By Danny Serratelli (originally published 3/26/04 in vinnypaz.com)
“I hope it’s a bloodbath. To go out that way, I have no problem…I will fight balls to the walls Saturday night and I will win.”
On Saturday night, March 27, 2004, former five-time world champion Vinny Paz (A.K.A. Vinny Pazienza) caps off a professional career that started 21 years ago. Paz is matched in a 10-round super middleweight bout against two-time world title challenger Tocker “TNT” Pudwill (39-5, 14 KOs), headlining “History in the Making” airing live on CN8, The Comcast Network from Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Paz was paid $24 dollars for his first fight in 1983, one million dollars for a shot at Roy Jones’ IBF super-middleweight title in 1995 and $90,000 for his last title shot and most recent fight, for the WBC super-middleweight belt against Eric Lucas in 2002. There have been many ups and downs along the way, but that has been part of why people keep coming back for more. I will be ringside to watch the “Pazmanian Devil”, 49-10, 39 KO’s, go for his 50th win against competent opponent Tocker Pudwill.
Vinny has had a long and successful career, but he has also had many people doubting him all along. He will be the first one to tell you, “There are a million guys out there who probably have more talent than I do, but they don’t have my spirit or will.”…”I’m probably not a Hall of Fame fighter, but I know what I am. I’m a warrior.”
I concur in part with Vinny. Not many people will doubt that he’s a true warrior, but contrary to what many so called experts may say, I believe he should be inducted into Boxing’s Hall of Fame upon his retirement regardless of what happens on Saturday night.
A natural lightweight who is barely 5’7′ on a good hair day, Vinny has been around and fought at weights from 135 up to 168. For a guy who has been called a “glorified club fighter” for much of his career he has had the staying power, determination, and durability to compete on a high level in the sport for over 20 years. How many of today’s light-weight champs do you think will still be around fighting for world titles as super-middleweights in 15-20 years? I’ll tell you how many…none!
Paz has won two legitimate word titles, the IBF’s 135-pound title from Greg Haugen in 1987, and the WBA’s 154-pound title from Gilbert Dele in 1991. In addition to the two major titles, Vinny has picked up three other titles, the WBU’s, IBC’s and IBO’s 168-pound belts in fights with the previously undefeated Dana Rosenblatt, Roberto Duran and Dan Sherry.
He has also fought Roger Mayweather, Loreto Garza , Hector Camacho, Sr., Eric Lucas and Roy Jones, Jr. for world titles. In each of those losing efforts Paz always gave it 110%, and if he had a weakness it was opponents using his aggression and desire to fight and please the crowd to their advantage.
He has always been one of the few fighters in the world who is a huge draw regardless of his current ranking or even recent performances. In a time when boxing is said by many to be on life support, Vinny at age 41, after not fighting in 2 years, can still sell out in the Northeast with ease. In fact, for his fight on Saturday he sold out the Fox Theater at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut quicker than two men who are probably the best lightweights in the world right now, and were recently fighting a rematch of a bout that was a fight of the year candidate, Diego Corrales and Joel Casamayor. The reason? The fans know what they will get every time out.
Vinny will tell you, “I like to make people happy, and I fight better when I bleed…When you fight the way I do, you don’t do it for the money.” People genuinely believe him, a rarity in boxing, and that is why they come to see him fight.
After a good career, what the “Pazmanian Devil” may be best known for, was training in his halo. Soon after winning his second major world title from Dele in October of 1991, he was involved in a serious car accident. He had to have a metal device called a halo drilled into his head to stabilize the broken vertebrae in his neck. After being told by doctors he would never fight again, he was in the hospital for nearly three months.
Vinny did not believe what he was told and started finding any way he could to train and test it out as soon as he possibly could. He told doctors and anyone else who tried to talk some sense into him that they didn’t not what kind of man he was, and that he would be back. True to form, he was back in the ring 13 months later, winning a unanimous decision over Luis Santana. In fact the fight with Pudwell will be Pazienza’s 24th fight since the broken neck.
When asked about Saturday night’s fight and going after his 50th win Vinny said, “I’m ready; I’m not just going out for my going away fight, its going to be a fight like all the rest during my career- blood, sweat, and tears…. I hope it’s a bloodbath. To go out that way, I have no problem… I will fight balls to the walls Saturday night and I will win.”