TICKER: Yes you can! One-handed boxer wins debut match

One-handed boxer Michael Costantino stops Nathan Ortiz in his pro debut. Photo by Ken Goldfield

Michael Costantino’s professional boxing debut ended in bizarre fashion, which shouldn’t have come as a surprise.

Born without a right hand, Costantino is probably the only singular-fisted fighter in the sport’s history. In place of his right hand is a narrow, angular nub that protrudes from his arm. It’s where his trainer fastens the hand wraps and where the glove is pulled tight over his right limb. Costantino uses the shorter arm mainly for defensive purposes. He used his good left hand to pummel Nathan Ortiz on Saturday, stunning him with a looping left that caused Ortiz to walk away from Costantino and complain to his corner that he was fatigued. After a few curious moments when it was clear Ortiz didn’t want to continue, referee Randy Neumann halted the bout at 1:16 of the second round, giving Costantino a TKO victory at the Aviator Sports Arena in Brooklyn and linking him with other one-handed athletes such as former Yankee pitcher Jim Abbott as sportsmen who have plied their trade at an obvious disadvantage.

Costantino was hoping to send a message to those who might be struggling with a handicap with his victory, fought at cruiserweight.

“I just wanted to show people that in life, if you ever feel like you’re not good enough or you feel down that anything is possible,” the 33-year-old said. “I wanted to show people that if you work hard and believe in yourself that you can achieve what you set out to do. I felt good out there. If this is how these fights are going to be, why wouldn’t I want to continue my career?”

Costantino’s fight attracted a lot of attention, from fans and from the New York State Athletic Commission, which ultimately granted the one-handed fighter a license.

Because of the unusual circumstances, the state commission was wary of Costantino before clearing him to fight, making him see two doctors for pre-fight physicals. The commission also required him to wrap his hands on Friday just before the weigh-in to see how he covered his right limb. Costantino put on a brave face throughout the process, but he was quietly seething, just wanting to focus on his first fight.

“I can’t believe they’re making me see another doctor,” he said on Thursday as he drove to Great Neck for another physical. “I just hope they let me fight.”

To bolster his case that he be allowed to fight, Costantino enlisted a number of boxers to contact the commission on his behalf, including the popular Queens heavyweight Vinny Maddalone and Brian Adams, a former fighter who now works at the Daily News. The commission also had to approve the type of opponent who was brought in to face Costantino, and the show’s matchmaker, Felipe Gomez said he called between 10-15 boxers before finding Ortiz, who was initially reluctant. Ortiz said that Gomez was dogged in his desire to land him, calling him three times. “I was just surprised to get a fight like this,” Ortiz said before the bout. “I didn’t want it in the beginning. But they kept calling me.”

Ortiz (0-3) said he only had two weeks to train and that he was badly winded by the second round. After Costantino landed an overhand shot, the fighters clinched and were separated by Neumann. Then Ortiz turned his back and walked toward his corner. “I was tired,” he said. “I couldn’t really go anymore.”

His confidence returned a few moments later.

“Give me two months to train and I’ll knock him out in the first round,” Ortiz said, before conceding the one-handed fighter “was better than I thought.”

NY Daily News

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