As the nephew of legendary boxing figure Al Certo, cut man Danny Milano always had boxing in his blood. He fought a little as an amateur, but soon realized that wasn’t his forte.
He loved the game, though, and he loves his uncle, who is as old school as it gets. While still a teenager the now 50-year-old Milano, a native of the Bronx who moved to New Jersey at the age of 16, began helping him out in his gym. Before long, he graduated to assisting him and the esteemed Howie Albert, who worked as his uncle’s cut man, in the ring with fighters of all levels.
“Basically I carried the spit bucket for about 10 years,” said the self-effacing Milano. “I had no problem with that because Uncle Al and Howie were legendary guys. I learned so much just by watching them.”
One day, in the mid-nineties, Albert’s ankle was bothering him so Milano stepped in as the cut man for New Jersey welterweight Scott DePompe at the Fernwood Resort in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. DePompe would up receiving a cut that required nearly 40 stitches, but Milano kept him in the fight for as long as it lasted.
“That fight put me on the map,” said Milano. “From there I got one, two, three other guys. Now, as a freelancer, I have about 50 regular guys.”
His clients include or have included such championship caliber fighters as Paulie Malignaggi and Antonio Tarver. He also works with the likes of Andre Berto, Vinny Maddalone, Peter Manfredo Jr., Cindy Serrano and Maureen Shea. He is pretty much the house cut man for most of promoter Lou DiBella’s stable of fighters.
Milano loves all of his fighters, but jokes that heavyweight Maddalone, a notorious bleeder, “made me the best in the business. He’s my best customer. He starts bleeding when he leaves the dressing room.”
Although Milano is regularly seen in the corner of major fights on HBO and Showtime, he is just as comfortable working four or six rounders at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, New Jersey.
That was where he was not long after working the corner of Argentinean Walter Matthysse against Kermit Cintron in Atlantic City on HBO’s July 14 welterweight tripleheader.
This Friday he will be in Saratoga Springs in upstate New York to work with Berto. A day later, he’ll be stemming the flow of blood at Roosevelt Raceway.
“I get an adrenaline rush no matter who is fighting or where the fight is at,” said Milano.
While Milano is well compensated for some of the bigger fights he works, he says that he often loses money when going on the road. As the owner and operator of an appliance repair company, he sometimes gives up making a few thousand dollars fixing an appliance for a few hundred working one or more corners a night.
But, he says because boxing is “very near and dear to me,” the fiscal considerations don’t often play into his decisions.
Ironically, while recently working the Atlantic City extravaganza, his beloved five and half year old son B.J. was playing when he ran into a pole and cut his head. Milano was upset that he couldn’t be there to help stem his son’s bleeding. If he was, it would have been the fistic version of taking his son to the office.
Boxing has taken Milano to places he could have only imagined as a youngster. He’s been to Germany, China, Wales, Italy, and more islands than he can name.
“For the first year or so, the traveling was lots of fun,” he said. “Staying at nice hotels and eating good food is great. But after a while the travel takes a toll. I’m on the road, on average, every other weekend all year long.”
What makes his work the most fun is the time he spends with the fighters. He calls Malignaggi and Maddalone “a pleasure to work with because the chemistry is right.” Berto, he says, “is all business but a lot of fun to be around.”
“Before fights you can’t look at any of them crooked, they are so intense,” said Milano. “But afterwards, they are usually all smiles, especially if they win.”
Milano literally grew up in the fight game. Uncle Al, who is the brother of Milano’s mother, wears his heart on his sleeve much the way Milano does. And like his revered uncle, Milano is not afraid to tell it like it is or do what he thinks is right, ramifications be damned.
“The most important thing Uncle Al taught me was to never forget where I came from,” said Milano “He always had faith in me from the beginning. He taught me that, above all else, loyalty is the real key to your success.”
Milano, who idolized such old school cut men as Ace Marotta, Howie Albert and Al Silvani, has found himself in several unenviable positions where his loyalty was severely tested.
In June 2006, two of his fighters, Tarver and Malignaggi, were fighting in separate cities. Tarver was tangling with Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City, while Malignaggi was facing Miguel Cotto at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Milano asked himself who needed him the most, and also considered who he worked with the longest. He opted to work with Malignaggi and wound up losing Tarver as a client.
More recently he chose to work the corner of journeyman Dennis Sharpe over undefeated middleweight Giovanni Lorenzo, the latter of whom is generally considered to be a future champion.
“I had to go with my gut and my heart,” said Milano. “Unfortunately, I probably lost Lorenzo but I had to do what I thought was right. I had been with Dennis a long time.”
As things are now, Milano’s career is steamrolling ahead at a breakneck pace. He still laughs at all the ambiguities and nuances of boxing at all levels. He laughs when talking about his Uncle Al telling him he could have picked a different vocation on the night he tried to keep DePompe going for as long as possible.
And he jokes about a night earlier this year when the opponent of the fighter with whom he was working was desperately in need of a protective cup.
“He asked me if I had an extra cup he could borrow,” laughed Milano. “This kind of stuff happens all the time. As serious as my work is – and I take it very seriously - I never laugh as much as I do when I’m at work. Boxing is a serious business, but the people that are in it make it so much fun. I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing with my life. I’m living my dream.”