Medley Town Attorney Michael Pizzi is taking a Spartan approach to raise money for charity by throwing blows with Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez inside an octagon.
“We are going into the cage,” said Pizzi, 50, who is also the mayor of Miami Lakes and said he was known on the streets of New York growing up as the “Brooklyn Brawler.”
Pizzi will go toe-to-toe with Hernandez, 51, a former police officer and martial arts expert, on Aug. 16 at Milander Auditorium in Hialeah.
Nearly 2,000 people are expected to watch the event live, according to Pizzi, and tickets will be going on sale soon.
To prepare for the match, Pizzi reached out to a friend, Tom Tew, who put him in touch with Menelaos “Mickey” Demos Jr., 48, a nationally respected boxing trainer with three decades of experience.
“This is a very worthy thing that the mayors are doing,” said Tew, a lawyer who specializes in municipal law. “But you really have to be in shape.”
Tew told Pizzi that if he commits, Demos would help train and get him ready for the big fight.
About five years ago, Tew received boxing training from Demos and was so impressed with his skills that the two joined forces in 2009 to open Biscayne Boxing & Fitness Club, a popular training gym in Miami.
“Pizzi is training four times a week,” said Demos, who has won seven state amateur titles, four gold medals in the Junior Olympics and currently serves as the head boxing coach for the University of Miami.
Pizzi was quickly put on a diet that includes protein shakes, lean chicken and vegetables to help trim his 5-foot 8-inch, 250-pound frame. His training starts at 6 a.m. and includes push-ups, punching the bag and sparring in the ring.
“The first round is going to be boxing and the second and third rounds will be purely MMA,” said Pizzi, who added that one of the biggest challenges so far was giving up bread and soda.
“We are training Pizzi to win,” said Demos, a powerhouse who weighs 140 pounds, bench-presses more than 300 pounds and has a long record of training champions.
Last month, one of his students, Courtney “CJ” Jackson, a pre-med student at UM, knocked out his opponent in San Francisco to win the national intercollegiate welterweight title.
Demos said that he draws inspiration from his father, Menelaos “Mickey” Demos Sr., who never stopped learning new skills and became a medical doctor, a lawyer and a pilot.
Demos Sr., a boxing champion inducted in 1980 into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame, retired 10 years ago and moved to Greece. He has recently published a book called, “Life in Mani Today — The Road to Freedom.”
Inside the gym, a 40-year-old photo of both he and his father in the ring rests above the spot where Demos trains his students as a reminder to stay focused.
Outside of boxing, both Demos and Pizzi share some unique interests.
When he wasn’t punching the bag, Demos hit the books, graduated from UM’s law school and served as a public defender. Pizzi, also a UM law school grad, worked as a federal parole officer.
But the gym is no place for small talk as Demos knows that fights are won in the gym, not in the ring.
“In boxing, you always finish hard,” Demos said as he hollered for Pizzi to go all out on his last wind sprint down the street. “It’s called stealing the round.
“I want you to steal the round.”