's opening round. Despite training at different gyms, Graziadei said that he's familiar with Thompson in and out of the boxing ring.
"We're kind of friends," he said. "I've seen him fight plenty of times. He's like me and has been into kickboxing and mixed martial arts as well as boxing so he's been around.
"It should be a really good fight, especially since I know him and know what he has to offer."
Ray Casal, owner of Casal's, noted that Graziadei's fight is important to the both of them. Last year, Graziadei suffered a hamstring injury and was unable to participate in nationals. Their goal is for Graziadei to win the title once more and compete in the national tournament in Salt Lake City this May.
"(Graziadei) wants nationals this year to show what he can do and go pro in the summer," Casal said. "He's strong, accurate and he knocks people out."
Other Casal's trainees with fights scheduled today include Nolan Smith, who will fight in the novice division and Joe Tardibuono, who will square off against St. Martin's Najar Sanford, also in a novice fight.
Defending women's open-division champion Brianna Smith will face Inspire's Mikiah Kreps in a female open-division match.
"Brianna has only had a couple fights so the women's golden gloves is a good chance for her to get some experience," Casal said. "I'm excited for her. She's real strong – what she lacks in skill she makes up for in toughness and strength."
As for Graziadei, he expects a well-rounded tournament and had a message for his super-heavyweight opponents.
"It’s a new tourney with fresh faces and awesome talent," he said. "I can’t overlook anyone and anything can happen. But they do have to get by me, and I wish them the best of luck."
The first of today's 34 fights begins at 5 p.m. Doors open at 4:30 p.m.