Local boxer Paul Spadafora has been getting punched around Internet boxing sites in recent days for allegedly passing on a nationally-televised fight in August against one of the sport’s toughest young fighters, 23-year-old Thomas Dulorme.
"What a joke," wrote a commenter on the boxing blog Bad Left Hook. "This guy is always talking about fighting names and getting back to big fights in his interviews, but when he finally gets a chance on HBO he turns it down?"
There were previous reports that a deal was reached for Spadafora (48-0-1, 19 KOs) to fight Dulorme (18-1, 13 KOs) Aug. 17 in Atlantic City; the bout was said to be slated for HBO's off-shoot subscription network, HBO Latino. Then, earlier this week Dulorme's promoter, Gary Shaw told writer Rick Reeno of Boxingscene.com that Spadafora took a pass on the fight.
But a member of the 37-year-old former world champ's inner circle tells City Paper, that an agreement was never reached and The Pittsburgh Kid is getting a lot of unwarranted bad press. Mark Yankello, a member of Spadafora’s promotional team, lead by boxing legend Roy Jones Jr., says the deal as it was originally proposed by a member of Shaw's company was for the fight to occur as one of the three featured bouts on HBO's Boxing After Dark, not the smaller network.
No money was discussed at the time, Yankello says, but "I told them we were clearly interested" especially given the opportunity to be seen on HBO's premiere boxing program, and the prospective purse for such a fight. Yankello said he expected a tough fight: Dulorme, of Puerto Rico, was on ESPN’s top 25 prospect list in 2011 and has been featured on bouts on both HBO and Showtime.
But when Jones talked to the network and Gary Shaw Productions, he was told that the fight would now be shown only on HBO Latino, which has limited U.S. availability.
"When Paul upsets the apple cart vs. a guy like Dulorme in his continuance of one of the great comebacks in recent U.S. history, shouldn’t it be seen by all fans in this country?" Yankello asks.
Then, once a contract offer was forwarded to the team, Yankello says the financial offer wasn’t appealing or close to the level of Boxing After Dark telecasts; "At the end of the day," Yankello says, Spadafora would have earned "in all due respect less money than he can make putting on a sparring exhibition. And I'm not exaggerating.
"I have no idea why it was put out there like Paul pulled out," Yankello says. "Paul's a real fighter and will fight anyone put in front of him, but this is a business first and foremost."
Spadafora has had three fights in the past year since signing on with Roy Jones Jr.’s fight promotion. Spadafora was the IBF World Lightweight title until relinquishing the belt in 2003 to move up a weight class. His previous out-of-the-ring troubles are well documented and include stints in rehab as well as prison. But for the past year, the McKees Rocks native has been on the straight and narrow, fighting regularly at Mountaineer Casino in West Virginia. He has been ranked as high as sixth by major boxing organizations.
As for what’s next for Spadafora, Yankello says "different scenarios are being entertained." Spadafora will be 38 in September, and it's hard to say how much longer he'll be able to continue to fight professionally. But for now, Yankello says, "He hasn’t shown his age to be a factor yet so we are optimistic."