Vincenzo Cantatore is one of the hottest tickets in Italy: his last fight against WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson attracted 3,500 paying customers in Rome. This is quite an accomplishment because Cantatore was born in Santo Spirito (in the Puglia region) and Rome is a city where there is a strong sense of citizenship. Romans always fill stadiums when one of their own has the chance to make it big in any sport, not when the star of the event comes from another town. Living in Rome for many years, Cantatore was smart enough to build a great relationship with the locals and this is evident in Vincenzo’s website where he put a photo of Roman soccer fans at the stadium calling them “My people.” That’s why Cantatore will fight in an open square on May 20 against Jean Claude Bikoi.

Bouts in major city squares are a privilege of extremely popular fighters and Vincenzo Cantatore is one of the few stars of Italian boxing. His attempt to win the WBO belt was broadcast by national network RAI 2 at a decent time (11:15 pm) and this happens rarely. Even for a meaningless match against a mediocre opponent like Bikoi (10-2-1), you can be sure that thousands of people will come out to support Cantatore.

In thirteen years as a professional, Vincenzo compiled a record of 30 wins (27 KOs), 4 losses and 1 draw. He won the Italian heavyweight title, then choose to compete among cruiserweights becoming European and WBC international champion. He fought twice for the world cruiserweight title. On October 11, 2002 in Campione d’Italia he tried to win the vacant WBC belt, but lost to Wayne Braithwaite (TKO 10). On November 26, 2005 in Rome, Cantatore lost on points to WBO cruiserweight king Johnny Nelson. Despite Nelson’s domination, Cantatore was surprised by the verdict and talked about a robbery for days. I was surprised by Joachim Jacobsen’s scorecard: 115-112 for Cantatore. Melvina Lathan and Larry Hazzard Jr. scored the fight in Nelson’s favor: 116-111 and 115-112 respectively. The referee made a mistake in giving Nelson the count after he slipped in the ninth stanza, but that cannot justify three points for the Italian. Nelson won at least nine rounds and was so certain he was ahead on points that he didn’t protest. The British star also made jokes at Cantatore’s expense during the fight proving he was very sure of himself.

The Entertainer didn’t know that Italian fans don’t want to see any entertainment during a boxing match and probably didn’t understand why the people were calling him clown and buffoon. No matter the purse, it’s safer for Nelson to never fight again in Italy. The next time, I’m sure that boxing fans will go to the sports complex with tomatoes, eggs and vegetables to throw at him. In soccer, that’s the least of what they throw onto the field.

Going back to Vincenzo Cantatore, he has the skill to keep himself on top for a few years. He doesn’t throw a huge number of punches, but he is powerful enough to end the contest with just one hook. The problem is that he lost three times before the time limit: against Francesco Spinelli (TKO 5), Zeljko Mavrovic (TKO 4) and Wayne Braithwaite (TKO 10). It has to be said that Cantatore got revenge on Spinelli (TKO 11) and that Mavrovic was a great fighter. I assume that nobody in the United States remembers Mavrovic, so I will tell you his story.

Zeljko Mavrovic was a Croatian heavyweight active between 1993 and 1998. He compiled a record of 27 wins (22 KOs) and 1 loss. He spent most of his career in Germany, but also fought in England, France, Austria and five times in the United States. Mavrovic won the European heavyweight title in 1995, defended it six times and challenged WBC champion Lennox Lewis before losing on points (117-111, 117-112 and 119-109). After the loss, Mavrovic called it quits.

Returning to Cantatore, it’s a certainty that he will beat Jean Claude Bikoi next May 20. After that, he should fight for a major crown. Currently, Vincenzo Cantatore is ranked number 6 by the WBO, number 14 by the WBC and the IBF. He is also the official challenger to European champion David Haye (16-1) who hasn’t much experience but can punch; Haye’s 45 second destruction of respected Alexander Gurov (who was 38-4-1) proves it. Haye is probably more motivated than WBA champion Virgil Hill and as dangerous as WBC titlist O’Neil Bell. Cantatore will have to be at 100% to defeat Haye.

No matter what route Vincenzo chooses, he will provide excitement to the fans. Just for the record, I have to add that Vincenzo Cantatore won the WBU super cruiserweight title in 1998 and defended it three times. We all know that the super cruiserweight division exists only in the WBU and this diminishes a lot the value of the title. In those four matches, Cantatore defeated opponents with good records like Andy Sample (KO 3), Dirk Wallyn (TKO 8), Terry Ray (KO 3) and Damon Reed (TKO 4).

Vincenzo Cantatore

Born in Santo Spirito, in the Puglia region, on February 22, 1971
Stance: Orthodox
Trainer: Patrizio Oliva
Manager: Francesca Minardi (his wife)
Major Titles:
Italian heavyweight champion (1996)
WBC international cruiserweight champion (2000-2002)
European cruiserweight champion (2003-2004)
World title fights:
October 11, 2002 – Campione d’Italia – Lost to Wayne Braithwaite (TKO 10) for the vacant WBC cruiserweight belt
November 26, 2005 – Rome – Lost on points to WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson