RIP Felix “Tuto” Zabala

Fighter.

No word better described the life and legacy of Felix Zabala. Fighter not only defined his struggle for survival in the cutthroat sport of boxing but was the adept term to describe how he dealt with the health obstacles which became his daily opponent the past two decades.

Affectionately known by his nickname “Tuto,” Felix Zabala – husband, father, grandfather, loyal friend and one of the preeminent promoters in boxing history – succumbed to his last battle around his family on May 6, 2021.

Born October 18, 1937 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuto always had a love for sports, particularly baseball and basketball. He was a multi-sport athlete during his grade and high school years. Following high school, Tuto played for the intercollegiate basketball team at the University of Havana.

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In 1959, the fate of Cuba’s six million citizens radically changed with the government overthrow by a communist dictatorship. The early years of the communists’ rule featured many underground resistance fighters, of which included Tuto. The fighter within Tuto encountered one of its early battles.

However, the communists’ ruthless grip and shutdown of all civil liberties put Cubans in the proverbial corner. Tuto found his escape and left for Jamaica, where he took odd jobs. Eventually settling in Puerto Rico, Tuto was soon joined by his young bride, Carmen, and infant daughter. The growing Zabala family settled in the Caribbean island.

Puerto Rico also provided Tuto the platform to venture into his eventual profession. Shortly after arriving from Cuba, Tuto began promoting boxing shows and managing fighters. The plaudits from boxing fans and media lifted Tuto’s stature in the promotional trade. Fighters from different corners of the world arrived in Puerto Rico to appear on his shows, Meanwhile, fighters’ under Tuto’s guidance traveled throughout the globe, representing the island and his company.

Although Cuba no longer was his place of residency, Tuto remained steadfast on seeing its liberation from tyrannical rule. Tuto often used proceeds from his promoted shows to support the anti-communist resistance.

Having firmly established his name in boxing, Tuto and his family moved to Miami in 1980. At first, Tuto worked for a promotional company which presented cards in Miami venues but in short time, Tuto planted his promotional flag in the city that became the “Capital of the Americas.”

Miami had a boxing presence since the 1950s thanks to the brothers Chris and Angelo Dundee. Tuto’s arrival not only maintained the city’s status in the sport but elevated it to different heights influenced by the emerging Latin American fan base. Thanks to Tuto’s promotional accumen, Miami landed dozens of world title fights throughout the 1980s.

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One of the most electrifying settings in local boxing history occurred on August 9, 1985, when Tuto promoted the world bantamweight title fight between defending champion Daniel Zaragoza and Miguel “Happy” Lora. A pro-Lora crowd packed the Tamiami Fairgrounds Auditorium and cheered rabidly to the native Colombian’s title winning performance. Lora became yet another of Tuto’s promoted fighters who won world championships and he would not be the last.

During the 1990s, Tuto continued promoting in Miami and he helped guide the comeback of Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. Once an unsuccessful contender, Vazquez flourished under Tuto’s leadership as the native of Puerto Rico won world titles in three separate weight classes.

Sadly, Tuto’s career ended in January 2001, when he suffered a debilitating stroke. Homebound, Tuto continued his daily fights for the next 20 years. While he battled, Tuto enjoyed watching baseball and boxing on TV, reading the daily newspaper and marveling at the evolution of his 9 grandchildren from tots to full-grown adults. Moreover, Tuto proudly enjoyed the success of son, Felix “Tutico” Jr., who left a promising executive career in the NFL to assume responsibilities of the family business with his boxing promotional company, All Star Boxing, Inc. He also saw his grandchild Felix “Tutitking” Zabala III continue his family legacy left behind into a 3rd generation. Tuto’s exemplary career was celebrated in 2009, when he was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.

He was predecease by wife, Carmen who died in 2014. He is survived by his son Felix “Tutico” Zabala Jr, and daughters Betty and Susana. Survivors also include grandchilderen Felix III, Soraya, Carlos, Susy, Alex, Alejandro, Betty, Carolina & Fernando.
Fighter.

No word better described the life and legacy of Felix Zabala. Fighter not only defined his struggle for survival in the cutthroat sport of boxing but was the adept term to describe how he dealt with the health obstacles which became his daily opponent the past two decades.

Affectionately known by his nickname “Tuto,” Felix Zabala – husband, father, grandfather, loyal friend and one of the preeminent promoters in boxing history – succumbed to his last battle around his family on May 6, 2021.

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Born October 18, 1937 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba, Tuto always had a love for sports, particularly baseball and basketball. He was a multi-sport athlete during his grade and high school years. Following high school, Tuto played for the intercollegiate basketball team at the University of Havana.

In 1959, the fate of Cuba’s six million citizens radically changed with the government overthrow by a communist dictatorship. The early years of the communists’ rule featured many underground resistance fighters, of which included Tuto. The fighter within Tuto encountered one of its early battles.

However, the communists’ ruthless grip and shutdown of all civil liberties put Cubans in the proverbial corner. Tuto found his escape and left for Jamaica, where he took odd jobs. Eventually settling in Puerto Rico, Tuto was soon joined by his young bride, Carmen, and infant daughter. The growing Zabala family settled in the Caribbean island.

Puerto Rico also provided Tuto the platform to venture into his eventual profession. Shortly after arriving from Cuba, Tuto began promoting boxing shows and managing fighters. The plaudits from boxing fans and media lifted Tuto’s stature in the promotional trade. Fighters from different corners of the world arrived in Puerto Rico to appear on his shows, Meanwhile, fighters’ under Tuto’s guidance traveled throughout the globe, representing the island and his company.

Although Cuba no longer was his place of residency, Tuto remained steadfast on seeing its liberation from tyrannical rule. Tuto often used proceeds from his promoted shows to support the anti-communist resistance.

Having firmly established his name in boxing, Tuto and his family moved to Miami in 1980. At first, Tuto worked for a promotional company which presented cards in Miami venues but in short time, Tuto planted his promotional flag in the city that became the “Capital of the Americas.”

Miami had a boxing presence since the 1950s thanks to the brothers Chris and Angelo Dundee. Tuto’s arrival not only maintained the city’s status in the sport but elevated it to different heights influenced by the emerging Latin American fan base. Thanks to Tuto’s promotional accumen, Miami landed dozens of world title fights throughout the 1980s.

One of the most electrifying settings in local boxing history occurred on August 9, 1985, when Tuto promoted the world bantamweight title fight between defending champion Daniel Zaragoza and Miguel “Happy” Lora. A pro-Lora crowd packed the Tamiami Fairgrounds Auditorium and cheered rabidly to the native Colombian’s title winning performance. Lora became yet another of Tuto’s promoted fighters who won world championships and he would not be the last.

During the 1990s, Tuto continued promoting in Miami and he helped guide the comeback of Wilfredo Vazquez Sr. Once an unsuccessful contender, Vazquez flourished under Tuto’s leadership as the native of Puerto Rico won world titles in three separate weight classes.

Sadly, Tuto’s career ended in January 2001, when he suffered a debilitating stroke. Homebound, Tuto continued his daily fights for the next 20 years. While he battled, Tuto enjoyed watching baseball and boxing on TV, reading the daily newspaper and marveling at the evolution of his 9 grandchildren from tots to full-grown adults. Moreover, Tuto proudly enjoyed the success of son, Felix “Tutico” Jr., who left a promising executive career in the NFL to assume responsibilities of the family business with his boxing promotional company, All Star Boxing, Inc. He also saw his grandchild Felix “Tutitking” Zabala III continue his family legacy into a 3rd of boxing promotion. Tuto’s exemplary career was celebrated in 2009, when he was part of the inaugural class inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame.

Tuto is survived by his son Felix “Tutico” Zabala Jr, and daughters Betty and Susana. Survivors also include grandchildren Felix III, Soraya, Carlos, Susy, Alex, Alejandro, Betty, Carolina & Fernando. He was predeceased by his wife, Carmen, who passed away in 2014.