By Keith Idec
Two weeks shy of his 37th birthday, Paul Spadafora finally seems to understand that he cannot afford to waste any more time if the skilled southpaw is to revisit the place he occupied 10 years ago.
After taking his first significant step toward a meaningful fight by winning Saturday night, ďThe Pittsburgh KidĒ cannot wait to prove he belongs again.
ďI just want the boxing world to give me another shot,Ē Spadafora told BoxingScene.com. ďIím just going to be busy and Iím going to prove to everybody that I belong in the ring with anybody.Ē
Spadafora proved he still can fight Saturday night, when he easily out-pointed rule-bending former contender Humberto Toledo in an eight-round fight at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort in Chester, W. Va. A crowd of nearly 2,000 attended Spadaforaís fight, which was held about 45 miles from Pittsburgh.
His handlers hope to bring Spadafora back to that venue and regain some of the momentum he established as a ticket-seller when he held the IBF lightweight title. Spadafora has long dreamed of challenging undefeated pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he is willing to go anywhere to fight any junior welterweight as he attempts to overcome the personal problems that have made his life outside the ring much more difficult than what he has faced inside it.
ďI want to fight whoever can do something for my career,Ē Spadafora said. ďAnybody whoís supposed to be the best, I want to go in there with him and prove that Iím the best. I believe all fighters should fight the best. Iím at a point in my life and a point in my career where thatís what itís all about.Ē
Spadafora (46-0-1, 19 KOs), whoíll turn 37 on Sept. 5, has fought just eight times over the past eight years due to stints in prisons, county jails and rehabilitation centers. Before Saturday night, Spadafora hadnít fought since he stopped Mexicoís Alain Hernandez (18-11-2, 10 KOs) after five rounds in November 2010 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
He easily out-pointed Ecuadorís Toledo (41-8-2, 25 KOs) en route to a wide win on all three scorecards (80-72, 80-72, 79-73). The only thing that disappointed Spadafora was that he didnít stop the 33-year-old Toledo, who has lost by knockout or technical knockout four times during his 13-year pro career.
ďIím sure the phone is going to start ringing after people see what he did,Ē said Joe Horn, Spadaforaís attorney and adviser. ďAnd weíre certainly going to be active in making some phone calls as well. This was a nice test. This was an aggressive opponent who came to take it to him. Toledo is no slouch and Paul dominated him.Ē
Spadafora signed a contract recently with Roy Jones Jr.ís Square Ring Promotions. Jones hopes Spadafora still has enough left to resemble the champion who made seven defenses of the IBF lightweight title after winning the then-vacant 135-pound crown against Israel Cardona in August 1999. His last high-profile fight came against Romaniaís Leonard Dorin in May 2003, when they battled to a split draw in a lightweight championship unification fight in Pittsburgh.
ďIím real eager to prove to myself that Iím the best in the world,Ē said Spadafora, who is being trained by Tom Yankello and Mike Rodriguez. ďI feel the only way Iím going to do it is by staying focused, staying clean and sober, staying busy and trusting the people that are moving me, like Roy Jones, to put me in the ring with somebody thatís supposed to be the best.
ďIím eager to get back on top. Iím eager to be put in there like that. I donít feel Iím overly confident. When Iím sparring people and Iím doing well, thatís the truth. Ö Itís about staying on track. I never had a problem with the boxing part of it. My problem was always myself, you know? I self-destructed. Now Iím not doing that. Iím doing what I love to do and I believe that Iím good enough to fight with anybody.Ē
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.Tags: Paul Spadafora