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18 NOVEMBER 2018


Mangiacapre Could Pose Big Threat In London

Vincenzo Mangiacapre
Vincenzo Mangiacapre

By Peter Lerner: Four of the five Italian boxers who’ve already qualified for next year’s London Olympics are well-known to followers of amateur boxing. They each have serious international pedigree and are potential medallists. Little Vincenzo Picardi has two European bronzes, a World’s bronze and one from the last Olympics. From 2005 through to this year, Domenico Valentino has consistently medalled at the World Championships, the highlight being his gold medal in Milan two years ago. Clemente Russo got silver in Beijing and gold the year before in the World Championships in Chicago. And big Roberto Cammarelle won gold at the World’s in 2007 and 2009, two victories which sandwiched Olympic gold in Beijing.

Yet the biggest threat could be a young man who has seemingly come out of nowhere over the last year to make his mark on international amateur boxing. Vincenzo Mangiacapre comes from the same extraordinary town of Marcianise as both Valentino and Russo. Though he has a long way to go to match their achievements, he has proved at 22 to be at least as prodigious as either one of them: just before he turned 23 Russo won the EU Championships and the Mediterranean games; Valentino by the same age had already picked up bronze at the European and World Championships. Mangiacapre has equalled that. This year, in the space of four months, he has won bronze in the European Championships in Ankara and bronze in the recent World Championships in Baku. It could be argued that he might have done even better in both competitions had he not been hampered by injury. In Ankara he was unable to face Tom Stalker in the semi-final due to a 2.5cm tear in his right bicep picked up in his previous bout. In Baku he fought eventual winner Everton dos Santos one-handed after badly hurting his right hand in the quarters.

The way he has taken to this level has certainly been impressive but nonetheless unexpected. In building up a 59-16-2 record he has known success at almost every step of his career (national champion in the various age classes from his first year in competition, 2004, through to 2007), but going into 2010 he had lost to the eventual winner of the national senior championships in his two attempts and he was playing second string in the national team to the tragic young phenom Davide Cenciarelli. Cenciarelli, a sort of southpaw Miguel Cotto in style, had won the senior national championships having just turned 18 (at 64kgs; Mangiacapre had competed at 69 in those championships but his natural weight is 64) and had won all his senior international bouts to date, including two in America. He was manhandling everyone he came across and seemed to be a sure hit in that year’s European Championships in Moscow. Mangiacapre, despite being determined to challenge Cenciarelli to the last for a place on the flight to Moscow, looked destined to play back-up - a promising fighter but unfortunate to find himself in the same weight division as the meteoric young Cenciarelli. What happened next was devastating for Cenciarelli but opened the door for Mangiacapre. After a sparring session during an Italian training camp in Russia, Cenciarelli complained of a severe headache and after being taken to hospital it was discovered that he had bleeding on the brain. Fortunately he made a full recovery after surgery but he has not boxed since and probably never will again. Thus it was Mangiacapre who went to the European Championships.

There he lost in his second bout, to eventual runner up Gyula Kate. He says it was this experience which brought him on a lot.

"Those championships were really a turning point. They showed me I could compete at that level and gave me a lot of self-belief."

Since then he has not looked back at all. What has been most striking is that he has quickly avenged the losses he suffered when he first made the step up in competition. Kate was beaten in Ankara and the quality Mongolian Munkh Uranchimeg - who beat Mangiacapre in April - was seen off in Baku.

"I was too young for Kate and didn’t believe in myself as much as I do now. The Mongolian was a southpaw, strong and he had won bronze at the previous World Championships. They beat me, I learned from it, and then I taught both of them a lesson."

He promises to continue this rate of improvement right up until the Olympics, and he even seems slightly disappointed with the recent bronze.

"I expected a medal in Baku but I wanted gold. I suppose I have to be happy with the bronze because I wasn’t at 100% in the semis. But London will be different."

Anyone who has seen him fight will surely be impressed with his style. He’s a switch-hitter and he’s difficult to hit - qualities which are normal enough at the top level of amateur boxing - but what really makes him stand out is his rubbery high speed upper body movement, blurring hands and almost supernatural anticipation. Even Floyd Mayweather himself would have been impressed by some of Mangiacapre’s moves against Juan Romero, the Mexican rep in Baku. The best way to describe his style?

"Unique. In one word: unique. Many people try hard to fight with this kind of style but they can’t pull it off. For me it comes naturally."

His Olympic hopes will no doubt have been given that little boost by joining the army. In Italy the army, the police and the Carabiniere try to enlist the best amateurs. The deal is simple: the boxer represents the force, brings prestige through his performances and helps his employer get future funding; the army, or whichever force he signs up for, gives him a salary and imposes just the minimum of professional duties. The boxer becomes, to all effects, a full-time fully-paid athlete able to concentrate on the sport and with the prospect of a solid career ahead of him once he hangs up his gloves. It is no surprise that most of Italy’s leading amateur boxers take part in such an arrangement and are reluctant to give it up for the much murkier waters of professional boxing. Mangiacapre will be on just over a thousand euros per month. In the Italian context that is good money and is enough for a fighter to worry just about the boxing.

He returns to the national training centre outside Assisi in November. From January until just before the Olympics the national team will take part in various tournaments and matches. And then the big one, London 2012. He sees his main threats there as Dos Santos, Uranchimeg and the Ukrainian who so impressed in Baku, Denys Berinchuk. Don’t be surprised if Mangiacapre manages to rise above all of them and take the gold.

October 21, 2011

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