By Thomas Gerbasi
Not a lot has changed for Vinny Maddalone since the first time he fought in a Toughman competition around 15 years ago. He still knows how to punch, how to ignite a crowd, and how to be a gentleman after the final bell sounds. His mom Carol even continues to light a candle for him every time he steps between the ropes.
“Out of 45 fights I think she’s been to one of them,” laughed Maddalone. “Every time I fight, she lights her candle, she says a prayer, and she’s pretty much to the point where she knows this is what I love to do. She just doesn’t want to see me get hurt, and I tell her ‘ma, all I can do is keep training hard every day and go into the ring and try to be a hundred percent ready.’ That’s all you can ask for.”
About the only thing that has changed for Maddalone as he approaches a Saturday bout against Richard Carmack at the Paramount Theatre in Huntington, New York is that at 39 years old, he’s a lot closer to the end of his career than the beginning of it. And that’s fine with the affable Queens native, who has never been one to oversell himself or live in a world of delusion when it came to what he brought to the ring.
“It’s going on almost 15 years pro now, and the game has been great to me,” said Maddalone, an honest fighter in an often dishonest game, one whose good name has not just been earned, but kept longer than most in this sport.
“You just stay humble. The people you meet, you’re gonna come around again in life and meet them again, so you try to be a good person. I try to tell these young kids coming up, when you’re winning and you’re on top, everybody is around you, but don’t change who you are because it just takes one punch to lose and then you’re right back on the bottom. So I try to be a good person to everybody I meet and I always have a smile on my face. In the ring, it’s business. Outside of the ring it’s different.”
In the ring, Maddalone doesn’t show up with any tricks or what Floyd Mayweather would call “special effects.” He moves forward, swings for the fences, and if he has to take two to give back one, so be it. That style has led him to 36 wins (27 KOs) against only eight losses, which is a lot of longevity for a fighter using a style that usually guarantees you won’t last too long. It’s also kept him busy and packing venues, and while a brilliant display of boxing like Mayweather’s win over Robert Guerrero last weekend won’t always inspire, watching Maddalone fight will have you eager to watch him again as soon as possible. And as far as he’s concerned, that’s the point.
“Since I started, that’s my whole attitude with everything towards the game, just trying to give the fans their money’s worth,” he said. “I want to entertain people, and that’s it.”
Well, actually that’s not it. Maddalone is human like any boxer, and when he gets up in the morning to train, he always pictures himself as a world champion. These days, with the clock on his career ticking, those pictures get more vivid, especially when he sees relative unknowns like Francesco Pianeta, Manuel Charr, and Mariusz Wach get world title shots at the Klitschko brothers, along with two of the last three people to beat him, Jean Marc Mormeck and Tomasz Adamek.
“The guys I lost to – Mormeck, Adamek – if I beat these guys I get that Klitschko shot,” said Maddalone. “That’s why I keep doing this. I wake up every morning, I do my run, I train, and I want to get that shot. That’s all I care about. It’s why I keep going. I just want to get that title shot, and then I know I gave everything I got. And that’s all I can ask for.”
Since 2009, Maddalone has gone 5-3, with the losses coming to the only world-class fighters he faced during that period, Adamek, Mormeck, and British prospect Tyson Fury. It’s not the greatest advertisement for a shot at either Wladimir or Vitali, but if you’ve followed Maddalone’s career for any length of time, you can’t help but hope that he can put together a nice string of wins, beat a Top 20 contender along the way and get the shot he’s looking for. Would he be a prohibitive underdog? Of course. But isn’t there something to be said for a fighter getting the opportunity to fulfill a dream, even if it doesn’t turn out with a Hollywood ending?
“It kills me when I see guys like Pianeta fight this guy (Wladimir), and this other guy, Manuel Charr (fight Vitali),” said Maddalone. “I’ve been trying to entertain people and give everything I got in all my fights, and I’m not the most skilled guy. I just try to give you everything I got. The greatest compliment I get from people, especially old timers who come to my fights, they say I’m a throwback fighter to the 50s. And that’s when fights were fights and that’s what it was about. That means everything to me.”
Back then, champions stayed busy, fought more than two or three times a year, and there would be fights against those not in the Top 20. These days, you’ve got to have connections or a lot of luck to get the same opportunities. Maddalone doesn’t want any favors though. He’s willing to fight his way forward, and it begins with Kansas City’s Carmack, an unbeaten fighter who checked in for his most recent win over Carl Davis last November at 322 ¾ pounds.
“I saw a couple of his fights on youtube, and he’s a big kid, about 300 pounds, and he looks like an offensive lineman,” said Maddalone of his opponent. “He’s a young kid, he’s 24, and he’s got quick hands, but he’s gonna be in front of me, so that’s a good thing. Guys that move and jab, I’m chasing them around. This one, it’s gonna make for a fun fight. I’m in the best shape possible and I haven’t been 228 in years. I feel great, and I’ve been in a lot of wars, but it’s how you prepare in training, and once I know a fight’s coming up, I just commit myself a hundred percent to the fight. I definitely believe I have about another year, year and a half in this game, and I’m gonna try to make my mark right now.”
And if he wins, he keeps his dream alive. If not, you can expect that his fans will still go home knowing that they saw a real fight. That’s not always the case in boxing these days, but as long as Vinny Maddalone is around, you know he’ll be waving the flag for the throwbacks.