Vinny Maddalone swings for the fences

BY Robert Mladinich ON September 27, 2005
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Heavyweight prospect Vinny Maddalone of Queens, New York, is very convincing when he says that he won’t turn his highly anticipated October 1 rematch with Brian “The Beast” Minto of Butler, Pennsylvania, into another pier-six brawl.

Although Maddalone probably believes every word that he says, you just know that the fight will unfold like every other one of his bouts. The former college baseball star will feel out his opponent for all of about ten seconds, and then start swinging for the fences.

The fact that the Minto rematch is taking place on such a high-profile show—the HBO Pay-Per-View televised undercard of Antonio Tarver-Roy Jones III from the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, Florida—only guarantees that the 31-year-old Maddalone, 25-2 (18 KOs), will throw caution to the wind.

“Since the first day I ever put gloves on, I dreamed about fighting on HBO,” said Maddalone. “It doesn’t get any bigger than this.”

Considering the fact that he only started boxing at the age of 19 while attending Pfeiffer College in North Carolina on a baseball scholarship—and didn’t turn pro until he was 25—fighting in such a coveted spot is testament to his crowd-pleasing style.

But Maddalone, who is all action all the time, earned whatever he has gotten the hard way. Although he is an extremely good athlete, he chooses to make easy fights a lot harder than they have to be. And as he moves up in his level of competition, his no-holds-barred, face-first, free-swinging style might endear him to fans, but it won’t make for a long career.

“I beg him to use some his athletic ability, because he has tons of it,” said trainer Al Certo, who is best known for helping craft Buddy McGirt into one of the purest boxers of all time. “He yeses me to death, and I believe he means what he says. He thinks he’s Superman and he’s very hardheaded. If his opponent misses him, he gets mad. He’s very strong, but I keep telling him that boxing isn’t all about strength, it’s how you use that strength.”

Maddalone, a standout college pitcher, also played professionally for the Adirondack Lumberjacks in Glens Falls, New York. He honed his boxing skills while competing in Toughman contests in college. For four straight years he won titles, many times on the basis of his strength and stamina alone. He insists that it is hard to undo some of the bad habits he picked up along the way.

“My style has always been more of a pro style, but in the Toughman contests I didn’t have to worry about losing decisions because I knocked everyone out,” said Maddalone, who earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and hopes to someday begin a second career in law enforcement. “I know I make easy fights hard, but I can’t help getting caught up in the moment. Everything Al teaches me I throw out the window because I want to please the fans. I like to watch guys come right at each other, so that’s the way I fight. But I know if I want to get to the next level, I know I have to start tightening things up.”

For such a headstrong fighter like Maddalone, tightening things up is easier said than done. He was originally scheduled to fight Shannon Briggs in an all-New York showdown but jumped at the opportunity to fight Minto again, even though it was for significantly less money.

In Atlantic City in July 2004, Minto, who was 17-0 (11 KOs) at the time, stopped Maddalone in the tenth round with a thunderous left hook that Maddalone never saw coming. Their slugfest is still talked about as one of the most entertaining fights in recent years. (Minto’s record is now 20-1 with 11 KOs).

“I still think I could have beat Minto the first time if I didn’t try to knock him out,” said Maddalone. “Hopefully I can take what I learned the first time and apply it now. But I was training for Briggs when this fight came along. I knew I wasn’t going to have to go looking for Briggs, just like I won’t have to looking for Minto, so I have to regroup and recompose and force myself to fight a sensible fight.”

If Maddalone’s most recent fight, a TKO of previously undefeated Shannon Miller in Saratoga Springs, New York in August, is any indication, don’t expect his old habits to go by the wayside. It was a typical rock-em, sock-em affair that could have gone either way before Maddalone leveled Miller in the fifth round of a barnburner.

Where Maddalone got his immense fighting spirit is anyone’s guess. His father passed away when he was very young, and he and his two brothers were raised by their mother Carol. One brother is a mechanic, the other a physical therapist. His mother refuses to attend his fights, opting to stay home, light candles, and say prayers. After the fights are over, she’ll force herself to watch them with her son by her side.

“My mother means everything to me,” said Maddalone. “Whatever strength I have I got from her. She worked in a school cafeteria and raised three boys on her own. She would always find the time to come to my ballgames and cheer me on. She’s not happy about me boxing, but she knows it’s my dream and cheers me on in her own way. I want to be able to provide for her and let her know how much I appreciate all that she’s sacrificed for me.”

Because boxing is paramount in his life right now Maddalone is taking things slow with his girlfriend Kathy Citarella, who is also a physical therapist. He says that her support has also been invaluable to him. One thing most obvious about Maddalone is that he surrounds himself with good, positive people, all of whom are as eager to see him succeed as he is.

“Vinny is a great kid,” said Certo. “He is very hardworking and dedicated. If he listens, he’ll be fighting for a title soon. He’s got so much natural ability, I just wish he would just start using it more. Every fight doesn’t have to be World War III. The last thing I want to see is him walking with a cane when he’s 40-years-old He’s got too much going for him for that to happen.”

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