Vito Antuofermo is one of the few Italian fighters who made an impact in the United States. His brawling style was perfect for the American fans and his unwillingness to quit, even when his face was covered with blood, gained him a “tough guy” reputation. Even if Vito couldn’t beat Marvin Hagler (the first match was declared a draw, The Marvelous One won the second by 5th round TKO), the fans still consider the Italian in the same class as the greats of his time.

I noticed that during my visits to New York where Antuofermo is still treated like a star; they invite him to boxing seminars and major shows and he always gets a lot of cheers from the crowd. I interviewed him by phone last year for a major Italian newspaper and he surprised me saying that Hagler wasn’t his toughest opponent: Eugene Hart’s punches hurt him much more. Vito faced Hart on March 11, 1977 in Philadelphia and KOed him during the fifth round.

Another tough customer was Eckhard Dagge. The fight took place on January 16, 1976 in Berlin (Germany). After 15 hard rounds, Antuofermo won on points. Dagge was in great physical condition, seemed never to tire, and this was a problem that Vito didn’t take into proper consideration. He was sure he would get rid of the German in a few minutes, but Dagge’s performance was no fluke: on June 17, 1976 he became WBC world light middleweight champion.

Vito is also very proud of beating Bennie Briscoe on February 4, 1978 at Madison Square Garden. Back then, Brisco had a record of 58-15-5 and 1 no contest. In his previous fight, Briscoe had lost on points to Rodrigo Valdez for the vacant WBA and WBC middleweight titles. According to Vito, Briscoe would have easily win many world championships today. In his era, he didn’t win even one. In 1972, Briscoe had lost on points to WBA and WBC champion Carlos Monzon. In 1974, Briscoe was stopped in seven rounds by Rodrigo Valdez for the vacant WBC belt.

After hanging up the gloves, Vito noticed that during his career he had more problems with Europeans because they were trained better than Americans. Most of his U.S. opponents were brawlers who looked for the KO punch, while the Europeans studied a strategy to win on points and this obliged them to build a physique to last 15 rounds. Vito also had a hard time fighting outside the United States because everything was new to him and the fans were rooting for his opponents. In New York, where he lived and had the support of the crowd, he lost only once (to Harold Weston in 1973, the referee called a halt because of a cut over Antuofermo’s left eye).

This is a typically Italian way of thinking; in fact, we say that the hometown public is the 12th man of the soccer team. Even if Vito was born in Palo del Colle – in the Puglia region of Southern Italy – he decided to start his career in the United States where he fought his first 24 matches. Only his 25th fight was in Rome, on May 3, 1974.  he opponent was Joey Durelle, a guy who couldn’t be taken lightly (his record was 67-15-4): Vito KOed him in one round. Later, Antuofermo fought again in Rome, Milan and Naples. Only seven of his 59 fights took place in Italy. His reputation was so big that promoters wanted him in the major American venues and also in England, Canada, Monte Carlo and Germany. From 1971 to 1985, Vito Antuofermo compiled a record of 50 wins (21 KOs), 7 losses and 2 draws. His final ring appearance was a loss to Matthew Hilton (TKO4), a kid he would have destroyed in a few seconds only a couple of years earlier.

When Vito decided to retire, he opened a pizzeria in New York City: Champ’s Pizza. He didn’t like it so much and sold the restaurant. Later, he got a job at the docks where he could make good money working only eight hours. This allowed him to dedicate the rest of the day to his family and his other activities, like teaching aeroboxing in a fitness gym and acting. Thanks to his tough guy looks, Vito was hired many times to play mobsters in movies. He is famous for his role in The Godfather – Part III. He played Anthony Squigliaro, one of Joey Zaza’s bodyguards. The scenes were shot during three months in Cinecittà, Rome’s version of Hollywood.

Most journalists write that the third episode of The Godfather was disappointing and a failure. While it’s true that it cost $54,000,000 and grossed only $66,600,000 in the States, it’s also true that it made $70,100,000 abroad and $38,000,000 from U.S. rentals. That’s a profit of $120,700,000. After The Godfather – Part III, Vito was hired to participate in other movies. In 1999, he played the mobster again in La Bomba (The Bomb), an Italian comedy which won the Audience Award during the Los Angeles Italian Film Festival. Today, Vito Antuofermo enjoys living in New York, but still keeps in touch with what’s going on in Italy.

Vito Antuofermo

Born on February 9, 1953 in Palo del Colle, a town close to Bari, in the Puglia region of Southern Italy

Record: 50 wins (21 KOs), 7 losses and 2 draws

Pro debut in 1971

Titles

European light middleweight champion

On January 16, 1976 in Berlin (Germany), he defeated on points Eckhard Dagge to win the European belt.

On March 26, 1976 in Milan (Italy), he successfully defended the title against Jean Claude Warusfel (TKO 14).

On October 1, 1976 in Rome (Italy), he lost the belt against Maurice Hope (TKO15). According to Antuofermo, the official should have let him continue until the end (which was only 15 seconds away). Vito claimed to have weight problems in the weeks prior to the fight. Since he didn’t have a diet specialist in his team, he didn’t lose weight properly and was weak during the fight. With the years, Maurice Hope proved to be a true champion.

On March 4, 1979 he won the WBC world light middleweight title and held it until May 23, 1981.

WBA and WBC world middleweight champion

On June 30, 1979 at Royal Palace in Monte Carlo, he won the WBA and WBC  titles by split decision against Hugo Pastor Corro. The scorecards: 146-145 and 143-142 (Antuofermo), 146-145 (Corro).

On November 30, 1979 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, he drew with Marvin Hagler. The judges scored 145-141 (Hagler), 144-142 (Antuofermo) and 143-143.

On March 16, 1980 at Caesars Palace, he lost the WBA and WBC belts to Alan Minter by split decision. The scorecards: 145-143 (Antuofermo), 144-141 (Minter) and a surprising 149-137 for Minter.

Other famous fights

On June 28, 1980 in London (England), he lost the rematch with Alan Minter for the WBA and WBC titles (TKO8).

On June 13, 1981 in Boston, he lost to WBA and WBC champion Marvin Hagler by 5th round TKO.