Boschiero challenges for world title (pic Renata Romagnoli)
By Peter Lerner: This hectic little period of Italian world title activity continues on Sunday in Tokyo, Japan. In the space of two weeks Italian fighters have gone 1-1-1 in world title fights.
Two weeks ago Brunet Zamora fought a draw against Alberto Mosquera in Panama for a version of the crazy WBA light welterweight title. Then last weekend in Sardinia Simona Galassi won the women’s IBF super flyweight belt while Andrea Sarritzu was stopped in a brave challenge for that organisation’s flyweight title. Now it’s the turn of Devis Boschiero. He doesn’t have it easy. He has travelled the almost-6000 miles to Japan to face one of those awkward, deceptively strong, sharp and stinging Japanese southpaws in Takahiro Ao. At stake will be Ao’s IBF super featherweight title.
Even without the air miles clocked up in going to Japan, this has been a long journey for Boschiero. Two years ago such an opportunity would have seemed an impossibility. On 11th November 2009, Boschiero – 25-0, official challenger for the European title, and freshly arrived in Boxing Monthly’s world top ten – was arrested for drug dealing. As his trainer, Gino Freo, told Secondsout, “The whole world fell in. His late mother phoned me to tell me and it came as an incredible surprise. We wanted to kill him.”
He spent three days in prison, endured a period of house arrest and now has a suspended sentence hanging over him. Freo reckons that, with the arrest, the court cases and the subsequent building back up, they lost at least one year of Boschiero’s career. To make matters worse, Boschiero lost his mother that December as she passed away from an incurable illness in the midst of all that confusion.
It’s a credit to his ability and determination, and the great perseverance and faith of people around him like Freo, that he has been able to come back from the brink and find himself with the chance to win a world title.
Before his break from the ring he was regarded as perhaps Italy’s best-kept secret. In building up his record he had captured the EU title and had recorded good wins over fighters like Ermano Fegatilli (who of course has since taken Steve Foster Junior’s European title) and Jesus Garcia Escalona. The combination of his natural rambunctiousness, his amateur experience (national senior champion for three consecutive years) and the schooling of Freo (known for his work with Cristian Sanavia, ex-WBC super middle champion and two-weight European champion) had made him a fighter who could do a little bit of everything – stalk, fight, box. Most close observers of the European scene thought he would simply have been too good for reigning European champion and scourge of British fighters, Leva Kirakosyan.
The road back has been bumpy. An Italian title challenge against Ivan Fiorletta in his opponent’s hometown of Avezzano was a triumph. He knocked everything out of his pumped-up opponent with some brutal body punching and won thanks to a trademark uppercut in the eighth round. Afterwards he had to be escorted out of the ring by police as a section of Fiorletta’s two thousand-odd supporters rioted. He then stumbled, only drawing with 6-9-1 Alex Bone over six rounds in a fight that Boschiero admits he took lightly.
“It was an ugly match. Everything was a bit subdued. It was very snowy, the roads were blocked so not many people turned out. I hadn’t trained as much as I should have and I underestimated him. I made a big mistake.”
Freo was unhappy. “I was pissed off to say the least. It was a bad night, which can happen, but it showed us that you have to be in top shape for every opponent and that Devis fights much better when his head is clear – at that stage he wasn’t yet mentally over all the problems outside the ring.”
That was followed by a defence of his Italian title against one of the most extraordinary national title challengers that must ever have stepped into a ring – the 1-23 Luigi Mantegna. He’s a game, resilient fighter who gives it all every fight but surely didn’t qualify for a title chance (somehow he’s managed to earn himself another one on 11th November against Benoit Manno despite having lost since Boschiero). Boschiero became only the second man to stop him, winning in the eighth.
It’s a big jump from Mantegna to Ao and both Boschiero and Freo acknowledge that they have a hard challenge in front of them.
“He’s very relaxed and he can both box and fight,” notes Boschiero, while Freo says, “He’s a crafty southpaw and he doesn’t get hit much, even if he holds his hands low. He doesn’t look all that strong or muscular physically but that doesn’t mean much – neither did Monzon but he showed us he wasn’t a bad puncher!”
They’ve had a long and hard camp to get ready for this fight. He’s been in training since 22nd August and has been able to take a break from his job and devote himself completely to his preparations since 7th September. Sparring has been provided by the excellent Alberto Servidei (unbeaten in 33 fights and with a world title shot coming up against Billy Dib) and a host of top southpaw amateurs. Freo believes the years of sparring with southpaw Sanavia have made Boschiero a natural when dealing with left-handers. They went out to Japan on Wednesday last week to give him time to get settled down and relaxed. They feel they have done everything possible to give themselves a good chance of doing back to Italy with the title.
As Freo says, “We know it will be hard but we’re ready for it. This is the fight of Devis’s life and we’re going out there to put on a great performance."
Encouragingly Boschiero seems much more relaxed and focused than he has done at times in the past. That is when he is at his most effective. As Mike Tyson said, “There’s nothing more deadly and more proficient than a happy fighter...the guy that’s most relaxed, the guy who loves what he does and is just happy to be in there doing what he does.” Boschiero appears to have found that place again and if so, he could be a very live opponent this Sunday. All that remains now is see how the two fighters go together and who comes out on top.
November 3, 2011