Sunday, May 17, 2015

Book Review: Fight or Die: The Vinny Paz Story

The Boxing Glove Sunday Night Book Review by Peter Silkov
"Fight Or Die, The Vinny Paz Story"  written by Tommy Jon Caduto.

Few modern day boxers have lived such a roller coaster ride of a life, like the life of Vinny Paz. Better known through most of his boxing career as Vinny Pazienza, “The Pazmanian Devil” was one of the most exciting and controversial fighters of the 1980s and 90s, and a huge fan-favourite right up until his retirement in 2004.   Pazienza was flamboyant and an entertainer, who throughout his career was seldom in a bad fight.

“Fight Or Die:  The Vinny Paz Story’” is written by Tommy Jon Caduto, a life-long friend of Paz’s, who grew up with the boxer in Rhode Island.  Caduto has been with Vinny since the beginning and seen the full ups and downs of his highs and lows.  Consequently, this biography comes across like an intimate fly on the wall documentary and is at times not for the faint-hearted.

Paz first came to prominence in the mid-80s as a cocky and colourful lightweight, with a hyperactive style, both in and out of the ring. From the beginning of his career Vinny could box and slug it out, but he usually seemed to enjoy slugging it out more.  Paz’s fights would more often than not develop into no-holds barred brawls, where sometimes the rulebook seemed to have been thrown out of the ring.

Yet, Paz’s propensity for fan-friendly action has often led to his boxing skills being somewhat underrated. At his best, Vinny’s fast hands and excellent mobility made him a formidable opponent for anyone. Ironically, Vinny’s biggest failing through much of his career was also one of his greatest assets. Despite his genuine boxing skills, Vinny always tended to fight more with his heart than his head.

"Fight Or Die” takes us through Vinny’s career step by step, from his time as an amateur, then his rise to his first world title in the 1980s. Paz fought top names such as Greg Haugen, Hector “Macho” Comacho, and Roger Mayweather; with his three-fight rivalry with Greg Haugen standing out as one of the most heated and exciting rivalries of the 80s era.  Paz won the IBF world lightweight championship from Haugen in 1987. He would lose it back to him in 1988, in two bitterly contested matches, in which both men got as heated with each other outside the ring, prior to their matches, as they did inside the ring during their fights.  The two later had a deciding 3rd non-title bout in 1990.

After losing his world lightweight title back to Haugen in 1988, Vinny would go through a career funk, which would see him lose three world title fights in a row, as he was beaten in various fashions by Roger Mayweather, Hector Comacho, and Loreto Garza. Although these fights were all fan-friendly wars, with plenty of action, drama and blood, unfortunately for Vinny, most of the blood being spilt was his own. The drama usually ended with him in the hospital after the fight. After losing to Roger Mayweather for the WBC light-welterweight title in 1988, Vinny almost came close to death after the fight due to dehydration. These defeats at the top level during the late 80s, while not hurting Vinny’s appeal with the fans, made many in the boxing world believe that his title days were over, and there were calls for him to retire.

However, unknown to most during this time was the fact that Vinny had been fighting a huge battle with the scales for each fight, with him taking off as much as 25 pounds from his 5’ feet 7” inch frame every time he fought.

With the end of the 1980s it looked as if the best days of “The Pazmanian Devil” were over, yet, Vinny showed the resilience that so many admired, and turned his career right around.  He moved up two divisions, from light-Welterweight to light-middleweight, and in October 1991 he beat Gilbert Dele on a 12th round stoppage to win the WBA world light-middleweight title. 

It was a stunning career turn around for Paz, but just as he was again at the top of the world, disaster struck just a few months later, when Vinny was involved in a horrific car crash, which resulted in him breaking his neck in three places. With the prognosis that he would never be able to box again, Vinny’s famous resilience and never-give-in-heart needed to come into play like never before.

Much of “Fight or Die” is built around Vinny’s fight back from his broken neck.  It was a fight, which would lead, once more to an improbable yet, victorious comeback in ring in 1992.  Paz would go on fighting until 2004, and although he wouldn’t win anymore world titles, he would fight top names such as Lloyd Honeyghan, Robbie Sims, Herol Graham, Roberto Duran, Roy Jones Jr., Eric Lucas, and Aaron Davis, in what would be another decade of action-packed ring wars.

“Fight or Die” reads much like its subject, entertaining and fast moving, it is never dull, and there is plenty of action jumping out of the pages at the reader. This is a worthy biography for an outstanding fighter who did much to keep boxing exciting during his career.  Recently, Paz’s life story has been made into a movie called “Bleed For This” and Open Road Studios has just bought the rights starring Miles Teller, directed by Ben Younger, and Executive producer Martin Scorsese. With the release of this film coming out in the near future, Vinny Paz seems set to make another comeback into the limelight.  
 Copyright © 2015 The Boxing Glove, Inc. Peter Silkov Art. All Rights Reserved. Peter Silkov contributes to and

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1 comment:

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