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Spadafora, Dorin all even

Judges can't pick winner of bloody bout

Sunday, May 18, 2003

By Chuck Finder, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

This was a bloodbath.

In the end, blood poured from Leonard Dorin's right eye, cut as early as the third round. There were red streams from Paul Spadafora's left eye and a splotch from the right.

Leonard Dorin lands a right against Paul Spadafora last night. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette photos)

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But the ugliest result of this fight night may have been the final scorecard.

In a title-unification bout that knowledgable boxing types ringside at the Petersen Events Center scored a Dorin victory by 7-5 in rounds, the three judges -- the heart of a fortnight-long controversy -- followed up last night with a draw that seemed to give such questioning a measure of credence.

Pat Russell of La Mesa, Calif., from Spadafora's International Boxing Federation, scored it 115-113 for Dorin. Guillermo Perez Pineda of Panama City, Panama, from Dorin's World Boxing Association, scored it that same way for Spadafora.

But Gary Merrit of Muncie, Ind., the ringside judge whom Dorin's camp loudly and longly disputed for his limited title experience (and all but one of it in the IBF), was the one who rendered moot all the blood spilled and the 1,147 punches thrown and the 12 rounds of brutal action.

Merrit scored it 114-114.

So Dorin, the WBA belt holder, remained undefeated at 21-0-1.

And Spadafora sustained the first blemish of his career, at 36-0-1, and got to retain his IBF and International Boxing Council championships.

Nothing changed. Nothing was settled.

At least this will arrange a nice, little rematch for last night's broadcaster, HBO.

"That's why we're going to do a rematch, without a doubt," promoter Mike Acri said. "It was a great fight."

Leonard Dorin, left, and Paul Spadafora mix it up.

It was a brawl. For the record, the Post-Gazette and the New York Daily News, among others ringside, scored the fight in favor of the Montreal-based Romanian, Dorin by 115-113. In fairness, with Spadafora rallying to win the final three rounds, that could've thrown considerable doubt on any decision and caused the judges to sway in their thinking. Two of HBO's commentators, Harold Lederman (Dorin) and Larry Merchant (draw), scored it radically different.

Even Spadafora's promoter, Acri, scored it a draw.

"I cannot say I win or not," Dorin said in his broken English. "It was between two champions. We let the people [judge].

"It was a good fight, but I don't lost that fight."

Spadafora said, "I definitely want to have a rematch. I want to get a chance to prove that I should be the WBA and IBF champion of the world. Most definitely, I think I won the fight. I thought I won it by one or two rounds. I took off a couple of rounds in the middle of the fight, maybe that's what decided the fight."

Or not.

The official decision -- or indecision as it was -- before an estimated 5,200 patrons probably won't hurt Spadafora's career, because he showed he could be a puncher and a fighter and a fellow who could withstand an onslaught of 344 Dorin, cut-causing punches. On CompuBox scoring, Spadafora outpunched Dorin in only two of the 12 rounds.

Dorin took the fight to Spadafora in the first and third rounds, when the defensive fighter inexplicably stayed in front of the flurry puncher, losing both to Dorin. In the third round, both fighters started to bleed. Dorin was cut on the inside of his right eye and Spadafora over his left eye. Dorin worked that eye repeatedly through the opening rounds with rights, and the 5-foot-4 puncher was close enough despite a five-inch height difference.

Both boxers remained friends, tapping gloves at rounds' end. Though when Dorin caught him with some dicey rights in the third, Spadafora shook them off with a didn't-do-anything look.

The hometown fighter seemed to be even after four rounds, but Dorin got the better of the punches landed until the fifth -- which, oddly, because of better shots, Dorin appeared to win.

In the sixth, it had the look of a match turning from brawl to boxing, which should normally favor the defensive-minded pug like Spadafora. Yet Dorin took that round as well and had a lead by the bout's midpoint.

Leonard Dorin connects with a right against Paul Spadafora last night at the Petersen Events Center.

He took the seventh, too, the shorter fighter managing to trap Spadafora against the ropes twice with a mean right and then, the second time, a left. Dorin was throwing hard, landing, then stepping back before Spadafora could retaliate. He scored twice as often as Spadafora that round, landing 33 punches to 16.

By the end of the eighth, Dorin seemed to own six rounds already, putting Spadafora in the deepest hole of his 3 1/2-year reign as IBF champion. In the ninth, Spadafora started bleeding from the right eye, too, while his left eye swelled. Somehow, that sparked him to box some more, feinting and turning and spinning and getting Dorin to miss, all the while igniting his hometown crowd.

His bloody right eye affecting his vision on a couple of occasions, Spadafora saw nothing but Dorin gloves in the 10th -- the turning point round, when Dorin may have snagged all the belts with his seventh and decisive victorious round.

In the 12th, Spadafora struck a gusher around Dorin's right eye and tried to work it. The crowd tried to spur him on.

It was too late.

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

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