By John J. Raspanti
Undefeated Chicago heavyweight David Latoria began his fistic career at 13. His first trainer was former boxer Rocky Difazio who taught the youngster the basics of the sweet science.
Difazio wasn’t interested in cute stuff. He wanted fighters.
“He (Difazio) was a rough and tumble guy,” Latoria told this writer on the phone a few days ago. “I learned at an early age to fight in a style that wasn’t comparable to the amateurs.”
In high school, Latoria continued to box, but also excelled in other sports. He accepted a football scholarship at Saint Francis University in Joliet, Ill.
Latoria ended his football career when he graduated with a degree in business. Then it was back to the gym.
“I had gained a lot weight,” Latoria said. “I was still sparring, but I needed to get back in shape to fight again.” Latoria hooked up with former Chicago amateur standout and trainer Peter George.
Soon after, Latoria’s career took off.
He captured the top prize at both the 2008 and 2009 Chicago Golden Gloves tournament.
The following year he lost a disputed decision to current world ranked heavyweight, Bryant Jennings.
“I thought I won, I really did,” said Latoria. “He was a tough strong guy. No shame. He’s a guy I’d like to fight again.”
Latoria went the professional route in 2009--scoring two sensational first round knockouts. The Windy City was buzzing with talk of the new heavyweight.
“Two guys in particular that I tried to emulate are former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield, and undefeated heavyweight Joe Mesi,” Latoria said. “I always looked up to Holyfield.”
Fight fans love action, and Latoria was giving it to them. He was victorious in his next eight bouts until life got in the way.
“I was hired by the Rosemont Police Department,” Latoria said. “The smartest thing I’ve ever done. It was a great opportunity for my family,” added the father of two.
Putting his boxing career on hold, Latoria spent the next three and a half years training for his profession.
“I work for the best Police and Public safety department in the country,” said Latoria. “When I returned to boxing, they completely supported me."
After a four-year break, Latoria, with George back as his trainer, shook off the rust and defeated Francois Russell last June. He returns to the ring October 8th against fellow undefeated heavyweight Jabir Abdul Basit.
Trainer George is very high on his charge.
“David has great potential to make some noise in the heavyweight division,” George said.” He’s a natural athlete. He can punch. He can take a shot. And most importantly, he’s got a heart as big as Texas. I’m confident that he will succeed to the next level.”
As much as he likes to fight, Latoria also considers himself a thinking man’s fighter.
“I’m a boxer-puncher,” said Latoria. “I do certain things. I try to lead guys into my punches. Kinda like a counterpuncher does," he said. "I switch from orthodox to southpaw for a round or two. I like to keep guys off-balance. I hit guys from different angles.
“Being a boxer is like being a baseball pitcher. You can be the biggest, strongest guy. You can throw a one-hundred-mile fastball, but if that’s all you do, eventually guys are going to start to time you," said Latoria. "I like to throw punches from different speeds, just like a baseball pitcher.”
Having two full-time jobs is a challenge for the 34-year-old.
“Psychologically, I try and compartmentalize everything,” said Latoria. “When I’m at my job with the police, I don’t even think about boxing. The only time I think about boxing is when I go for my run during lunch break. Rosemont Police officers work twelve hour shifts.
“I come home, hang out with my wife and kids for about an hour, and go to the gym. I work out at a gym in Chicago. It’s about a forty-minute drive. It’s a long day. There are times during my workout, especially at night, I think, “I am tired.”
Latoria realizes that his time is now.
“I’m hungry,” Latoria said. “This is it for me. I’m thirty-four years old. There’s some things on the horizon for me. I have to win this fight to gain credibility. I don’t fight for me; I fight for my family. I take everything personal. My opponent is trying to take everything I have.”
Quiting is not a word that Latoria understands.
“I’ve been knocked down, but you know when I’ll stop fighting?”asked Latoria. “When I’m not conscious. If I can get up, I will. If I’m hurt, I don’t care. I will fight. No way you’re taking everything from me. I’m not thinking about money. I’m fighting for my life.”