One of the myths about the Italian boxing scene is that when Silvio Branco, Cristian Sanavia, Gianluca Branco, Paolo Vidoz and Michele Piccirillo retire, nobody will take their place. As usual, that is not true. You must understand that Italians have a tendency to underrate their own champions, particularly in boxing. Even the five fighters I mentioned, never got the proper respect and they were good enough to win the WBA, WBC and IBF world titles or the European crown.
The problem in Italy is that there is a strong rivalry between North and South and this effects the sports world. Talking in general, Northern Italians think that the Southern people are lazy, can never get the job done in the required time, are slow in whatever they do and even sleep in the afternoon. On the other hand, Southern Italians consider the Northern people too business-oriented and say that they never smile. Even the food is different: in Northern Italy the traditional course is boiled rice accompanied by a vegetable of choice (usually mushrooms) and topped with Parmigiano Reggiano. Deer and boars steaks, like rabbit, are also common in the areas close to Switzerland. Southern Italian food is the one you can find in every New York restaurant.
Most Northern Italians prefer going on vacation abroad rather than in Southern Italy. I know both sides of my country because I was born and raised in Milan, from Calabrese parents. This situation explains why a fighter considered good in Palermo, gets no respect in Turin. Each time the Branco brothers fight in their hometown of Civitavecchia (close to Rome), they draw big crowds. When they fought in Milan, they got insulted by the spectators. This approach is even more dramatic in soccer: the visiting team gets insults, bottles, stones, cans and everything else the public can throw into the field.
A few days ago, a new extreme was reached: a group of punks waited for some players of Inter at the airport and beat them up. The fans of the guest team get regularly beaten up. A few years back in Milan, some crazy guys launched a small motorcycle on the spectators below them. How did the motorcycle get into the stadium? The referee must always hear the public scream: You are doing a disgusting job! Did you get crooked? Go home and you’ll find your wife with your neighbor next door! Journalists consider this situation when they write an article. If the newspaper sells most copies in one city, and the local fans consider the visitor fighter a bum, the journalist will write bad things about that boxer.
Anyway, this situation cannot change the truth about any fighter: if he wins big matches, he is a champion (like it or not). In the new generation of Italian boxers, there are a few guys who already accomplished good results and have the talent to make it big. They won the national belt or some titles of the major organizations (WBC, WBA, WBO and IBF). By the way, I checked the minor titles and found out that there is an order of importance even in that category: the WBC International belt has been worn by some great fighters like Erik Morales and Manny Pacquiao. In fact, the WBC gives a lot of space to the international championship in its own website. And all but one of the WBU International titles are vacant (as you can see on the WBU website). Back to the point, the talented youngsters of Italian boxing are Domenico Spada, Andrea Sarritzu and Luciano Abis. This is their story.
Born on September 15, 1980 in Rome, Spada is a big idol in the Lazio region. In almost five years as a professional, he compiled a perfect record of 18-0 (8 KOs). On December 26, 2004 in Rome he KOed Idd Kigula (7-2-1) in the first round to became IBF Youth middleweight champion. On March 19, 2005 Domenico defended the title in eight rounds by stopping Arthur Bochuev (5-0), always in his hometown. The Roman fans are so crazy about Spada that nicknamed him Volcano and always pack the local arenas. Last March 30, they supported him wildly as he was battling Luciano Lombardi (14-5-3) for the vacant Italian middleweight crown. Domenico won by 10th round TKO, for the joy of his ever-growing legion of fans. It has been said that Lombardi was born in Monza, a coin toss from Milan, so it was a match that really excited the crowd. What’s next for Domenico Spada? It would make sense defending the national belt a few times and then get a shot at the European title. I’m sure that his promoter Salvatore Cherchi has good plans for him.
He is 30 years old, but that makes him a young fighter by today’s standards. Besides, he has only 30 fights in his record of 24 wins (8 KOs), 3 losses and 3 draws. He is an idol in the Island of Sardinia, but he gained experience fighting in many Italian towns and abroad. He won two intercontinental titles (WBO flyweight and IBF light flyweight), but he is more famous for his battles against WBO world flyweight champion Omar Andres Narvaez. The first match took place on December 14, 2002 in Quartu Sant’Elena. After 12 hard rounds, Narvaez got two scorecards in his favor (116-112 and 116-113), while the third judge had it for Sarritzu (116-112). The second fight was held on August 9, 2003 in Cagliari and it ended in a draw. It has to be said that Quartu Sant’Elena and Cagliari are in the Sardinia region… so much for partisan verdicts! On July 8, 2005 in Vigo (Spain) Andrea Sarritzu got another big opportunity against Ivan Pozo for the vacant European flyweight crown. That time Sarritzu underperformed and nobody raised an eyebrow when Pozo was declared the winner. Sarritzu’s last fight was on March 10, 2006 in Bergamo; he KOed in four rounds journeyman Chris Edwards. It was just a tune-up fight for his next big goal: the rematch with Ivan Pozo. If Sarritzu fights at his best, he will come out on top.
He is another undefeated prospect: 17-0 with 8 KOs. He was born in Cagliari on July 28, 1979 and is also an idol in Sardinia. In about five years fighting professionally, his biggest accomplishment was winning the IBF international welterweight title with a unanimous decision over respected Pole Karl David (16-3-1). Abis defended the belt in the gambling paradise of Campione d’Italia on July 22, 2005 with a disappointing performance against French Nicolas Guisset (9-2-1). I remember Luciano’s trainer Fabrizio Cappai complaining about the situation. Abis listened to Cappai and got back on the right track. On December 20, 2005 he stopped journeyman Bertrand Souleyras in four rounds. In that fight, Abis showed the self-confidence and the power that convinced his fans to nickname him Bazooka. If Luciano follows Cappai’s advice, he will go far. Fabrizio Cappai was one of the best featherweights in the history of Sardinia: between 1988 and 1996 he compiled a record of 24 wins (9 KOs) and 2 losses. He won the Italian title and challenged IBF world champion Manuel Medina losing by TKO11.
I know that there are other Italian youngsters worth talking about and I will do it in the future.