It was ten years ago next month that Pittsburgh’s favorite boxing son, Paul Spadafora, engaged in an HBO Boxing After Dark Fight of the Year candidate with Leonard Dorin. Their twelve-round war ended in a draw, with both unbeaten fighters walking away with their alphabet straps at 135 pounds.
Spadafora would never fight at 135 pounds again, and a plethora of issues outside the ring derailed his career from the promising path it was on.
Though Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 KOs) hasn’t fought on major television for the past decade, or beaten a legitimate contender in the junior welterweight division where he now plies his trade, he is ranked by all four of the major sanctioning bodies.
Saturday night at the Mountaineer Racetrack and Resort in Chester, W. Va., Spadafora put those rankings on the line against tough gatekeeper Robert Frankel, of Denver, as the two fought for a vacant regional title in the night’s ten-round main event. The fight was shown live on GoFightLive, and was promoted by Roy Jones Jr.
Though his dreadlocks prove how dated his prime really was, and his skills have definitely eroded since he was a lightweight titleholder, Spadafora had only slight problems outpointing Frankel over the distance. His head movement isn’t what it used to be, and his timing is a little off, but The Pittsburgh Kid still dealt with his foe like the gradual step-up opponent that he represented.
After a good opening round for Frankel, in which he landed some good straight rights and jabs, Spadafora took over. He began landing his straight left with regularity, and he also provided a steady body attack that slowed down his opponent.
Frankel had a good moment in the sixth where he landed a multiple-punch combination. Ten years ago, not one of those punches would have gotten through, let alone four or five.
In the seventh round, Spadafora had opened up a bad cut underneath Frankel’s left eye, which was ruled to come from a punch. Spadafora’s speed has diminished, but his defense was still sharp, particularly against a Frankel who is a few years past his best.
Frankel (32-13-1, 6 KOs) had a decent ninth round as Spadafora showed a lack in stamina late in the round. Frankel took advantage and moved forward while throwing at a high rate. Some of the punches got through, and Spadafora looked ready for the final bell.
In the tenth, glimpses of the Spadafora of old appeared. In a poor man’s version of the exciting fight with Dorin, Spadafora and Frankel exchanged a high number of power punches, taking turns landing. Spadafora seemed to be fading but came back with an assault of his own, putting Frankel’s back on the ropes. It was a good way to end the night for Spadafora, who would end up walking away with a unanimous-decision victory by way of scores of 99-91, 98-92, and 97-93.
At 37 years old, Spadafora doesn’t have much time to cash in on his once-famous name. Inactivity has plagued him, as he has only fought nine times in the past seven years. Multiple arrests have no doubt played a role in his downfall, yet Spadafora’s name still inspires hope in many who still believe in him.
“The past is the past, and everybody deserves a second chance,” said Spadafora in his post-fight interview. All true, though Spadafora may forget that he’s had second, third, fourth chances and beyond, and this may perhaps be his last shot.
In the end, Spadafora may be known more for a sparring session he once had than any of his fights. Legend has it that at some point, Spadafora got the better of Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the gym. In an interview with ATG Radio prior to Saturday’s fight, Spadafora set the record straight once and for all:
“When they put that stupid stuff out there about Mayweather, I am just keeping it real since I’m a real dude,” said Spadafora, as he brushed off the apocryphal tale. “I was ten days before a fight. How would I not be ready to get it on? I am going to be sharp. He wasn’t in camp, I was in camp. I was the one that was ready to go. It doesn’t make sense.”
At one point in 2010, Spadafora’s name was allegedly in the running to fight Mayweather in the paid ranks, but that turned out to just be a wild rumor. As Spadafora approaches forty, his hope is that he can get a top junior welterweight in the ring before his hourglass runs out.
* * *
31-year old Wilkins Santiago (8-0, 1 KO) of Lorain, Ohio, met his second straight experienced opponent in Indianapolis’ Mustafah Johnson (9-17-1, 2 KOs), earning a six-round unanimous decision in an over-the-weight junior middleweight bout. Santiago looked small for the weight and didn’t carry the punching power necessary to take his opponent out, but he did good work throughout, particularly when his opponent was on the ropes. Scores were 60-54, 59-55, 59-56 for Santiago.
In a six-round junior welterweight slugfest, Bill Hutchinson (6-1-2, 4 KOs) earned the nod over game Damon Antoine (11-46-2, 5 KOs), stopping him with a single brutal overhand right in the final salvo. The two traded heavy shots throughout, with Hutchinson having more zip on his punches than his well-traveled opponents. Time of stoppage was 1:32.
Travis Clark (3-0, 2 KOs) got a first-round TKO of Martez Williamson (1-1) when Williamson decided not to continue after going down a couple of times in their six-round cruiserweight bout. Time of stoppage was 1:39.
Heavyweight Ed Latimore (2-0, 2 KOs) dropped Donnie Crawford (1-6-1, 1 KO) in the second round of their four-round heavyweight bout en route to a TKO in the same round.
Joey Holt (3-0, 3 KOs) remained unbeaten, stopping Austin Marcum (4-3, 2 KOs) at 2:04 of the fourth and final round of their junior middleweight bout.
Mark E. Ortega is the boxing columnist for the Martinez News-Gazette and is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and the RING Ratings Advisory Panel. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com as well as followed on Twitter @MarkEOrtega.