And that is why boxing needs the Paz. He is fun and flashy. And cocky. "Sugar Ray Robinson reminds me of Vinny Pazienza," says Vinny Pazienza. TV loves him, which is why NBC's SportsWorld will air the Pazienza-Haugen fight at 4:30 p.m. EDT on June 7. Of course, there's nothing wrong with entertaining people, with making them laugh.
But manager Duva frets, "My biggest concern is not his talent—he might be a helluva fighter—but the one thing he likes to do more than box is entertain." The Paz is also stubborn. Duva tells him not to lift weights. So there is Pazienza over at the gym lifting weights. "You don't get hurt liftin'," says Vinny. "You get hurt droppin' them on your feet."
The Haugen fight had to be delayed two weeks because Pazienza broke his nose while sparring on April 18, shortly after Duva had told him not to spar. Haugen, who certainly will go for the Paz's nose, says, "It's like a big pizza on the middle of his face." Haugen can't seem to get that image out of his mind.
So Greg, have you ever fought anybody like the Paz?
"Naw, I don't think so. Except for when I was in the amateurs."
But Pazienza is not troubled by criticism. "All great people are subject to ridicule," he says. He is a bit testy, though, about a discrepancy in his pro record. According to the books, he is actually 22-1. In a fight in Milan, Italy, on Dec. 1, 1984, the Paz was butted in the third round by Abdelkader Marbi of Morocco. In the fifth, with Pazienza bleeding profusely, the fight was stopped—and given to Marbi. The Paz and his people went nuts. They claim they were told afterward by officials at ringside that the fight would be ruled a no contest, since the end was brought about by an illegal act.
Whines Vinny, "I rocked him. I had him on Queer Street." The Italian Boxing Federation did not alter the decision, but Pazienza insists he is undefeated. Even so, there there will be two cutmen in his corner for the Haugen fight.
If the Paz wins, he is on his way to bigger paydays (Haugen will get $300,000, Vinny only $150,000). Duva is already conjuring up a confrontation between Pazienza and Mancini in Rome. But Haugen, at 19-0-1, is tough. Which leads to the suspicion that Haugen may be right when he says softly of his opponent, "He's fast, he's a good fighter, he's in big trouble." If true, it could spell the end of all this Pazfoolishness.