By Derek Gionta: "The Pittsburgh Kid" Paul Spadafora made his anticipated comeback to the ring on Saturday night (8/18) at the Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester, West Virginia by soundly defeating Humberto Toledo over eight rounds in the night’s main event.
Spadafora, the former IBF lightweight champ, has been on a roller coaster since he began his professional career and now finds himself riding high on a career that seemed to be at a screeching halt.
Entering the ring for the first time in almost two years, Spadafora, 46-0-1 (19), found himself at the same venue where he once reached the peak of his career when he defeated Israel Cardona for the IBF lightweight title in August of 1999.
Legal battles, an addiction that sent him to rehab, and various other personal conflicts kept the Pittsburgh Kid out of the boxing ring and trapped into the negative ring of society.
Spadafora now finds himself under new promoters Roy Jones Jr. and Troy Ridgley and rejoined with former trainer Tommy Yankello following a contractual tug of war battle with Spadafora’s former handlers.
Also trained by Mike Rodriguez, a New Jersey based trainer he met while in Florida, Spadafora will give it one more try to regain what he once had and erase the demons of self destruction that kept him out of the ring.
The crafty southpaw took on late sub Humberto Toledo, 41-8-2 (25), of Quito, Ecuador and showed little to no signs of ring rust as he clearly out boxed the fifty fight veteran.
Spadafora, now at junior welterweight, boxed well in the opening rounds and attacked the body with ferocity more than usual and found himself having his way with Toledo.
By the third round Toledo, an orthodox fighter, switched to southpaw, but the results were the same as Spadafora finished the round strong landing an array of shots starting with a right hook to the body.
Toledo did not land many significant punches by this point but did manage to land a couple attention-grabbing right hands in the fourth. Spadafora landed a right hook-straight left combo to the head of Toledo near the round’s conclusion, sending him to the ropes only to absorb similar blows as he did the end of the previous round.
Toledo let his emotions get the best of him in the sixth when he lifted his leg towards Spadafora and tried to showboat.
Spadafora kept his composure and finished the final two rounds in exciting fashion.
The judges scored the fight 80-72 x 2 and 79-73.
Spadafora commented after, "I stayed in the gym my whole life. I love boxing," when asked if he was skeptical about his layoff.
Trainer Tom Yankello gave Paul an A+ on his performance. "He looked great tonight," said Yankello.
Trainer Mike Rodriguez commented, "Paulie did a great job attacking the body. We’ve been working on that in the gym."
"I’m a veteran. I’ve been around a long time. Thank God for my team," said Spadafora.
"Roy is gonna get me fights, I’m coming back."
Roy Jones Jr. even mentioned in their contract that Spadafora is not allowed to make any more mistakes outside of the ring or it’s done.
Spadafora once told me that there is nothing like that long walk to the ring. He once again got a chance to have that feeling and assuming all goes according to plan, that ring walk he took Saturday night will not be his last.
While winning this fight doesn’t put him back on the top tier, he seems to be back on the right path towards taking one more chance.
In the co-feature bout of the night Butler, PA heavyweight Brian "The Beast" Minto, 37-5 (24), once again found himself in an exciting fight as he scored a fourth round stoppage over "Lightning" Mike Sheppard, 20-14-1 (9), in a scheduled twelve rounder for the NABA USA heavyweight title.
The action started fast in the opening round as Minto and Sheppard went toe to toe, with
Minto nearly hitting the canvas via a big right hand from Sheppard. Minto regrouped and went after Sheppard again in the second landing clean power shots from close range behind a better defensive stance. By the third, Sheppard had a small gash on his forehead and hit the canvas three times from Minto’s assault.
In the fourth round, an overhand right landed by Minto closed the show in convincing fashion as Sheppard had enough by the 2:22 mark.
"I held on early when I was hurt," said Minto after the fight.
"I’m learning to hold on and not slug it out. I squared up a little, it happens."
Minto may have let his courage deter a sound defensive effort early on but his courageous style of fighting is what enabled him to exceed his potential level as a pro. Minto rejoined with former trainer Tommy Yankello this past April and is now 2-0 since then.
Winning the NABA title will possibly rank Minto, undefeated in WBA regional title fights, in the top fifteen in that sanctioning body. That would give him an opportunity to challenge a few top guys in the heavyweight and cruiserweight division.
Minto’s manager Pat Nelson is optimistic about Brian’s opportunities to land a bigger fight in the near future.
Johnstown cruiserweight Andres "Taylor Made" Taylor, 21-2-2 (8), bounced back from a tough loss at the hands of Garrett Wilson by scoring a devastating first round knockout over Justin "The Lumberjack" Howes, 13-4 (11), of Buckhannon, West Virginia. Taylor, trained by Tommy Yankello, jabbed his way in to the range of his taller foe landing a big overhand right that sent Howes crashing to the canvas in a heap. The second the punch was landed it was evident Taylor would soon celebrate a rewarding comeback fight, which was slated for eight rounds. The end came at :59.
Taylor commented afterwards, "I’ve been working more on my strength since the Wilson fight more than I have in the past. I got away from it for the last couple of years and focused more on my boxing skills."
"Tom has me boxing and moving better than I ever have and now I feel that I can combine it with my strength training and benefit inside the ring."
In the third bout of the night Cleveland’s Dante Moore, 8-0-2 (4), out boxed a resilient Mustafah Johnson, 8-14-1 (2), of Indianapolis over six rounds. Moore circled his stalking opponent for the duration of the fight and fired off crisp combinations to the head and body, finding success for much of the fight. Johnson, who endured a series of clean punches, continued pressing and throwing wide punches to both levels of Moore. Moore landed clean left uppercuts and left hooks in the final round, punctuating his eighth win in convincing fashion. Final tallies were 60-54, 59-55, and 58-56. The two fought in the middleweight division.
Pittsburgh junior welterweight Billy "Hutch" Hutchinson, 4-1-2 (2), won a four round unanimous decision over Sharon, PA’s Clifford Gregory, 1-10-4, in a good action bout. Hutchinson, the shorter of the two, pressed the action while the taller, more elusive Gregory looked to box from the outside. The opening round had some excitement as Hutchinson stalked Gregory. Hutchinson sustained a cut over his left eye during the round, which was unclear as to whether or not there was a clash of heads. Gregory hit the canvas towards the end of the round but the referee ruled it a slip. The ensuing rounds played out in similar fashion. Gregory had some success early in the third round but couldn’t overcome the relentless attack of Hutchinson, who may have put in his best performance as a pro so far. The judges scored the fight 40-36 x 2 and 39-37.
In the opening bout of the evening, Clarksburg, WV heavyweight "Big" Dan Martz, 6-0 (5), stopped Justin "T-Bear" Novaria, 1-9 (1), of Zanesville, OH at the 2:15 mark of the first round. Martz, having the height and reach advantage over the slightly heavier Novaria, landed a flush right hand to the head early in the round sending Novaria to the canvas. Novaria went down two more times compliments of a Martz flurry before referee Tim Wheeler called it off. The fight was scheduled for four rounds.
Venue: Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort in Chester, West Virginia
Promoter: Roy Jones Jr. and Tammy & Troy Ridgley’s TNT Sports Promotions
Matchmaker: Mark Yankello
August 18, 2012