Loris Stecca is one of the few Italian boxers who faced mostly foreign fighters. It was a strategy that legendary manager Umberto Branchini employed exclusively for the best men in his stable. From 1980 to 1988, Loris compiled a record of 55 wins (37 KOs), 2 losses and 2 draws. He won the Italian and European featherweight titles and the WBA super bantamweight crown. His two battles with Victor Callejas are in the Italian boxing history books. Unlike his brother Maurizio (a former Olympic bantamweight and WBO featherweight champion, who works as a coach of the Italian national team), Loris decided to keep away from boxing after his retirement. Today, he works for the company who runs the private dock (the one where the millionaires leave their yachts) of Rimini. I called Loris at his office and he was kind enough to grant me this interview.
Loris, why did you fight almost exclusively foreign boxers?
Because my manager Umberto Branchini wanted me to get me experience against fighters with different styles and make my name famous abroad. It was the shortest way to the top. Also, after I started winning match after match, the other Italian managers avoided to put their men against me. They were publicizing those fighters as champions and didn’t want the truth to come out; the truth was that those boxers would have showed their limits against me. Financially, it was more useful fighting foreign champions in their hometown than easy opponents in Italy. That’s why I agreed to defend the WBA super bantamweight title against Victor Callejas in Puerto Rico.
Let’s talk about that.
It was a terrible experience. I arrived in Guaynabo one week before the fight and the Puerto Rican fans did everything to make my stay on their island miserable. They insulted me in the street, yelled under the window of my hotel room while I was sleeping, and did other similar things. The Italian journalists wrote many articles about this situation. Obviously, I couldn’t train properly and be at my best the day of the fight which took place on May 26, 1984. That day the temperature was over 100 degrees, I never experienced such a heat in my life. Being Perto Rican, Callejas was used to it. Victor was one helluva fighter, but I held my own. Unfortunately, he cut me above my eyebrow and the referee stopped the fight: 8th round TKO.
What about the rematch?
It took place on November 8, 1985 in Rimini. Once again, I held my own. After six rounds, the judges had it 56-57, 55-58 and 57-58 in Callejas’ favor. The problem was that he broke my jaw and I couldn’t keep on fighting. He won by 6th round TKO. As I said before, he was one helluva fighter and hurt with both his hands. He was the toughest opponent I ever met.
You won the WBA title from Leonardo Cruz. What kind of fighter he was?
A very dangerous one. His record was 40-6-2, he had been Dominican Republic super featherweight champion, had lost to WBC super bantamweight champion Wilfredo Gomez (13th round TKO) and to WBA super bantamweight titlist Sergio Victor Palma (on points, after 15 rounds) in Argentine. Leo Cruz got a rematch against Palma and won the WBA title, by unanimous decision, in Miami Beach. Cruz successfully defended the title three times, so I knew he was a champion to be respected. I fought him in Milan, on February 22, 1984 and I won by 12th round TKO. He couldn’t take it anymore and turned toward his corner. My victory against such a fighter proves that I was a legitimate world champion. I cannot say that for many other boxers. You know something? If I was active today, I would go after the fake titles too. If winning the belt of a minor organization against a nobody allows a boxer to be considered champion of the world, why should he risk to fight a dangerous opponent?
Did you consider one of your victories a “lucky one?”
Yes, the one against Pat Doherty. I faced him on March 15, 1985 in Rimini. His record was 12-5-2 and he was supposed to be easy for me. During the fight, I broke my left hand and this complicated it all. Anyway, I was able to hurt him so much that I won by 5th round TKO. I remember that his face was a bloody mess. In most champions’ records there is a lucky win. I’m sure that this happens only to the ones who train seriously, live like boxers and give 100% every time they fight.
In a rare match between high-level Italian boxers, you beat Valerio Nati on points. How do you remember that fight?
As a difficult one. Valerio was an excellent boxer, his career proves it. He compiled a record of 46 wins (28 KOs), 5 losses, 4 draws and became Italian bantamweight champion, European bantamweight and featherweight champion, and WBO super bantamweight champion. We got the opportunity of facing each other because we were both managed by Umberto Branchini and he knew that the Italian fans were eager to see the fight. You know, everywhere I fought the place was packed. When I faced Leo Cruz in 1984, about 6,000 people came at the “Palasport” in Milan generating a gross of 110,540,000 Lire (the biggest in history for an indoor event, at the time).
That means that you made money too.
I always made enough money to live well, but I didn’t get rich. My biggest purse was around 40,000,000 Lires. Today, it would be 20,658 Euros ($24,790). Back in 1985 it was a good amount of money; an average employee needed 1 year and half to make that sum. For my last fight, in 1988, I got 16,000,000 Lires (about 8,200 Euros = $9,840). I considered it peanuts, but I was working to get another title shot. Unfortunately, I had a car accident; I seriously injuried my knee and that put an end to my career as a prizefighter.
In your record there are two draws against nobodies, how do you explain that?
My performances against Samuel Meck (who was 8-10-1) and Francisco Arreola (5-0-1) were poor, but I’m sure that I did enough to win. I’m also convinced that the judges wanted to punish me. You know the story about partisan virdicts? I had the opposite problem because I was never too diplomatic and didn’t allow anybody to fool me. As a matter of fact, not many people in the Italian boxing community liked me.
Why didn’t you have a long amateur career?
Because I wanted to become a prizefighter. The Italian boxing commission said that I could start my pro career before turning 21 years old. I think I was the only one in history to get the ok. I made my pro debut on October 18, 1980 when I was 20 years, 6 months and 18 days old. I cannot complain about my amateur career, I compiled a record of 57 wins and 3 losses and became Italian featherweight champion.
Born on March 30, 1960 in Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna
Hometown: Rimini, in the Emilia Romagna region of Central Italy
Height: 167 cm.
Manager: Umberto Branchini
Trainer: Elio Ghelfi
Professional Record: 55 wins (37 KOs), 2 losses and 2 draws
Italian featherweight champion (1981-1982)
European featherweight champion (1983)
WBA world super bantamweight champion (1984)