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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A young boxer who will be fighting Saturday night at The Met Philadelphia has become an inspiration to many. Branden Pizarro is succeeding inside the ring and out, after enduring tough times with his father.
“We’re just warriors at the end of the day,” said Pizarro. “When you hear they’re from North Philly, you’re in trouble that night.”
Pizarro is the next boxing star to answer the bell from Philadelphia.
“I tried basketball, I tried football. I just always remained in boxing and I knew at 10, 11 years old that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” said Pizarro.
He won his first pro fight in 28 seconds when he was 16 years old, between math and home economics classes at Swenson Arts and Technology High School in Northeast Philadelphia.
“So, I’m like, ‘Damn, I’m a pro athlete. I’m fighting grown men, but I’m still taking the bus to school,'” recalled Pizarro.
However, the journey he’s shared with his father, Angel Pizarro, is far from a fairy-tale.
“When this happened to me, it was the worst thing that ever happened to me in my life,” said Angel Pizarro. “I almost got killed.”
The elder Pizarro was mugged by two men while cashing a check from his construction job. They broke his jaw, broke his arm, and injured three discs in his back. Since he was unable to work, he was forced to sell his home and move into his mother’s one-bedroom apartment.
Branden Pizarro took the mattress while his father took the floor.
With no money and no home, their struggle reached a breaking point at a food court.
“I asked him, I sad, ‘Bro, why you covering your nose and mouth? You OK?’ We got into the truck, he said, ‘Dad, the reason I did that is because I know you don’t have no money and I’m starving, man. I didn’t want to look or smell that food.’ That killed me,” said Angel Pizarro.
Ten days after his 16th birthday, Branden Pizarro signed his first professional contract to help his father pay bills, but he continued thriving in the classroom. He graduated high school last year with a 4.0 GPA, while fighting 70 times as an amateur.
“It hit me more when he was walking to take that stage [for graduation] than it did him walking up the ring for the first time,” said Angel Pizarro. “Because it’s something I couldn’t accomplish.”
Now, Branden Pizarro is 13-1 as a pro fighter and bought his own gym in Kensington, called The Gift. It’s Angel Pizarro’s nickname to his son, his trainee and best friend.
“People don’t have their fathers, a lot of people don’t have their fathers,” said Branden Pizarro. “I wish people could have the relationship that my father and I have, honestly.”
“That’s why we are so bonded the way we are, we don’t have no secrets man,” said Angel Pizarro. “It doesn’t matter what it is, we have no secrets at all.”
Branden Pizarro will fight Feb. 23 at The Philadelphia Met in his 15th professional bout. His dad will be in his corner as he’s always been.