Dimitri Verteouris has made a name for himself in the restaurant business and on television. He owns three restaurants in Brooklyn, but recently became famous for his appearances on the Food Network’s Fat Chef reality series.
“I met a lot of people in the food business,” Verteouris said.
Unfortunately, Verteouris also ate a lot of food.
“I had two open heart surgeries when I was a kid, the first one at 4, the second one at 12,” Verteouris said. “My health prohibited me from doing things that other kids did. I was on a lot of medications and I put on a lot of weight. It didn’t help that I was in the restaurant business and always around food.”
When Verteouris was 19 years old, he became obsessed with the sport of boxing.
“I started thinking about getting into boxing then,” Verteouris said. “Being from Brooklyn, I was a big Mike Tyson fan.”
However, Verteouris weighed 327 pounds, so that detracted him from entering the ring.
A little over a year ago, Verteouris was introduced to Paul Malignaggi, the former IBF light welterweight and current WBA welterweight champion.
“We met and I told him about my love of boxing,” Verteouris said. “He told me that I should come to Gleason’s Gym and train with him. I figured it was impossible, not being in the best of shape. But going to that gym made me fall in love with boxing again. I wanted to lose weight and get into the ring.”
Sure enough, it became Verteouris’ goal.
“People thought I was crazy when I told them I wanted to get in the ring,” Verteouris said. “But I figured it was the only way I could get in focus and take care of myself. I was going to try to turn my life around.”
Incredibly, Verteouris scheduled a fight before he lost a single pound.
“I needed something to serve as motivation,” Verteouris said. “The show [Fat Chef] came along and that helped me as well. It was time for the test.”
Verteouris dropped an astounding 82 pounds in just three months.
“The funny thing was that I’m losing this weight and I was always around food,” Verteouris said.
The weight continued to drop, as he lost more than 100 pounds in the first six months.
“I did it without surgeries,” Verteouris said. “I was happy, because this was allowing me to pursue my dream of boxing. Things happen for a reason and I’m now getting a chance to live a dream.”
With the help of boxing trainer Sherif Younan, Verteouris learned the art of boxing.
“I’ve been training six days a week, 2-to-3 hours a day,” Verteouris said. “I have to mix in a lot of exercise as well. There’s a whole science to boxing, the whole mental approach. I’m non-stop right now.”
He also began his quest, a program that the 28-year-old Verteouris calls, “KOobesity,” where he wants to help to stop obesity in America.
“It’s also why I’m competing,” Verteouris said. “It’s also great motivation for me. I want to help other people out with a lifestyle change. So many people are held back by their weight issues. If I can show them I can do this, live out my dream, then they can do it, too. I’ve added about 30-to-40 years to my life now.”
Now weighing 225 pounds, Verteouris climbed into the ring last Monday night at the W Hotel in Hoboken to take part of the “Fight Night” amateur boxing card, sponsored by Hoboken University Medical Center, Everlast and LA Boxing that was held to help raise money for FAITH Services of HUMC, the only totally HIV/AIDS dedicated program serving Hudson County residents since 1988.
Famed boxing announcer Teddy Atlas and former heavyweight contender Gerry Cooney were also on hand, as well as North Bergen residents Jonathan Maicelo, the current WBA Intercontinental Lightweight Champion, and Robert Garcia, ranked No. 4 in the WBA’s junior middleweight rankings.
Before the fight, Verteouris was more than ready.
“I’m both excited and anxious,” Verteouris said. “I’m 5-foot-9 and my opponent [Peter Buscemi] is 6-foot-5, so I’m at a little disadvantage. People still think I’m nuts, but for me, to say I’m able to say that I’m fighting, means everything. I don’t need to do it, but I feel I owe it to myself and I owe it to the sport. I also feel that if there are others who can see me struggle to lose weight, if I can inspire them, then I’ve won. Winning is not something that drives me. I felt I’ve won already. Getting into the ring is my victory.”
Verteouris’ debut was not successful, as he was stopped by Buscemi in the second round after receiving two standing 8-counts.
The loss will not deter him from his goal, his program and his dream.
“I plan on continuing to lose weight,” Verteouris said. “This was my last fight as a heavyweight. I’m planning on getting down to fight in the New York Golden Gloves at 178 pounds.”
That’s an additional 50 pounds on top of what he’s already lost, all in a span of a little over a year.
“I’m doing it the healthy way,” Verteouris said. “I check with my cardiologist regularly. He’s amazed with my progress. If I’m helping people out, then that motivates me to keep going.”
Verteouris is already working with five New York residents with weight issues. The episodes can be seen on his website, www.KOobesity.com. The first episode is up on the website currently.
“When my fighting is over, then I can take some time to examine what I’ve done,” Verteouris said. “Right now, there’s still some work to be done.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.