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Tired of being on the defensive, Spadafora spikes the punch

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

His critics voiced their displeasure. The wails of his ring detractors fell on ears that were neither deaf nor cauliflower.

Paul Spadafora has his hand raised in victory after beating Angel Manfredy in March. (Lake Fong, Post-Gazette)

Paul Spadafora can't crack an egg with his fists.
Paul Spadafora is a rosebush, a jab here, a jab there.

Just watch him Saturday, so says his corner.

"He's going to be a different fighter this fight," vowed co-trainer Tommy Yankello, preparing the International Boxing Federation lightweight champion for his pay-per-view bout this weekend against Dane Dennis Holbaek. "He's going to throw as many punches as he ever has. He's really going to pick up the pace. We want him to throw 100 punches a round."

Yankello spent the bulk of their training camp personally preparing Spadafora, a McKees Rocks boxer, for the four-fight main event televised on InDemand from The Harv at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Casino. Co-trainer Jesse Reid -- who joined forces with Yankello and Spadafora in the weeks before the latter won the International Boxing Federation lightweight belt from Israel "Pito" Cardona in August 1999 -- originally wasn't expected to work Saturday's fight after training featherweight Zahir Raheem for a mid-October fight. Then, about a week ago, Reid joined the camp in Erie.

He got there in time to see a different fighter.

"He's definitely a better puncher -- punching harder," said Yankello, who had Spadafora on a track, doing interval and sprint training, trying to improve fast-twitch muscles. In the gym, he put Spadafora through fist-quickening work with punching bags and hand-held mitts. Added Yankello, "It definitely brought the speed back from when he won the title."

The Fight

dot.gif What: IBF lightweight champion Paul Spadafora vs. WBC lightweight champion Dennis Holbaek in title unification bout.

dot.gif When: Saturday night.

dot.gif Where: The Harv, Mountaineer Race Track, Chester, W.Va.

dot.gif TV: Pay-per-view.


After ulcers forced a delay of an August fight with Artur Grigorian or Stephano Zoff, Spadafora stayed away from the gym until early September. It was then he and Yankello commenced toiling on the point most often belabored, Spadafora's punching.

He long has been known as a tactical fighter, an old-school boxer.

Yet the harping about him being solely a defensive fighter causes the champion to get ... well, a little defensive.

Hence, they're trying to tweak his style.

"I feel like getting in there and putting a show on; that's what I want to do the most," said Spadafora, who hasn't exactly drubbed a foe since a technical knockout in his first title defense against Renato Cornett in December 1999. His last outing, in April against Angel Manfredy, was a unanimous decision at Palumbo Center by close 115-113 scores.

"I'm seeing the Manfredy fight ... I'm not putting anything together. This fight, I'm going to put stuff together, combinations. It's going to be more toe-to-toe type boxing."

Another of the differences in Spadafora, he added, was a change in his life.

Four months ago, he became a father to a daughter, Giana.

"Makes you think a lot differently," Spadafora said. "There are other things to look forward to."

That partly explains why the lightweight champion talks about this match with IBF No. 15 Holbaek (also known as Pederson) possibly being his last at 135 pounds. It has become more of an effort for him to make that weight in the past year or two. He claimed that the day before the Manfredy weigh-in, he steamed off three pounds but that it left him weak for the fight.

"You'll see a difference in his body this fight," Yankello said. "He looks more muscular. There's a six-pack rip on him. He's in the best shape he's ever been since he won the title. I'm expecting a great performance from him."

Spadafora's eyes remain locked on a prize fight that could necessitate a climb in weight class. Acclaimed Floyd Mayweather Jr., with whom Spadafora has exchanged angry barbs since he beat Mayweather in a training ring before the Cornett fight, is scheduled for a Dec. 7 Las Vegas rematch with Jose Luis Castillo -- who lost a controversial decision to him earlier. Failing a future match with the Mayweather-Castillo winner, Spadafora hopes to face the victor of the Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti bout Nov. 23 in Atlantic City, N.J.

If not by spring of 2003, he'll face one of them sometime.

"It's going to happen," Spadafora said. "It just takes time.

"It's all about timing."

Chuck Finder can be reached at cfinder@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1724.

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