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, “The Pittsburgh Kid” cannot wait to prove he belongs again.
“I just want the boxing world to give me another shot,” Spadafora told BoxingScene.com. “I’m just going to be busy and I’m going to prove to everybody that I belong in the ring with anybody.”
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 Spadafora’s 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.
“I want to fight whoever can do something for my career,” Spadafora said. “Anybody who’s supposed to be the best, I want to go in there with him and prove that I’m the best. I believe all fighters should fight the best. I’m at a point in my life and a point in my career where that’s what it’s all about.”
Spadafora (46-0-1, 19 KOs), who’ll 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 hadn’t fought since he stopped Mexico’s Alain Hernandez (18-11-2, 10 KOs) after five rounds in November 2010 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
He easily out-pointed Ecuador’s 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 didn’t stop the 33-year-old Toledo, who has lost by knockout or technical knockout four times during his 13-year pro career.
“I’m sure the phone is going to start ringing after people see what he did,” said Joe Horn, Spadafora’s attorney and adviser. “And we’re 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.”
Spadafora signed a contract recently with Roy Jones Jr.’s 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 Romania’s Leonard Dorin in May 2003, when they battled to a split draw in a lightweight championship unification fight in Pittsburgh.
“I’m real eager to prove to myself that I’m the best in the world,” said Spadafora, who is being trained by Tom Yankello and Mike Rodriguez. “I feel the only way I’m 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 that’s supposed to be the best.
“I’m eager to get back on top. I’m eager to be put in there like that. I don’t feel I’m overly confident. When I’m sparring people and I’m doing well, that’s the truth. … It’s 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 I’m not doing that. I’m doing what I love to do and I believe that I’m good enough to fight with anybody.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.