NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Cesar Infante is far from a professional boxer. In fact, he’s never taken part in an organized bout in his life.
But when Mike Tata, owner of the Friday Night Fights Boxing Gym in New Orleans asked the 14-year Marine veteran to take part in the establishment’s Friday Night Fights event this Friday, Infante couldn’t say no. The event, which starts at 7 p.m. with a dance show followed by a slate of amateur boxing bouts in the parking lot at the corner of Freret Street and Napoleon Avenue, will honor the birthday of the Marine Corps, which was founded on Nov. 10, 1775.
The 38-year-old Infante first enlisted in the Marine Corps at age 21, and, true to the service unit’s semper fidelis motto, Infante jumped at the chance to honor the corps’ birthday despite his inexperience as a boxer.
“I said if it’s for the Marine Corps, I’ll do it,” Infante said.
Tata says his gym has been sponsoring periodic Friday Night Fights slates for nearly four years. The first edition drew about 100 people to the gym, but Tata is expecting a couple thousand attendees to show up this Friday for the Marines birthday party. Among the FNF regulars, said Tata, is famed local political strategist James Carville.
Four Marines are on the fight card for the festivities, and all Marines receive free admission with a military ID or USMC tattoo. Tickets for the public are $15 in advance at the gym and $20 at the door the night of the show.
Tata himself is a Marine, a field artillery specialist who actively served from 1980-86.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” he said.
Infante still serves locally as a Marine reservist. After first enlisting about 17 years ago, he fulfilled an initial four-year active tour before leaving the corps for a few years. But eventually he signed back up and, as a tri-linguist who speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese, worked to train military forces through Central and South Americas.
At one point, he was also stationed in Japan for about three and a half years.
Infante said that while he follows boxing and enjoys hand-to-hand combat, he’s never himself taken part in an organized bout.
Tipping the scales at about 160 pounds — which would qualify him as an amateur middleweight — Infante said he is looking forward to doing a favor for his friend Tata and honoring the birth of the military branch he has been so dedicated to do for so long.
“It’s something I want to do,” he said.
Friday’s festivities begin at 7 p.m. with a Devil Dog Dance Show, followed by a multi-bout boxing card. For more information about Friday Night Fights, call (504) 895-1859.
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