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22 DECEMBER 2014

 

Danny Milano: The Cutman


another boxing eye cut: HoganPhotos.com
another boxing eye cut: HoganPhotos.com

By Thomas Hauser

When Paulie Malignaggi steps into the ring on May 24th for his rematch against Lovemore N’dou, an integral member of Team Malignaggi will be watching intently from the corner.

Danny Milano was born in the Bronx on June 1, 1957. His father owned a small business repairing home appliances (refrigerators, dishwashers, ovens, washers, and dryers). At age twelve, Danny started working for his father. Then the family and business moved to New Jersey. When Danny Milano Sr died in 1986, his son took over the company now known as Danny’s Appliance Service.

“If you work for Sears,” Danny says, “you work on one kind of Sears appliance all day long. I work on five different kinds of appliances times ten different brands times fifteen or twenty different models. And there’s more options to break now than when I was young. When I started, refrigerators had a thermostat and a compressor. Now you have fans, fan motors, ice-makers, sensors; so there’s a lot more to know. I’m a perfectionist. If I can’t be one of the best at what I do, I don’t want to do it. But I think I’m good at repairing appliances and I make a living from it. Someone always has something broken.”

Danny’s Appliance Service is its proprietor’s primary source of income, but his passion is boxing. Milano is a cutman, respected throughout the sport as a capable craftsman and stabilizing influence in the corner. Many insiders see him as a successor to the likes of Ace Marotta and Al Gavin, which isn’t surprising since he grew up surrounded by old-school guys.

Milano’s uncle (his mother’s brother) is Al Certo, so boxing is literally in his blood. “When I was young, I spent a lot of time hanging around the gym and going to fights with Al,” Danny says. “Promoting, matchmaking, managing, training; he did it all.”

Certo also taught Milano to box. “I had thirteen amateur fights,” Danny recalls. “I won twelve, three of them by knockout, and lost one. The loss was on a decision, and it was the right decision. I knew I wasn’t good enough to go all the way, so I got out.”

When Milano was in his mid-twenties, he started working the spit-bucket in the corner for Certo’s fighters. For ten years, that was all he did during fights. Then, one night toward the end of Buddy McGirt’s career, Danny was in the corner with Certo and Howie Albert. “Buddy had a swelling around his eye,” Danny remembers. “Howie’s hip was hurting, and he told me, ‘Danny, you go up and handle it.’”

Not long after that, Milano started working on cuts. “Most of what I learned came from Al and Howie,” he says. “But I got tips from a lot of guys, and practice makes perfect. Some guys do cuts every six months. Right now, I do forty to fifty shows a year.”

Milano’s current client list includes Paulie Malignaggi, Andre Berto, Chazz Witherspoon, and Vinny Maddalone (“I get plenty of practice with Vinny”). He has also worked with Antonio Tarver, Arturo Gatti (more practice), Andrew Golota, Sharmba Mitchell, Thomas Adamek, and Yory Boy Campus.

Before a fight, Milano loads his bucket with ice, bottles of water, an Enswell, adrenaline, Vaseline, latex gloves, swabs, gauze, and (depending on the state) avitene and thrombin. “People think we have magic potions,” he says. “And obviously, we don’t. I love adrenaline; that’s my coagulent of choice. But the key to it all is knowing how to apply pressure.”

Milano greases his fighter down in the dressing room before a fight and then again in the ring prior to the opening bell. “If there’s a cut, you don’t have a full minute between rounds to work on it,” he says. “It takes the fighter about ten seconds to get back to the corner, and a fighter’s seconds are supposed to leave the ring ten seconds before the bell that starts each round. I try to cheat five seconds at each end. The instant a round is over, I’m in the ring. I go to the fighter and start toweling the blood off his body as he’s walking to the corner. By the time he’s on his stool, I’m holding the cut. You have to know what you’re doing. A good cutman is quick, careful, and confident. The fighter’s career and physical wellbeing are in your hands, and every second counts.”

The job is also about personal relationships.

“If a fighter gets cut, he looks to the cutman to see the reaction,” Milano explains. “He might be the toughest SOB in the world; but if he’s cut, maybe he loses his composure. So no matter how bad a cut is, I tell the fighter, ‘Don’t worry; I’ve got it under control.’ After you’ve worked with a guy a couple of times, he starts to trust you. If he’s cut, it bothers him less because he knows you can handle it. And over time, the ring doctors get to know you. Once they understand that you know what you’re doing, they’ll give you a round or two more to do your job than might otherwise be the case.”

But frustration often attaches to the job.

“A lot of guys treat the cutman as an afterthought when he should be a priority,” Milano says. “I can’t tell you how many times I get to a show and I’m planning to work with just one fighter, and someone will see me and ask if I can work their fighter’s corner that night. How do you go to a fight and not know who your cutman will be until you get there?”

And then there’s the matter of money.

“I don’t get rich doing this,” Milano says. “I charge a minimum of fifty dollars a fight. That’s against a percentage of the purse that starts at three percent and goes down to one percent as the purse increases. For a big fight, I get a flat fee. I pay for my own avitene and adrenaline, and some states require a sealed bottle for each fight; so the fifty dollars I get for a fight can disappear into a cut real quick. And I treat my four-round fighters the same way I treat the world champions I work with. They bleed the same if they’re cut.”

“I try to get along with everybody and treat them the way I’d like them to treat me,” Milano continues. “Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. Some guys are loyal and some aren’t. I hear a lot of, ‘Danny; when we make it, you’ll make it.’ Then they get to the $100,000 purses. I ask for my two percent and I hear, ‘Gee, that’s a lot of money.’ I say, ‘Wait a minute. What happened to, ‘When we make it, you make it?’”

“Over the years, I’ve done a fair number of $5,000 fights and a couple of tens,” Milano says. “But most of the time, it’s fifty or a hundred dollars. What can I say? I love boxing. Saturday is the busiest day of the week for a appliance repair business. I’ll close the business on a Saturday, drive to Atlantic City or Philadelphia, and get maybe two or three hundred dollars. Losing a thousand dollars to work a fight card for two or three hundred says it all. But knowing I’ve made a difference in a fight makes me happy.”

Most of Milano’s fighters appreciate his efforts. Last year, Vinny Maddalone was scheduled to fight Evander Holyfield in Corpus Christi on the night of March 17th. It was far and away the biggest fight of Vinny’s career. But Maureen Shea had a four-rounder at Madison Square Garden the night before, and Danny works with Maureen. He figured he’d cover her fight, catch a 6:00 AM flight to Houston on Saturday, and fly from there to Corpus Christi.

But there were complications. On Saturday morning, it was snowing in New York and the major airports (JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark) were all shut down. Maddalone’s people were telling him, “Don’t worry; we’ll get Joe Souza.” And Vinny was telling them back, “Joe Souza is a good cutman, but I want Danny.” Finally, the Maddalone camp arranged for a private jet to fly Milano directly from Westchester County Airport to Corpus Christi.

That problem was easy to resolve compared to a June 2006 conflict. Milano had worked with Antonio Tarver since Tarver’s 2002 rematch against Eric Harding and been in his corner for every fight thereafter (three against Roy Jones, two against Glen Johnson, and one against Montell Griffin). But he’d worked with Paulie Malignaggi for every fight of Paulie’s career. Then Antonio and Paulie were “double-dated” for June 10th. Tarver against Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City and Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden against Miguel Cotto.

“I didn’t know what to do,” Milano remembers. “It bothered me a lot because I felt a sense of loyalty to both guys. Finally, I asked myself, ‘Which one needs me more?’ Paulie thought I’d go with Tarver because the money was bigger. But I decided that Paulie was in the fight of his life. He hadn’t fought at that level before and he needed all the support he could get. So I went with Paulie. Antonio was angry about it. He hasn’t used me since then. But no one can say I walked away from Antonio when he was down. He was on top when I made that decision.”

Seconds into round one of Malignaggi-Cotto, Paulie was badly cut by an accidental clash of heads. Later, his face began to swell from a broken orbital bone. His courage kept him in the fight, but Milano’s cornerwork helped.

“I think Danny is the best cutman in the business,” Malignaggi says today. “And I’m not just saying that because he’s mine. You got all these guys out there with reputations who don’t know what they’re doing, and Danny does. I know because I’ve been cut in three of my last four fights; and each time, Danny stopped the bleeding. How many times have you seen one of Danny’s guys get stopped on a cut? It doesn’t happen.”

To which Milano says simply, “The fighter does his job and I do mine.”


Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com.



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