This Saturday sees the most eagerly-awaited Italian fight in decades: Leonard Bundu versus Daniele Petrucci. Both fighters are Italian, undefeated and at the peak of their powers. At stake is the European welterweight title that both fighters have been pursuing doggedly for the past three years.
Since the fight was announced in late March the anticipation has been building and building. Tickets have been selling out at a rate of two hundred a day and some people are going as far back as the first Nino Benvenuti-Sandro Mazzinghi fight to find a match-up comparable. Whatever might be happening in Cologne, Missouri or Sheffield, here in Italy the rest of the boxing world will cease to exist on Saturday night. The fight is seen as a genuinely fifty-fifty pairing, with many people in the game unable to pick between the two. Secondsout polled some of the most notable figures in Italian boxing for their opinions.
For many years Ortiz was one of Italy’s favourite journeymen. The Colombian fighter fought thirty-two times in Italy during his 1-43-4 career, mixing with the likes of Antonio Brancalion, Luca Messi and Antonio Lauri. Interestingly, he made his debut against current WBA cruiserweight boss Guillermo Jones and his last fight was against Miguel Vasquez, the IBF lightweight champion. Now he’s based in Italy as a trainer. His fighter Ronny McField has fought Bundu twice, losing a pair of technical decisions, and he lost a 12-rounder decision to Petrucci.
“Truthfully, if we’re talking about who is the better boxer, who is better technically, then I would have to say Bundu. He’s grown up in boxing. I worked with him in Formia when I was still fighting and he was in the national team. I was with Biagio Zurlo at the time, who was also working as a national coach. Bundu does a round as a southpaw and then a round orthodox, he changes all the time and he’s good at it. Petrucci is younger and we’ve seen that Bundu cuts very easily, so there could be a chance for Petrucci to stop him on cuts. It’s also his show with his manager behind him. But in my opinion Bundu is better. When Petrucci fought McField, my man had been injured in the build up and missed some training. Then he hurt his leg in the first few rounds yet he still managed to cause Petrucci some problems. In McField’s first fight with Bundu I didn’t like the judges scorecards but in the rematch I couldn’t have any complaints – Bundu learnt from his errors in the first fight, put my man down and won convincingly. Both will be well trained because they know who the other is. I think Bundu will trick him with the extra things he knows, and he’s quicker - both with the movement and the hands. He could keep moving and moving and win that way. Maybe Petrucci could take advantage of Bundu’s tendency to cut but he’s not one to change things with one punch, he’s not a Tyson. Both of them are good but I’m going with Bundu.”
Bruno is seen as the wise old man of Italian boxing. He has been a journalist for as long as anyone can remember and was there when Carlos Monzon landed that monstrous right hand to level Nino Benvenuti forty years ago. He is currently the editor of Italy’s boxing magazine, Boxe Ring.
“Personally I see Petrucci winning. He’s the younger fighter and I think physically he’s more complete; he’s fighting in front of his supporters, which will give him an extra lift; and another thing is that Petrucci will try and fight at medium to short range, I think Bundu will oblige him and that’s where he will make a mistake because at that sort of range there’s nothing you can do with Petrucci. In addition to that, Petrucci is maybe less prone to cuts than Bundu and I also reckon that Petrucci takes a punch slightly better and maybe hits harder too. So I lean towards Petrucci. Of course, one can always get things wrong and there are always other factors which may be important: sometimes for such big fights a fighter can train too hard and leave something in the gym; there’s the factor of making the weight – if you ask the fighters now how they are doing making the weight, both of them will tell you “No, no, the weight’s fine”, but if you go to the gym a few days before the fight, you’ll see if they are having any difficulty or not. Then there’s the age factor. Bundu, despite all his strengths and ability, is getting on. Personally I think Petrucci would have more difficulty with Zamora (Brunet Zamora, a Cuban-born light welter who is a stablemate of Bundu’s). Zamora is a fighter who is much more dangerous than he seems. He hits hard, he seems slow but he’s not slow, and he’s physically very sturdy – something which Bundu is not. Bundu is an excellent boxer but he doesn’t have the physical solidity of either Zamora or Petrucci.”
Franco is part of the Cherchi boxing dynasty which is headed by brother Salvatore, head of promotional outfit OPI2000. As a boxer he was the European flyweight champion and as a trainer he has worked with a who’s who of top Italian boxers. His Sardinian gym currently boasts, amongst others, the most exciting prospect in Italian boxing – Luca Giacon.
“It’s difficult, very difficult to say. Maybe I prefer Bundu stylistically because he’s the sort of fighter I like – a real warrior. But Petrucci is a fighter who gives all of his heart in the ring. It will be a beautiful fight but how can anyone say with any certainty who will win? Either of them could win. It’s like when AC Milan play Inter or Juve – it’s that close.”
Branco is well known to foreign fight fans after having put up worthy performances in losing to Miguel Cotto and Arturo Gatti. This canny operator has a fine record of 44-3-1 and fought for this very title last year against Matthew Hatton. Hailing from the port town of Civitavecchia just up the coast from Rome, he will be an interested observer for this fight.
“I hope that Petrucci wins, that way we can meet in a Roman derby for the European title. I like Bundu more as a boxer. I think he’s got nicer shots and I think that technically he’s at a slightly higher level than Petrucci. However, Petrucci himself is a very good boxer and he’ll want to put on a really good show for his fans. Also, being better technically is not always important in a fight – there are always many factors in deciding who wins. We know for example that both of them are prone to cuts. It’s a very open fight with many question marks. What will count in the ring is who is better on the night.”
Known for his great career as a boxer – he won the WBA light welter belt as well as being a two-weight European champion – Oliva has also been a top trainer. He was head of the Italian team for the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and in the pros he has worked with several top fighters, including guiding Giacobbe Fragomeni to the WBC cruiserweight title.
“This will be a very difficult fight for both boxers. Bundu can be very aggressive while Petrucci is technically very good. When they were in the national team together Bundu was undoubtedly stronger but since then Petrucci has grown into a very good boxer. Both of them were with me in the national team so I wouldn’t like to say who I think will win, just that I’m sure it will be a great fight and let’s hope the best man wins.”
As an international referee and judge, Barrovecchio is a familiar face in rings around the world. He has refereed numerous world title fights including Tim Bradley-Junior Witter and Vitali Klitschko-Samuel Peter. In 2008 he was voted the WBC referee of the year along with Kenny Bayless.
“You need to speak to a wizard, and I’m not a wizard – I’m just a referee. I have to say that I know Petrucci much better than Bundu. I’ve seen Petrucci in with some good fighters – Craig Watson, Neil Sinclair – but I’ve only seen Bundu in six rounders from ringside. I’ve not seen him face the same sort of tests as Petrucci. It seems a very evenly-balanced fight and the consensus seems to be that Bundu could cause some serious problems for Petrucci though I would imagine that Petrucci could draw on his home support and grit to come through as he has done before.”
Naples-based Zurlo is currently one of the most well-regarded trainers in Italy. His Boxe Vesuviana team includes good fighters such as Gaetano Nespro, Giuseppe Langella, Salvatore Annunziata and current Italian light welterweight champ Samuele Esposito. He was also a coach with the Italian national team from 1996 to 2000. As a boxer he retired early at 24-1-0 after avenging the only defeat of his career and winning back the Italian welterweight crown
“Bundu was with me when I was a coach with the national team so I know just how gifted he is. I remember his fight back in the amateurs when he beat Simion, who would go on to win the World Championships (Bundu beat Marian Simion in 1998; one year later Simion won gold in Houston). He’s a wonderful kid who trains very very hard. Petrucci, on the other hand, has never lost in Rome – the location of the fight could really be the decisive factor. Esposito has recently been up there sparring with him and it seems that Petrucci is in great shape. The fight really is 50/50. If I had to choose…my heart says Bundu – he’s like a little brother to me – but because of the hometown advantage I’ll have to go with Petrucci.”
Ferrarini is the leading matchmaker in Italy, often managing to get good foreign jobs for Italian fighters who struggle to get domestic recognition. He has put together matches on a regular basis for not only both Bundu and Petrucci but also for their respective promoters, Mario Loreni and Davide Buccioni.
“I know both fighters very well so I think I have an educated eye. I think it’s really a pretty even fight. I think the difference will be made by mental toughness. I would give the edge to Bundu in this field. He’s already fought on foreign soil, he’s already fought in the other guy’s hometown so we know that when things get tough he doesn’t get afraid. I’m not saying Petrucci would get afraid but he’s not had that same experience. I see Bundu winning the last few rounds to get the decision. One factor could be cuts as both guys get cut easily. I think having a British referee will help. Howard Foster will not get scared by the blood. Maybe a more inexperienced referee would see the blood and stop the fight, leading to a technical decision.”
One of the most respected cornermen in Italy, Agnuzzi is the mainman at the ProFighting gym in Rome. His fighters there include the likes of former world title challengers Domenico Spada and Emanuele Della Rosa.
“In all honesty it’s very difficult to say. It’s not a match up in which one fighter seems superior to the other. I would say 55-45 in favour of Petrucci because he’s fighting at home. If it weren’t for that then it would definitely be 50-50. I believe that the mental approach of the fighters on the night will be fundamental. I think that Bundu will attack Petrucci and Petrucci will look to counter, especially with that left hook which he uses so well. The key will be how Petrucci manages to cope with these attacks because Bundu could cause him problems by setting a fast pace. In my opinion it all depends on that – whether Petrucci will get suffocated by Bundu’s pressure or whether he will find his timing and range to cope with the pressure.”