In this edition of Amateur Spotlight, we look towards the future, “The Next Generation” of New York fighters. At just five years old, Justina Abruscato walked into Champions Fitness Center (CFC) in Brooklyn, New York and started kickboxing. She hasn’t stopped since. That was nearly ten years ago, and at just fifteen years old she will be the first junior competitor that Lou Neglia, three-time world kickboxing champion, is allowing to fight on his show, which will take place on February 26th at “Combat at the Capitale” in Manhattan.
With an amateur record of 5-1, standing at 5’1 and fighting in the 130-135 pound weight class, Justina Abruscato is ready to take on her opponent at the Capitale. “I’m really excited! This is the biggest venue that I’m fighting in, plus I’m nervous at the same time, but I’m excited.” She’s been in fight camp for almost two months now and she says “I’m on weight, I feel strong and I’m confident.”
Abruscato has been training in kickboxing for ten years now with pro-kickboxer and coach Andrea DeAngelo (4-1), whose head trainer and manager is Lou Neglia. DeAngelo remembers first meeting Abruscato. “Justina lived very close to the gym, she was a neighborhood kid. She wasn’t even initially trying. I remember her begging her parents at five years old that she wanted to join!” Since that day this young fighter has put in the time, earning her black-belt at eleven years old and starting to compete a year later.
Combat at the Capitale is one of the largest kickboxing events in the tri-state area. Seeing that Abruscato consistently puts in the hard work and effort that it takes for this kind of sport, DeAngelo was able to convince Neglia to allow Abruscato to fight on his card. He doesn’t usually permit teenagers to fight at the Capitale but Andrea promised him a good fight and says “Lou was impressed with Justina’s fighting spirit.”
Over the years spent at CFC, Abruscato has watched her coach Andrea DeAngelo fight at the Capitale, and now it’s her turn. They are putting in extra effort to make sure Justina is not just physically ready but mentally prepared as well. Andrea says, “Justina has had about six to seven female sparring partners from other gyms. But this time we had fighters with very different styles, and no matter who is in front of her she’s prepared for anything.” With the fight date steadily approaching DeAngelo told Abruscato “That day you’re going to feel comfortable in any situation. You’ve been here before. There’s nothing you can’t adjust to.” DeAngelo explained, “I think that was what really was different in this training camp, being able to adjust to what’s in front of you.”
Abruscato agrees that her main focus at fight camp has been learning to handle whatever is thrown at her. “We’ve been working on ways to get in and out of different situations. Every opponent is different and has a different style. You can’t expect a fight to go a certain way. So we’ve be working on learning how to adjust in every situation.”
DeAngelo and Abruscato have been working together for Abruscato’s entire career and they express their equal admiration for one another. Abruscato, who looks up to her coach, says “Andrea is amazing! She’s taught me so much. She’s such and inspiration to me and I don’t know where I would be without her!” DeAngelo describes Abruscato as an “old soul” and as soon as one speaks to her you understand it completely. “Justina is going to do amazing. I tell her all the time, ‘Win, lose, or draw it’s never a loss, because you’re learning regardless.’ She’s so talented for a kid her age.”
Speaking with Justina Abruscato it quickly becomes clear that she is confident in her abilities as a fighter and that her ultimate goal is to eventually go pro, but she comes off as nothing but humble and modest. Speaking with her trainer Andrea DeAngelo, however, and hearing the pure excitement and belief in Abruscato’s future fights, one can really appreciate Abruscato’s quiet confidence. “I’ve trained many types of fighters and Justina trains the hardest out of all my fighters. She’s focused, she’s dedicated, and has the heart of a lion.”
Interview/Article: Traci Newman
Editor: Kyle Antonelli
Phtotos: Andrea DeAngeloAndrea DeAngelo, Combat at the Capitale, Justina Abruscato, Lou Neglia, New York Fighting