Silvio Branco is one of the few Italian fighters who has built a reputation abroad. He has fought top opposition in Scotland, England, France, Germany and Argentina. Among his victims are Glencoffe Johnson, Robin Reid, Thomas Tate and Verno Philips. In 17 years as a pro,  His victories brought him the most prestigious awards by Italian Presidents Oscar Luigi Scalfaro and Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, as well as by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi: the Golden Collar and the Medal of Honor for Sports Accomplishments.

Currently, Silvio Branco’s record comprises 53 wins (33 by KO), 8 losses and 2 draws. In the light heavyweight rankings, he is rated number two by the WBA, number five by the WBC, number ten by the IBF and number eight by the WBO. His last fight was on June 17, at the famed Palalido in Milan: he gave a boxing lesson to promising youngster Drago Janusevic (who was 8-0), defeating him via 6th round TKO. Right now, The Barbarian is training to fight WBA king Fabrice Tiozzo. He lost the WBA belt, on points, to the Frenchman, but he doesn’t consider that loss a real one. In fact, he doesn’t even consider Tiozzo his toughest opponent. Other fighters, some of them unknown in the United States, gave him many more problems. Let’s discover who they are.

Silvio, who was your toughest opponent?

Verno Philips. He had a big reputation, which made him look dangerous. He had been WBO light middleweight champion, beating twice Puerto Rican Santos Cardona. I saw Verno Philips in action when he faced Gianfranco Rosi in 1995, losing on points (the decision was then changed into a no-contest after Rosi failed a drug test). I thought Philips was very good, but not an outstanding boxer. When we got in the ring, I found out he was very fast in moving and throwing combinations. When he knocked me down in the first round, I couldn’t believe it. I got up, fought at my best and got a unanimous decision: 116-112, 114-113 and 117-112. My victory gained importance three months later, when Verno Philips defeated easily Gianfranco Rosi in their rematch. In 1998, Verno Philips knocked out Julian Jackson and that increased my reputation on the international scene.

What about Glencoffe Johnson?

He was another difficult opponent. I can say that he is a legitimate tough guy. I wasn’t surprised when he defeated Antonio Tarver and Roy Jones. The people who underrated Glencoffe did so because he wasn’t famous. If you don’t have a contract with a major promoter who provides you big fights and who pushes your image with the media, some people may think that you aren’t good. The point is that in boxing what counts is what you can do in the ring; Glencoffe Johnson can do his job better than the most acclaimed champions.

By the way, who would you like to fight?

I want a rematch against WBA champion Fabrice Tiozzo, but I’m ready to face Zsolt Erdei (WBO), Clinton Woods (IBF) and Thomasz Adamek (WBC). I respect them all, but I consider Antonio Tarver better than them. I would love to fight Antonio, anytime. If he wants to fight in his hometown, that’s ok for me.

Do you think that the champions of the major sanctioning bodies are avoiding him?

I don’t think so. They just have to follow the schedule of their organization, if they don’t want to be stripped of the belts. Remember what happened when Antonio Tarver signed to fight Glencoffe Johnson: the WBC and IBF asked them to face other opponents, they refused and were forced to  relinquish the titles. By the way, I don’t believe in the distinction between major and minor sanctioning bodies. It’s the champion who makes an organization important. Nobody cared about the WBO, then Oscar De La Hoya became champion and everybody started considering the WBO title a world title. Today, the WBO is as respected as the WBC, WBA and IBF. Since Antonio Tarver is the IBO champion, that belt is meaningful.

Why do you want so badly a rematch with Fabrice Tiozzo?

Because I never lost to him in the first place! I dominated him for the entire fight. In the 8th round I knocked him down. During the interval, incidentally (or not so), a bucket full of ice and water fell on the ring floor. They had to clean the mat and this gave Tiozzo more time to recover. Besides, the 9th round was short 13 seconds (the tapes prove it). During the 11th round I slipped and the referee started counting. I got up immediately and asked him What are you doing? He told me to shut up. I didn’t pay much importance to the slip because I knew I was winning by a wide margin. I forgot that partisan verdicts are usual in boxing. Two judges ruled in Tiozzo’s favor (114-112), the third one saw it a draw (113-113). I’m not saying that he is not a good boxer; he is an excellent one. He became WBA and WBC light heavyweight champion and WBA cruiserweight champion. Among others, he defeated Mike McCallum, Eric Lucas, Nate Miller and Darius Michalczewski. The next time, I’ll have to knock Tiozzo out.

Are you sure he’ll grant you a rematch?

I was supposed to fight him later this month. I went to Paris to train with Jean-Marc Mormeck, when I was told that Tiozzo will make a defense against Paul Murdoch on December 5. I don’t understand what makes Paul Murdoch the number one contender.

Let’s talk about your fights in Germany.

I don’t complain about the losses to Thomas Ulrich (11th round ko) and Sven Ottke (on points), but I’m mad about the loss against Stipe Drews. I was scheduled to face Thomas Ulrich, who pulled out of the fight a few hours earlier. They told me he was sick and that Drews was willing to replace him. I didn’t know anything about Drews. After 12 hard rounds, the judges ruled in his favor: 115-114, 116-112 and 117-111. I would like to know the reasons for giving Drews four and six points. Looking at the match, I realized that Stipe Drews is just a good boxer. With the proper training, I would have beaten him. You know, some people don’t understand the importance of training. For the sparring sessions, you choose a partner who has a style similar to your opponent’s style. You memorize the way he moves and what you have to do to win the fight. If your opponent changes, all the work you did in the gym isn’t useful anymore. If I defeated easily a respected super middleweight like Robin Reid, it’s because I studied the right strategy. We fought in Scotland, on

June 24, 2000. The judges recognized my superiority: 118-109, 117-110 and 115-111.

You also fought in Argentina.

Yes, in Buenos Aires, in 1994. My opponent was Miguel Angel Arroyo, who had a record of 62 wins, 10 losses and 5 draws. The WBC international middleweight title was on the line. Most of the 18,000 fans were supporting Arroyo. I was pleased to see many green/white/red flags; many Argentineans are of Italian ancestry and they rooted for me. The fight was much tougher than I expected; Arroyo was one helluva fighter. That’s why I’m very proud of my victory. Like I said before, sometimes boxers who are not much publicized turn out to be the most dangerous ones. Mehdi Sahnoune is another example. I beat him for the WBA world light heavyweight title on October 10, 2003. He had a record of 24-0, but nobody knew him out of France. Last October 22, he was hired by German promoters to face Zsolt Erdei who won by 12th round TKO. Sahnoune could have won the match; on two scorecards he was just one point behind Erdei.

Talking about unknown good fighters, Agostino Cardamone was a nightmare for you.

Yes, he beat me three times. The second one, I was winning on points when he got me with a big hook to the jaw: 10th round KO. Agostino Cardamone was one of the best middleweights of his era.  Between 1989 and 1999 he won the Italian and European titles. He lost to Julian Jackson for the vacant WBC belt: 2nd round TKO. He became WBU champion against me and closed his career with a record of 33 wins and 3 losses. It’s a shame that, even in Italy, nobody remembers him. I want the readers of The Sweet Science to know that in Italy there are plenty of good fighters. If they got an opportunity against a big American star, they would made quite an impression. I’ll never forget when Giorgio Campanella knocked down Oscar De La Hoya in the first round, with a hook to the chin. If he got him one inch higher, the Golden Boy would have been put to sleep. For the record, De La Hoya got up and knocked down Campanella in the second and third rounds forcing the Italian’s cornermen to throw in the towel. That was May 27, 1994.

Silvio Branco

Alias: The Barbarian

Birthplace: Civitavecchia, Italy. This town is close to Rome.

Division: Light Heavyweight

Age: 39

Born: August 26, 1966

Stance: Orthodox

Height: 184

Manager: OPI 2000 Salvatore Cherchi

Trainer: Franco Cherchi

Record: 53 Wins (33 by KO), 8 Losses and 2 Draws

Middleweight Titles: Italian Champion, WBC International Champion, IBF Intercontinental Champion, WBU World Champion.Super Middleweight Title: WBU World Champion.

Light Heavyweight Titles: WBA and IBF Intercontinental Champion, WBA World Champion.