By Sam DiTusa
It is with great sadness that I report the passing of Lenny Lapaglia, a colorful Chicago middleweight during the 80s and early 90s. Lenny compiled a ring record of 36-9 with 33 KOs in a career which movies are made of. He started by winning the Chicago Golden Gloves before turning pro under top trainer Pat La Cassa. Lenny was noted for his fights in taverns and on the streets as well as the ring. He was one of Chicago’s most colorful personalities at a young age and never met a fight he didn’t like.
Being a friend of Lenny’s, many of the best stories I can’t print. But believe me, there are hundreds. His crosstown rivalry with John Collins was the hottest topic in town for a year until the two finally met at the UIC campus arena on a warm Sunday afternoon. The fight was broadcast live on NBC and was a nominee for fight of the year. Lenny lost a ten round decision that night and his career took a momentary downward spiral. But Lapaglia reinvented himself several times throughout his career, and fought several times on USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fight series, still the best TV boxing produced since the 50s.
It was always said he was his own worst enemy. Many say his out of the ring antics and wild lifestyle kept him from being a champion. But Lenny lived life the way most guys only dream of living it. He was charismatic and his life should have been on the silver screen. LaPaglia fought the likes of Tommy Hearns, Carlos Tite, Doug Dewitt, and John Collins to name a few. His relentless style and left hook earned him the nickname “The Rage” after his idol Jake LaMotta.
In recent years Lenny helped out at the Leyden Boxing Gym run by former fighter Johnny Nocita. Lenny was best with the kids, probably because he was a kid himself to the end. He’s the kind of guy people will tell stories about for another 25 years. Rest in Peace Pal.