Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Before fleeing in 2008 from his native Cuba — a country famous for producing Olympic-caliber wrestlers and boxers — 28-year-old Yoislandy "Cuba" Izquierdo spent his childhood training in karate and sanshou. After serving in the Cuban military, Izquierdo set off on a precarious journey, first to Spain, then to Guatemala, and finally to Mexico, where he was detained for a month before being granted political asylum in the United States. Since arriving in Miami, Izquierdo has trained at the Young Tigers Foundation in Hialeah, honing the lightening-quick striking he learned as a Cuban karate protégé and using it in another sport: mixed martial arts fighting. The lightweight MMA fighter remains undefeated with a 6-0 record, winning the majority of his bouts by knockout. After signing a contract with Ultimate Fighting Championship in January, Izquierdo made his UFC debut April 14, 2012, in Stockholm, Sweden. And he isn't just a rising star — he's bringing the booming sport of MMA to Miami's Cuban-American fans. "In Cuba, we trained for the pure pleasure and joy of it," Izquierdo said in a January interview with MMA site cagejunkie.com. "I just keep training. To fight with rivals better than myself and getting wins until I fight the champion in my weight class, that is my purpose."
READERS' POLL WINNERS
Sports & Recreation
Best Coach: Erik Spoelstra
Best Dolphins Player: Matt Moore
Best Heat Player: Dwyane Wade
Best Hurricanes Player: Lamar Miller
Best Marlins Player: Giancarlo Stanton
Best Park: Kennedy Park
Best People-Watching Spot: Lincoln Road
Best Place to Take Out-of-Towners: Lincoln Road
Best Sportscaster: Dan Le Batard
Pack up the bikes and head west to Shark Valley, where there are no sharks but plenty of sunbathing gators lounging around the 15-mile looping path. It's a nature-filled workout with ample views of pristine saw grass and loads of migratory birds from January to March. What's that, you say? Pedal-pushing your way past gators and birds is sooooo touristy? Well, there's also a decent chance of spotting one of the much-hyped Burmese pythons that are grabbing national headlines. Park ranger Eric Riordan says five of the suckers were removed from the park in December, including one that was 16 feet long. If that's not motivation to keep pedaling, what is?
Two minutes in West Lake Park is it all it takes to get away from the asphalt hell of South Florida sprawl. The trip begins with a light paddle down a serene mangrove tunnel — keep your eyes peeled for always-awesome manatees and some nice birds. When the trail empties out onto the lake, it's your choice. Let the boat float, and kick back to relax while soaking up the rays, or cut across the lake — a workout in itself on a windy day — and explore the mangrove-lined, color-coded trails. If it weren't for the not-so-distant skyline peeking over the trees, you might forget you're smack in between Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Prices aren't bad either: Drop $15 to rent a canoe for one hour, $20 for two hours, or $50 for the whole day.
The next time you have guests from the Midwest crashing at your pad, there's a sure-fire way to show them Miami like an undercover narcotics detective with an affinity for fine Versace suits. Head to Bayside Marketplace and board the Thriller SuperCat 55, a cigarette boat with room for more than two dozen people that takes riders on a high-speed adventure via Government Cut. After jumping through waves and doing water doughnuts on Biscayne Bay, the Thriller slows things down for a very informative tour of Star Island. The captain provides Trivial Pursuit-style tidbits of information about the wealthy, famous people who own mansions there. For instance, you'll learn that Ivax Pharmaceuticals founder Phillip Frost imported 50 date palms from South Africa at $9,000 a pop to decorate the landscape of his and his wife's $55 million estate. You'll also discover that the neighboring house was used in the 1955 movie Guys and Dolls, starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra. It costs $35 per adult and $22 per child to ride the Thriller (or $32 and $19 if you buy tickets online).
Sure, you can take the youngsters to the latest mega-arcade or crowded water park, or trudge three hours in traffic to the beach. Or you can introduce them to the kind of place you once hung out before the days of Xbox 360 Kinect and Twitter. Take 'em skating! OK, strapping on a pair of skates and rolling around in a giant circle with music pumped in the background seems a bit outdated. But that doesn't mean it's not fun. It's also amazing exercise and a great way to tire out the kids from all that pent-up summertime energy. Super Wheels Skating Center, which has been in operation since 2009, has 20 HDTV sets, five giant screens, a large music selection, and a "live text" broadcast. There's also an enormous arcade with old-school favorites like air hockey, plus a snack bar where you can stuff your face with pizza, chicken wings, fries, and Dippin' Dots. But the enormous hardwood skating rink is where the real excitement is to be had. Friday is Cheap Skates Day, where you can rent skates for $7 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. and $12 after that. And Super Tots sessions for the little ones cost only $8 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Yeah, skating isn't what it used to be. But it's still a kick-ass time for the whole family.