If there’s any job out there in which a man especially deserves a “fair” wage for a fair effort, it’s boxing. It would be ideal if we could set up an equitable scenario where a man could be compensated on a basis wherein he’d be paid so much for every drop of blood expended, so much for every brain cell smashed to smithereens, so much for every postbout stitch needed. Using those criteria, Queens, New York heavyweight Vinny Maddalone, who gets the opportunity of his professional lifetime when he gloves up with Evander Holyfield in Corpus Christi, Texas on Saturday evening, would be in the Forbes 400 range of earners among sweet scientists. The New York-based Maddalone (27-3, 19 KOs), who aspired to be a baseball player but switched gears when he hurt his arm, is 33-years-old. He turned pro in 1999, and has given much of himself to the game. In talking to Maddalone, you glean that the man is more consumed with giving fans what they want to see, an honest effort, than he is consumed with winning. Maddalone is especially proud of his 2004 effort against Brian Minto, a rock ‘em sock ‘em robots special on Friday Night Fights. “They show it on ESPN Classic,” he tells me, not caring that he exited the ring that night with his second loss as a professional.
I moved to New York from Massachusetts in 1999, and almost immediately, latched on to Bronx promoter Joe DeGuardia’s club shows in Yonkers. In July of 1999, Maddalone, the bulky banger who looked like he spent at least 50% of his training time hoisting weights, fought for the first time in Yonkers. It was the first of eight outings in Yonkers, and every time, Maddalone put asses in seats. Union guys, acquainted with his managers (who are in the construction trade) took to the crowd pleasing fighter. Maddalone, from the ‘best defense is a good offense’ school, wouldn’t be put off in the slightest when his skin sprung a leak, and what fan couldn’t tip his cap to that ethos? Knowing that, I was disturbed when I heard on the fertile, if flawed, grapevine that Big Vinny would only gross around $25Gs for this outing. It couldn’t be, I thought. No way DeGuardia, who virtually kept his outfit afloat during some lean times on all those hardhats coming in from Queens to see Big Vinny, was going to shortchange the fighter. Not when Fres Oquendo had made six figures for stepping in with the 44-year-old, 40-8-2 Real Deal in November. But then Maddalone’s trainer Al Certo, who’s 79, and has the correct outlook for a man who first delved into this red light district of a sport in the 1940s, mentioned money.
It was a few weeks ago, at a press gathering in NYC, and Certo spoke with the ‘devil can go eff himself if he don’t like it’ edge. “I’m hearing about all kinds of money,” the delightfully crusty tailor said. “Where is the money for us?” So I followed up on that reference, and a week later, got Maddalone on the phone. What about it, Big Vin, is it true? Tell me you’re not grossing 25Gs for this? No, Maddalone assured me, he and DeGuardia have come to an arrangement. I’ll be making six figures, Maddalone told me. “For 25 or 50 thousand, I wouldn’t do it for that,” Maddalone told me. Whew, that a relief. The man has put his cut man, Danny Milano, to good use over the year. Maddalone has accrued around 250 stitches in his seven year career, and you have to hope he’ll exit the game with a little somethin’ saved up. He will, he assured me. I then got on the horn with Certo, and reveled in the sharp spoken tailor’s way with words. The trainer, who took Maddalone on after the loss to Minto in 2004, admitted that he trashed Maddalone in print just to get him motivated. Then he railed some about the low payday. “Holyfield’s getting all the money,” Certo said. “If he’s looking for a win, let him pay for it.” Certo told me Maddalone would get around $45Gs for the effort. I had to break it to him. Al, Vinny said he’s getting six figures. Certo didn’t really wrap his brain around my assertion, and he proclaimed his overwhelming loyalty to Big Vinny. “I wish him all the luck in the world,” Certo said. “I’ll be in his corner Saturday, and I’ll shave his ass if he needs me to.” On that deliciously evocative note, I bid Certo good day, and went about the rest of my day. Two hours later, I got a call from Big Vinny, clarifying. The six figures is something he worked out with DeGuardia. Certo, the boxer implied, wasn’t knee deep in the negotiations. I can only hope that my efforts to ensure fair play and decency in this inherently unfair and frequently indecent sport didn’t cause a fissure in the Maddalone/Certo bond. You know what they say about no good deed…