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Boxing: Spadafora weighs in on his title

Saturday, November 09, 2002

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

CHESTER, W.Va. -- Shortly after 4 p.m. yesterday, Paul Spadafora stripped off his skivvies and stepped onto the scale for the official weigh in. Eyes peered and ears pealed.

And the naked truth was ...

One-hundred thirty-five pounds.


dot.gif What: Boxing fight card, highlighted by Paul Spadafora's defense of his IBF lightweight title vs. Dennis Holbaek of Denmark

dot.gif When: 7:30 p.m. today

dot.gif Where: Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort, Chester, W.Va.

dot.gif Undercard Jr. Welterweight: Johnny Bailey, New Cumberland, W.Va. vs. Abdul Blackburn, Cleveland

dot.gif Middleweight: Epifanio Mendoza, Colombia vs. Fernando Hernandez, Chicago

dot.gif Middleweight: Jermain Taylor, Little Rock, Ark. vs. Johnny Rivera, Miami

dot.gif Lightweight: Lamar Murphy, Miami vs. Victoriano Sosa, Puerto Rico

dot.gif Main event:

5-9 1/2Height5-9 1/2

Opponent has had a long layoff


"On the button," boasted co-trainer Tommy Yankello.

Yes, Spadafora made the weight easier than even he expected.

That's why he pronounced himself ready to stay at 135 pounds, to continue defending his International Boxing Federation championship in the lightweight division, maybe once or twice more.

"Yeah, it feels real good," said Spadafora, a McKees Rock native who is set to face Dennis Holbaek (also known as Pederson) tonight before thousands inside The Harv at Mountaineer Race Track & Gaming Resort, before cameras televising the ring proceedings to pay-per-view customers on InDemand cable and DirecTV satellite. "I've been here for three weeks at 140 pounds. That's my best size: 140, 145 pounds. It's definitely hard to make weight when you're 5-9 1/2. And I've been making weight at 135 pounds since I was 15 years old.

"I'll be able to stick out another fight or two. I'm only going to fight about two more title defenses at this weight. But it all depends on the money."

Names continue to get bandied about: the winner of Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti later this month, the winner of Floyd Mayweather-Jose Luis Castillo early next month. Potential matches against such recognized opponents, and their requisite paydays, hold allure to Spadafora. It keeps a firm hold on the cravings of a lover of M&Ms and Italian food.

"My next fight is where it's at," Spadafora said. "I'll make a lot more money off it and move on to bigger and better things. But I've got to win this fight. That's first."

When this match against Holbaek was announced 38 days ago, Spadafora proclaimed that this could be his final fight at 135 pounds because of his fluctuating weight. After all, he is a boxer who has hovered around the same weight for half his life, competing at 132 pounds as an amateur before he was old enough to legally drive. After a five-week encampment in Erie, under the watchful eye of Yankello throughout and co-trainer Jesse Reid the final week or so, the lightweight champion was able to remain a lightweight.

Yankello claims his fighter can remain that way awhile longer.

"I definitely believe that," Yankello said. "I think he could be here for another year and a half. When he eats right, he can make the weight easily."

Spadafora considered this his best weight outlook since the Billy Irwin bout two years ago.

To him, it has been a battle of brains and bran.

"I feel like my mind is finally growing into my body. I'm a lot more mature," said Spadafora, 27. He spoke about immaturity he traced back to his second title defense, in February 2000 against a Victoriano Sosa who graces The Harv card tonight in an IBF challenger match. "Sosa had me knocked out; I was knocked out for nine rounds. People talked about Angel Manfredy [winning last April]. Billy Irwin was supposed to knock me out. Not doing things perfectly right. Not making weight until the last second, sitting in steam rooms. Not being in good shape. Gorging myself after the weigh in.

"I've got nothing to worry about now.

No longer does he desire to pitch his training camp in Las Vegas, like he did for his first title defense against Renato Cornett three years ago next month.

Erie suits him just fine.

"It's all about what you make of it," said Spadafora, who four months ago became a father. "I don't want to be too far away now that I've got a little girl. I don't want to be halfway across the country from her."

Tonight, slightly less than an hour's drive from their McKees Rocks home, he steps into a ring against Holbaek, a Dane who holds the International Boxing Council lightweight belt. That makes this something of a unification bout, the winner getting to carry both the IBF and lesser IBC titles.

"I'm in the mood to fight," Spadafora said. "I want to go in there and prove to the whole world that I'm the best 135-pound fighter in the world."

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

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