By Mariano A. Agmi
Heavyweight gatekeeper Vinny Maddalone (35-8, 26 KOs) has always been one fight away from the big-time. As far back as 2004, a 21-1 Maddalone had to get by then undefeated Brian Minto to land a high profile opportunity. Things started off pretty well for the native of Flushing, Queens, as he quickly battered and dropped Minto in round one. However, the Pennsylvanian got up and engaged the Italian-American in a war of attrition for 10 rounds until Minto knocked Maddalone out in the final stanza. 8 years and 21 fights later, the 38-year-old Maddalone has been in the ring with a who’s who of former champions and contenders: Evander Holyfield, Denis Boytsov, Jean Marc Mormeck, Tomas Adamek and most recently, Tyson Fury.
“For the last three 3 fights, it’s like I’m one fight away,” asserts the New Yorker. “I fight Adamek, after that he fights Klitschko. I fight Mormeck, after that, he fights Klitschko. It’s like I have to beat that top 10 guy to get the call. And that’s it, we take these fights on local shows, hopefully win, perform well. It’s up to me to be in shape and ready to go, and just wait for that call.”
On Saturday, December 8th, Maddalone steps into the ring for the 44th time, this time at the Queens Resorts World Casino against Byron Polley, a journeyman out of St. Joseph, MO, who sports a record of 25-13-1 (25).
“He’s a come forward, mid-Western guy who comes to fight, and that’s what I’m looking for,” states Maddalone. “I’ve seen a couple of guys he fought and read some articles. I know that he’s a big guy, he’s probably going to be about 260, 250 pounds, but at this stage it’s pretty much about what I gotta do. It’s how I train and what my game plan is.” Maddalone is very serious about his training these days. Last year he sold a restaurant/bar he owned in Whitestone, Queens, to focus full time on boxing. His goal is to fight for the next year or two and finally land a shot at competing against the best in the world.
“I would love to fight the Klitschkos,” says Maddalone. “They’re the champs. They’re at the top of the game and have been for the last 10 years.” While Maddalone’s dream of facing one of the Klitschko brothers seems unlikely at this point, he is making sure he does everything in his power to make the opportunity possible. He set up shop for 9 weeks to prepare for Polley, who has two opponents in common with Vinny in Minto and Joe Stofle. Maddalone has performed better against each, though they both lost to the former and both beat the latter.
Still, Maddalone has achieved a lot for a guy who didn’t have an amateur fight until he was 18-years-old. “When I graduated high school, I got a scholarship to play baseball at a Division II school in North Carolina, Pfeiffer University,” explains Maddalone. “One day I saw a sign about a tough man contest. I went down and told a guy that I wanted to fight and he told me to come that night. It was a Friday. I won that night and they told me to come back on Saturday, so I went back to the dorm and told everyone ‘come down to the fights tomorrow night, I’m fighting!’, and they all came down, and I fought 3 guys in one night and I beat all 3 guys. That was my start.”
Maddalone competed in the New York Golden Gloves in the offseason while pitching at Pfeiffer and later for the Adirondack Lumberjacks in an independent league. However, boxing took a backseat to baseball until he was released from the Lumberjacks following an elbow injury.
“At the time I had about 10 amateur fights, so after I got released I came home and thought, ‘What am I going to do now?’ A lot of the old trainers in the gym were saying ‘you have pro style.’ That was in 1998, and I had my first pro fight in ’99.”
Due to his lack of an amateur background, Maddalone had to learn his craft on the job, which explains his unpolished style and knack for getting into brawls. Now fully dedicated to the sport, is Vinny working on refining his technique?
“I’ve been pro for almost 13 years, what’s going to change, you know?” laughs Maddalone. “Every day you learn something new in the gym, no matter what. If it carries over to the fight, it’s great. And of course, I would love to have head movement, but I don’t see that happening.”
What really motivates Maddalone is to be in the best shape possible to give the fans their money’s worth, win or lose.
“This is what the sport of boxing is about,” explains Maddalone. “Without the fans, as a fighter, you don’t get up and train everyday. Every day I do the same thing: I run, I go to the gym, that’s the tough part. The fight is the fun part. When I put a smile on someone’s face and they leave saying ‘Wow! We haven’t seen a fight like that since the ’50s!’ That’s the biggest compliment to me.”
With Hurricane Sandy still fresh in his mind, the native New Yorker hopes the show on Saturday will give fans affected by the storm a reprieve, at least for a few hours. “It’s been over a month since Hurricane Sandy and there are still people without homes,” elaborates Maddalone. “Since the venue is 5 minutes away from the Rockaways and Howard Beach, if some fans can come and enjoy themselves for a couple of hours, that would mean so much.”
As you can see, Maddalone is a good natured guy who always puts in an honest effort and is one of the few boxers left who put the fans’ excitement before their own health. The fighter hopes to close 2012 out strong in the hopes of finally receiving his long awaited opportunity.
However, with the lack of head movement and technique, how does he plan on dealing with the Klitschkos?
“I’m going to get hit, I’m going to bleed, but I’m going to give everything I’ve got, and that’s all I can do, you know?”
Like a true warrior, that’s how.