Paz in the Hall?
By Ted Sares
Here we go again. First it was Camacho, then Mancini. While Vinny clearly is no slam dunk, I believe a reasonable case can be made for his induction and that's what I'll try to do below. Then you decide.
Record: W 50 (30 ko's) - 10 Vinny "Vinny Paz" or the "the Pazmanian Devil" Pazienza was a rare four-time former world champion to wit: IBF Lightweight Title, WBA Light Middleweight Title, IBO Super Middleweight Title, WBU Super Middleweight Title.
Style: Short and muscular, he could box to a degree when he needed to but preferred to mix it up. Pazienza fought in a frenetic style that, while not technically sound, won you over with its energy, hustle and moxie. Extremely speedy, particularly in the earlier part of his career, he never possessed one punch knockout power but still had plenty of pop and could wear down an opponent by applying constant, incoming pressure. He threw punches, even uppercuts, from unorthodox angles and sometimes boxed in a frenetic and whirlwind manner. It could be said that his swarming style was somewhat unique as he often threw wild lefts and rights and occasionally his wild roundhouse punches looked amateurish, but if they landed, things could change in a hurry.
After his fight with Dele (which was the stuff of Hollywood movies), Vinny's physique became more imposing reflecting heavy weight training in the gym. Unfortunately, the added bulk and muscle did not seem to add power to his punches.
The Cranston, RI native bled freely and in his later fights his face often would become a bloody mess, but that would never stop him form making an entertaining fight and giving his all. All in all, he may not have been what boxing purists wanted to see, but he was I was willing to pay to see. In a word, he was entertaining.
Quality of opposition: Outstanding. His opponents included Joseph Kiwanuka, Herol Graham, Arthur Allen Glenwood " The Real Beast" Brown, Esteban Cervantes, Eric Lucas (against whom he would make his last title try), Aaron "Superman" Davis (who carved up Vinny's face like a turkey), Dana Rosenblatt (twice), Roy Jones Jr, Roberto Duran (twice), Robbie Sims, Lloyd Honeyghan, Gilbert Dele, Rafael Williams, Dan Sherry, Greg Haugen (thrice) Loreto Garza (where I believe Vinny lost to the referee and not to Garza), Hector Camacho (36-0 coming in), Roger Mayweather, Roberto Elizondo, Harry Arroyo, Jeff Bumphus, Melvin Paul, Brett Lally, and Louis Santana among others. All tough fighters. All with very good won-lost records. Vinny fought eleven who were world champions at one time or another and did this on 16 different occasions. He feared absolutely no one.
Era: 1983-2004. Since his career covered 21 years, it spanned eras in which there were truly great fighters in his weight limits and he would never back down from any of them. He fought in 15 different title fights. His fight with Roy Jones Jr was ill-advised and he took a terrible beating, though he bounced back with an upset win over undefeated Dana Rosenblatt (Dana would avenge this loss in a rematch which he won by a razor thin margin). His trilogy with Haugen was outstanding (he showed considerable boxing acumen in the third fight). He also fought the legendary Roberto Duran twice winning two close ones. One fight that was never made was with Mancini but I suspect that would have been a war of epic proportions. Oh my!
Of course, his win over Gilbert Dele in 1991 was truly inspirational since it came almost a year after Vinny was in an almost fatal auto accident in which he suffered a broken neck. This earned him the WBA Light Middleweight Title. He made history by making the biggest jump ever from one title to another (19 pounds) when he beat champion Dele with an 11-round knockout win in Providence, RI.
He won his 50th and final professional fight in Mach 2004 by rallying to beat tough Tuker Pudwill, 38-6 coming in. Once again, and perhaps fittingly so, his face was a bloody mess from a cut below his right eye, but he still managed to deck Pudwill twice and gain the solid decision win. It is to Vinny's credit that he did not pick a soft opponent for his final bout.
Vinny's self-promotional and theatrical antics were not popular with everyone and he could frequently come off as abrasive, but many of his interviews reveal an engaging, candid and sensitive human being, one who has no illusions about what could have been. Thanks for the memories, Vinny. And best of luck when if and when your name comes up.
What do you think?