The Pittsburgh Kid | Biography

Paul Spadafora captured the fascination of a city with a storied boxing history by becoming its first world champion in a half-century, earning him a nod to the legendary Billy Conn as the new Pittsburgh Kid.

Spadafora needs no reminder of his reign as International Boxing Federation lightweight champion, as he has tattoos of the belt and the years he held it on his ink-covered torso that is a testimony to his family after a troubled childhood that saw him lose his father and almost ended his boxing dreams when he was shot in the leg by police as a teenager. “I had it for five years,” Spadafora said. “Eight title defenses. It wasn’t no accident.”

Paul SpadaforaNow 38, Spadafora is trying to overcome a checkered past. At 49-0-1 with 19 knockouts, he has returned to top-10 status, this time in the light welterweight division, and remains one of the most attractive contenders for a world title. Spadafora has transformed his style from a slip-and-dip counterpuncher to that of a ring general who relies upon a sharp jab to slice opponents while providing a moving target that remains hard to hit. “He’s the smartest fighter I know,” trainer Tom Yankello said. “He’s a true scientist. He knows the game through and through.”

After an outstanding amateur career that saw him win 75 of his 80 fights, Spadafora turned professional in October 1995 with a fourth-round KO of Steve Maddux. By August 1999, he was fighting Israel ‘Pito’ Cardona for the vacant IBF belt. Spadafora won that fight in a 12-round decision, becoming world champion at age 23. Spadafora’s rapid rise saw him go from The Bottoms of McKees Rocks, his adopted hard-knock neighborhood in Pittsburgh’s West End, to the top of the boxing world. One year, he was fighting Jose Aponte for $1,200. The next, he was winning a $40,000 purse and a world title belt to become a celebrity in his hometown.

“Now, I’m flipping the coin for the Steelers and throwing out the first pitch for the Pirates,” Spadafora said. “People start to know you.” Spadafora defended his title with an 11-round knockout of Renato Cornett, but it was his fight against Victoriano Sosa that solidified Spadafora’s status as champion. Knocked down twice in the third round, he rose from the canvas to win a 12-round decision.

 

Soon, Spadafora became a fixture on HBO Boxing and Pittsburgh’s top sporting sites. He made title defenses against Mike Griffith at Civic Arena, Billy Irwin at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and Angel Manfredy at Duquesne University’s Palumbo Center before beating Dennis Holbaek Pederson at Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort. That led Spadafora to a unification bout with Leonard Dorin for their IBF and WBA belts in May 2003 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Petersen Events Center.

Spadafora also started to work with the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, who saw untapped power potential in the southpaw and believed he was ready to move up not only in weight but also class. “The Paul Spadafora I worked with could have held up with any welterweight or junior welterweight that I’ve ever trained,” Steward said. “That includes Oscar de la Hoya, Julio Caesar Chavez, Tommy Hearns, Vivian Harris and Vernon Forrest.” Soon after, however, Spadafora’s world spiraled out of control. He relinquished his belt with plans to move up in weight class. A series of arrests, along with his admittance of alcohol and drug abuse, sidetracked his career and he fought only nine times in the next seven years against a list of overmatched opponents in forgettable venues.

Paul SpadaforaAfter a 32-month layoff, Spadafora signed with eight-time world champion Roy Jones Jr. and TNT Promotions in 2012. “The fact that he’s been through so much, I know he’s a good fighter,” Jones said at the time. “You just don’t find a fighter who’s 45-0 at 36 years old. A lot of people gave up on him, but I want to help him get somewhere. Without a doubt, I think he can win a world championship. He had to be good to have that record, especially with everything he’s been through. It takes a man to clean himself up.”

Spadafora quickly started climbing the world rankings, scoring unanimous decisions over Humberto Toledo and Solomon Egberime before beating Rob Frankel in 10-round unanimous decision for the vacant NABF super lightweight title in April 2013. It was Spadafora’s first belt in nearly a decade. He promises it won’t be his last. “You’re going to have to mention my name when you mention Pittsburgh and boxing,” Spadafora said, “not just for what I did but for what I came back and did.”

 

PAUL SPADAFORA
THE PITTSBURGH KID

 

Fight | Record

49

Wins

1

Loses

1

Draw

 

Light welterweight
Southpaw
Height: 5′ 9″
Reach: 69″

Won (MD)
2014-07-11 Hector Velazquez 56-21-3
Rivers Casino, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Loss (MD)
2013-11-30 Johan Perez 17-1-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (UD)
2013-04-06 Robert Frankel 32-12-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (UD)
2012-12-01 Solomon Egberime 22-3-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (UD)
2012-08-18 Humberto Toledo 41-7-2
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (RTD)
2010-11-20 Alain Hernandez 18-8-2
Mohegan Sun Casino, Uncasville, Connecticut, USA

Won (TKO)
2010-03-12 Ivan Fiorletta 24-5-2
War Memorial Auditorium, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Won (UD)
2009-09-30 Jermaine White 17-3-0
Heinz Field VIP Tent, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (TKO)
2009-06-24 Ivan Orlando Bustos 25-12-3
I.C. Light Amphitheater, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
2008-04-25 Shad Howard 13-10-3
Avalon Hotel, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (SD)
2007-03-09 Oisin Fagan 17-3-0
Soaring Eagle Casino, Mount Pleasant, Michigan, USA

Won (TKO)
2006-11-22 Frankie Zepeda 16-3-0
Avalon Hotel, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (TKO)
2004-07-17 Francisco Campos 18-0-1
Chevrolet Amphitheatre, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
2004-04-29 Ruben Galvan 20-4-2
Hilton Garden Inn, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Draw (SD)
2003-05-17 Leonard Dorin 21-0-0
Petersen Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
referee: Rudy Battle | judge: Gary Merritt 114-114 | judge: Gueremo Perez 115-114 | judge: Pat Russell 113-115
- IBF lightweight title
- International Boxing Council lightweight title
- WBA Super World lightweight title (supervisor: George Martinez)

Won (UD)
2002-11-09 Dennis Holbaek Pedersen 43-1-0
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA
referee: Dave Johnson | judge: Debra Barnes 118-110 | judge: Gary Wolfe 117-111 | judge: Larry Doggett 117-111
- IBF lightweight title
- International Boxing Council lightweight title

Won (UD)
2002-03-09 Angel Manfredy 39-5-1
AJ Palumbo Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
referee: Ernie Sharif | judge: Dave Hess 115-113 | judge: Don Ackerman 115-113 | judge: George Kachulis 115-113
- IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
2001-08-14 Charles Tschorniawsky 20-3-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (UD)
2001-05-08 Joel Perez 31-4-2
I.C. Light Amphitheater, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
referee: Ernie Sharif | judge: Paul Silverman 119-108 | judge: Steve Weisfeld 120-107 | judge: Lee McCowan 119-108
- IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
2000-12-16 Billy Irwin 34-3-0
Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
referee: Rick Steigerwald | judge: Tony Wolfe 116-111 | judge: Kenny Chevalier 117-110 | judge: Joseph Pasquale 118-109
- IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
2000-09-09 Rodney Jones 23-0-0
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (TD)
2000-05-06 Mike Griffith 23-6-0
Mellon Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
time: 3:00 | referee: Ernie Sharif | judge: Fred Jones 98-92 | judge: Dana DePaolo 98-92 | judge: Joseph Pasquale 95-95
- IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
2000-03-03 Victoriano Sosa 24-1-1
Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Verona, New York, USA
referee: Robert Finocchi | judge: Don Ackerman 114-112 | judge: Tom Hicks 115-112 | judge: Frank Adams 116-111
- IBF lightweight title

Won (TKO)
1999-12-17 Renato Cornett 30-2-1
Lawrence Convention Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
time: 0:52 | referee: Rick Steigerwald | judge: Tony Wolfe 100-90 | judge: Michael Ancona 100-90 | judge: Luis Pabon 100-90
- IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
1999-08-20 Israel Cardona 31-2-0
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA
referee: Dave Johnson | judge: Dave Hess 120-108 | judge: Joe Dwyer 119-109 | judge: Gary Wolfe 119-108
- (vacant) IBF lightweight title

Won (UD)
1999-03-30 Eugene Johnson 5-10-1
Monzo’s, Monroeville, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
1999-01-22 Rocky Martinez 29-2-0
Carmichael’s, Chicago, Illinois, USA

Won (TKO)
1998-12-04 Dezi Ford 24-20-2
Monzo’s, Monroeville, Pennsylvania, USA
referee: Rick Steigerwald | judge: Tony Tarentino | judge: Paul Silverman | judge: Joe Dwyer
- International Boxing Council lightweight title

Won (UD)
1998-10-23 Sam Girard 17-5-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (TKO)
1998-08-30 David Thomas 3-13-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (PTS)
1998-06-23 Jose Aponte 14-9-2
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (TKO)
1998-05-27 Amado Cabato 45-26-8
Avalon Hotel, Monroeville, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
1998-03-26 Troy Fletcher 13-5-2
Avalon Hotel, Monroeville, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (PTS)
1997-12-11 Roger Brown 13-17-0
Avalon Hotel, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (TKO)
1997-10-15 Hector Ramirez 12-26-0
Monroeville, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
1997-09-13 Kino Rodriguez 9-12-2
Thomas & Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA

Won (PTS)
1997-08-13 Bernard Harris 11-2-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (TKO)
1997-05-23 Julio Cesar Merino 3-10-2
Ridgeway, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (PTS)
1997-03-01 Joe Lafontant 3-6-1
Convention Center, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA

Won (KO)
1996-12-22 Greg McLean 0-1-0
Struthers, Ohio, USA

Won (TKO)
1996-11-21 Mark Andreske 4-5-1
Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (TKO)
1996-09-27 Jeff Whaley 18-34-1
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (UD)
1996-06-22 Antonio Gonzalez 3-14-2
Mark Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA

Won (TKO)
1996-06-10 Calvin Faggins 3-2-1
Washington, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (UD)
1996-05-07 Erik Joshua 0-2-3
Steubenville, Ohio, USA

Won (TKO)
1996-03-31 Julio Ibarra 9-17-0
Washington, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (RTD)
1996-02-20 Michael Lopez 1-6-0
Mahi Temple Shrine Auditorium, Miami, Florida, USA

Won (KO)
1995-12-13 Lacebian Crockett 0-5-0
Youngstown, Ohio, USA

Won (UD)
1995-11-15 Anthony Hardy 3-15-1
Erie, Pennsylvania, USA

Won (TKO)
1995-11-07 Nathaniel Hardy 2-10-0
Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, Chester, West Virginia, USA

Won (PTS)
1995-10-18 Steve Maddux 2-11-0
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

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