WINTER HAVEN – Six Winter Haven area athletes returned home as state champions after winning their weight classes at the 2018 Florida Police Athletic League Boxing Championships in Palatka last weekend.

Zee Zamora Jr., 12 of Winter Haven won his fourth state championship in a row and Auburndale resident Devine Erazo,13, won his second straight championship. Rufino Cabrera, 10 of Davenport, Abdin Lopez, 11 of Kissimmee, Brandon Moore, 24 of Winter Haven, and Juan Diego, 14 of Polk County all won their first state championships.

The local champs, and around 20 other athletes will be boxing in a ring set up near the tiki bar at Tanner’s Lakeside Saturday. “North Versus South: Battle on the Chain” will be the first organized boxing event in Winter Haven in around 20 years said organizer Zee Zamora, Zee Jr’s father.

“We’re trying to get back to our roots,” Zamora said.

Winter Haven boxing legend and Florida Boxing Hall of Fame inductee Jack Leonard passed to a better life around a decade ago but his legacy lives on. The late Jack Leonard put Winter Haven on the boxing map by training boxers such as Andre Berto, a home-grown athlete who got his start at the now closed Winter Haven Police Athletic League gym in Florence Villa. Berto went on to earn two welterweight championships under the training of Leonard and Tony Morgan, who took over the Winter Haven PAL boxing program in 1995.

Marco Fazzini bought the boxing gym when Morgan retired and Winter Haven PAL disbanded. Fazzini renamed the gym Group Winter Haven Boxing with co-owner Zee Zamora a few years ago. Since then, boxing in Winter Haven has been ongoing but done quietly in the Inwood community on Avenue G just west of Lake Howard in a very small facility.

For the past few months, Fazzini and Zamora have been organizing “North versus South: Battle on the Chain” in part to raise money to finish moving into a larger facility on Avenue G they recently moved into. Boxers from Key West to Pensacola are coming to Winter Haven will either represent local boxing chapters from north or south Florida. The team that gets the most wins takes the trophy home for bragging rights. Zamora is hoping the annual bragging rights competition will take place in Winter Haven every year from here forward since it is so centrally located. Winter Haven represents north Florida.

VIP seats are $40 and include tables and easier access to the bar and restaurant. General admission seating is $20. Children under 10 cost $10.

Zamora said once fixed up, their new gym will have three times the space to serve area residents, many of which are young adults from struggling households who treat Marco and Zee as father figures.

“This is going to be a fun, exciting event,” Zamora said. “As soon as you hear that ding and these kids are going at it, you’re going to say, ‘These kids are skilled.’”

The event is being sponsored by DK Concrete, Carson Consulting and Development and Bountiful Lands, a Fazzini Corporation. Winter Haven resident Melanie Brown helped Zamora and Fazzini organize the event.

The weigh in starts at 10 a.m. and the event will be kid-friendly, with inflatable bounce house and water slide, plus a Kid Zone and music by Hype Entertainment. Mike Lee from 98.3 The Max will host some of the action which will start at around 2 p.m. and finish up around 8 p.m.

Zamora said nine Winter Haven boxers will be featured throughout the event.

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