Read Robert Cassidy Jr.'s “A Fighter's Early Rounds, Part 1

The journey that becomes the life of a professional boxer is one with ample peaks and valleys. The emotional tumult can be as difficult as any physical setback. Disappointments may occur after a loss or when a fighter realizes he is on the wrong end of boxing’s political spectrum.

But when you are Tommy Rainone, veteran of exactly one professional fight, the cancellation of your second bout can be equally disturbing. Particularly when that fight was scheduled to occur 15 minutes from where you grew up.

Rainone was scheduled to fight on October 19 at the Plattduetsche Restaurant in Franklin Square, New York. He found out on Monday of that week that he would not be fighting. In fact, he suspected early on that he would not be fighting. His original contract was torn up a day after it was signed and the search for an opponent was fruitless. Thus, Rainone, a huge ticket seller in his debut, sold only a handful tickets because he feared the worst. He didn’t push the tickets because he didn’t want to run around giving everyone their money back.

“I did not even end up going to the card,” he said. “No one I really know ended up fighting and it was a long week. I had taken the day off from work any way so I just wanted to relax.”

So now Tommy Rainone, 26, waits until December before he can reach 2-0.

It's not often you find a kid from the suburbs in the punch-for-pay business. Too many other opportunities, too often they get a taste of the good life – cars, homecoming dances, college acceptance letters. But Tommy Rainone never even had a nibble of that life.

There is something in all fighters that make them fighters. Something that says fight, when most other human beings would opt out. The simple act of training is like a mini-war in the gym every day. Boxing is the only business in the world where you can get beat up on a daily basis and it’s just practice.

Fight night, that’s another story. Fight night is biting down on that mouthpiece and clinching those fists and fighting your heart out. It’s not because the guy in the other corner attacked your family. It’s not because the guy in the other corner has a gun. No, no one is putting a gun to your head. And no, it’s not about the money. Especially at $100 per round.

Tommy Rainone is a fighter today because he has been a fighter all his life. He grew up in Elmont, on the Long Island-Queens border, a block away from Belmont racetrack. He was three years old when his father left his family. When he was 10, his mother remarried and that’s where the trouble began. To his stepfather, Tommy was useless.

“I was told every day that I would never amount to anything, that I was garbage,” he says. “I was basically tortured on a daily basis both physically and mentally and most of this took place behind my mother’s back.”

The idea of speaking out crossed his mind. But when he did, his proclamations were met with skepticism. Was he just exaggerating, some family members would wonder? Was he jealous that this man was taking the time away that he once shared with his mother? Was he jealous of the three stepbrothers that would arrive?

Of course, he was also scared of the repercussions that he might feel if wind of his complaints reached his stepfather. It was not a pleasant childhood. He acted out, getting in trouble in school and expressing himself with his fists.

“My childhood ended at 10 years old. As soon as my mom married my stepfather, that was that,” he said. “If I got in trouble in school it didn’t result in me getting a talk, the result was an ass-kicking. If I got into a fight he'd find out and then I'd get another beating for it.”

One occasion stands out in Rainone’s mind.

He was 13 and got into a fight after school, which was rather typical of his high school experience. He felt like he was being attacked from behind and swung wildly, striking a girl. That incident turned much of the school against him. Now Rainone was a wanted man at home and at school. To bring this situation to a head, the stepfather invited the toughest kid in the school over to fight Tommy. The opponent was 15. The fight lasted about a minute and Rainone was on the business end of another beating.

But something changed in Tommy that day. A week later he tracked down the same kid and pummeled him on the school grounds.

“Street fighting was always one thing I knew I was very good at and I had all the confidence in the world that I was good at it,” said Rainone. “I moved out of the house when I was 17. I was on my own. But boxing took that to another level. Through boxing, it really allowed me to see that I was capable of doing a lot more in life than working at a gas station or McDonalds, which is what was pounded into my head. Boxing really gave me self-esteem, which was something that I was lacking.”

The stepfather passed away a few years ago and Tommy now lives with his mom, Jodi, and brothers, Mike, Mario and Domenic in Plainview, Long Island. He also has a better relationship with his own father, Ralph, and his second family, stepmom Margaret and siblings, Danielle and Christopher.

So now Tommy waits for fight number two. He has offers to fight on December 8th or the 15th. He’s provided the promoter for the December 8th card with a list of opponents but he keeps coming back with guys making their pro debut, essentially, guys Rainone can’t research. One such opponent, he learned, was a Golden Gloves champion who has been sparring daily with established pros like Dmitriy Salita and Edgar Santana. He’s learning that the fighter and the promoter don’t always share the same interest.

“I’d love to fight on both cards,” he said. “That’s how they did it in the old days. But the promoters need a commitment in case of an injury. So, I’ll have to make a decision soon. But believe me I’ll give you something good to write about after my next fight because I’m going to be in tip top shape and ready to go.”