A Winnipeg fighting champion is one degree of separation closer to Fifty Shades of Grey protagonist Christian Grey.
Fifty Shades Darker -- the second book of the hit erotic trilogy -- features two references to posters of kick-boxer Guiseppe DeNatale, a slight alteration of the spelling of local kick-boxing and Muay Thai champion Giuseppe DeNatale.
"It went from weird to flattering to annoying," DeNatale said Tuesday. "I remember the first 10 or 20 people that told me about it, I thought it was interesting. Now, it's like every single person that contacts me says, 'Hey did you know you're in this book?' "
The kick-boxing character in the book is referenced twice, both times in poster form. The first time Grey's lover, Ana Steele, notices a bunch of kick-boxing trophies, movie posters and two framed posters of kick-boxers, including one named Guiseppe DeNatale.
"I've never heard of him," Steele thinks to herself, in the book.
Later, Grey remarks how Steele's acceptance of his wedding proposal on his birthday is "better than my signed Guiseppe DeNatale poster."
DeNatale, 38, said he's been contacted by about 400 people since the books became a global phenomenon earlier this year. He has no idea how British author E.L. James would have heard about him since he never fought in Europe during his celebrated career.
There is always Google, though, and the author could have just looked up the kick-boxer, nicknamed The Godfather, who has a string of national and world titles to his name, including International Kickboxing Federation pro fighter of the year, World Kickboxing and Karate Association Canadian golden gloves kick-boxing champion and International Sport Karate Association North American heavyweight Muay Thai and kick-boxing champion.
He retired from active fighting five years ago following a car accident, but trains the next generation of mixed martial artists at his Osborne Village gym, Canadian Fighting Center, and promotes the Canadian Fighting Championships.
Despite his pseudo-presence in the book, he has no interest in reading the so-called, "mommy porn" novels.
"I've never read the book. I was told the pages I'm on and went to Chapters and took a screen shot of each page. I skimmed through a couple of chapters, though. It's pretty graphic," he said.
With so many people questioning him about the book, DeNatale has started inventing some of his own stories about how he was included.
"I tell them it's all based on my life experience, all the sexy stuff, like when Kramer sold his life stories to Peterman on Seinfeld. I say all that stuff really happened to me and people say, 'Really?' And I say, 'No, not really. What do you think?' " he said, with a laugh.