The CBZ Newswire

Touching Gloves with…Vinnie Curto

by on Feb.08, 2017, under Boxing News

By Dan Hanley

200px-VinnieCurtoFL_B&W (1)

When Vinnie Curto arrived on the world scene in the mid – ’70s, more than a few people took a second gander with a quizzical expression. Appearing more likely to grace the cover of GQ rather than Ring Magazine, Vinnie, nevertheless, took the boxing world by storm with his matinee idol looks, a gift of the gab, and a pair of mitts that had ambition written all over them.

DH: Vinnie, it’s funny, when I was reading your exploits in the magazines back in the day, I always associated you with Miami. But you’re actually from Boston, isn’t that right?

VC: That’s right. Boston, born and bred.

DH: Did you come from a big family?

VC: There was four of us. Three boys and a girl. But, Dan, let me stop you there for a minute and let me tell you something. I had an absolutely horrible childhood. I kid you not, I wouldn’t wish my childhood on Adolf Hitler. To tell you from the beginning, both my parents were gay. They hooked up because homosexuality was never discussed like it is today. You would have been an outcast back then. So they went with the flow of a normal life, but had their things on the side in an unspoken way. Even that would have been fine, but the physical and sexual abuse I took from my father had me considering suicide. I think some higher power was watching and spared my life.

DH: With what was going on in your life how did you get steered into boxing?

VC: Well, we always messed around a bit with boxing, but I was 9 years old when I made my way to the New Garden Gym above Sharkey’s Bar where I actually received formal training by Freddy Small, who was the boxing coach. He taught me the ins and outs of boxing.

 DH: How did you make out as an amateur?

VC: I did okay. I lost 2 or 3 fights along the way, but made it to the New England finals of the middleweight division. I fought Donnell Wigfall and got dropped in the first and second rounds. But then I dropped him in the third and finished strong but not enough to take the decision.

 DH: I once read a story that – as an amateur – you would also train at the Petronelli Gym. Is that true?

VC: Yes, it is. I trained with Goody and Tony Petronelli. They were good trainers. But I’ll tell you a funny story. One day three black kids come in and they’re real cocky. Or I should say two of them were. The third kid was real quiet. Anyway, Goody puts the first loudmouth in with me and I take him out in 30 seconds. The second kid lasts about the same with me. But the third kid, the quiet one, he gives me three strong rounds. You wanna know who that was? Marvin Hagler. And we’re still good buddies to this day.

 DH: You turned pro at the age of 17 down in Miami. How did the change of venue occur?

VC: Well, (laughing) I enlisted in the Navy at the age of 16, of course I had lied about my age, but I had to get out of the environment I was in. So our ship was in Miami when they put on a boxing show and I ended up fighting this Cuban who could hit like a mule. The idiot coach I had wanted me to slug it out with him. He said, “Stick to Plan A.” I said to myself, fuck that, I’m going with Plan B, and I boxed my ass off and took the decision. So who’s in the audience but Angelo Dundee and he liked what he saw. I was getting out of the Navy anyway and he signs me up.

 DH: Wow, what a turnaround!

VC: Dan, this was a dream come true. And then Angie says to me, “I have to take you up to Deer Lake, Pa.” There I am now one of the sparring partners to Muhammad Ali for his upcoming fight with Ken Norton in San Diego. And let me tell ya, Muhammad was one of the greatest guys you could meet. He always had us in stitches. He’d wake up his sparring partners wearing a gorilla mask and scaring the daylights out of us. You couldn’t ask for a better environment.

 DH: You ran off 12 straight wins and – still only 18 – took on Tommy Hicks, who had duked it out with Bob Foster for the light heavyweight title only 2 years earlier. Wasn’t this a little ambitious?

VC: Angelo was the ambitious one. I stopped Hicks, but what I remember most was fighting with my father before the fight. Every time he showed up it was emotional torture.

 DH: I’ve got to give you credit for your drive, Vinnie. Because a year later in October of ’74, you were in the opposite corner to middleweight champion Rodrigo Valdes in a non-title 10 rounder. Tell me about that fight.

VC: Well, I wish I had my head together for that one. See, I have another fight with the old man in the dressing room before the fight. I’m fighting the fuckin’ middleweight champion of the world in Madison Square Garden, no less, and he starts his shit with me again. I had had enough. I picked him up, threw him onto a chair and gave out to him. And he never bothered me again. I thought to myself, why didn’t you do this two years ago? I could have avoided so much pain.

 DH: All this right before the fight?

VC: Yeah, but what was worse was that Angelo was with Muhammad in Zaire for the title fight with Foreman and he left me with Ferdie Pacheco and Chickie Ferrera. The entire 10 rounds, all those two did was argue and fight. I boxed well enough but I got dropped in the first or second round. I think I could have actually won, but let me tell ya, Ferdie Pacheco was the absolute worst cornerman in boxing. You want to know what his instructions were to me? “Beat him up!” That was his instructions for 10 rounds. The biggest fight of my life at the time and that was what I got.

 DH: In February of ’75 you took on the undefeated Tony Licata in his backyard of New Orleans. Tell me about that fight.

VC: Dan, I won that fight by a mile, but it was his hometown. It was the same thing when I fought Vito Antuofermo – although that was Vegas. Vito simply did not win that fight. I was all over him the last four rounds, finishing very strong. But what can you do? Close fights weren’t going my way.

Curto, at right, versus Briscoe.

Curto, at right, versus Briscoe.

 DH: Again, the other man’s backyard, you traveled to Philadelphia to take on ‘Bad’ Bennie Briscoe. Tell me about your 10 round draw.

VC: Bennie Briscoe was the best one-punch banger I ever fought. Every punch he threw hurt. I got a draw in his hometown, which was like a win, but I take nothing from Bennie. He was the best fighter never to win a world title.

 DH: By ’76, a fight that I thought was a natural in the making would have pitted you against Edgar ‘Mad Dog’ Ross. You were both Florida based middleweights at the top of your game. Was this fight ever discussed?

VC: A couple of times, but it just never came off. I agree, it would have been a natural in Florida.

DH: By ’77 it appeared you migrated back to the old roots in Boston. Was Angelo Dundee no longer in the picture?

VC: No, by that time I had hooked up with John Gagliardi as my manager. In the beginning he was okay, but then…

DH: September 24, 1977 is the date that always elicits a footnote on your career. The date of the proposed bout with Marvin Hagler in Boston Garden. However, the day of the fight you turned up in Seattle. I’ve heard many stories over the years on what happened, but I have never heard Vinnie Curto’s side. Vinnie, tell me what happened?

VC: There is so much to this story that I can’t divulge, that it becomes difficult to explain. Believe me, after hearing time and again over the years, “He’s yellow!” I would love to go into detail. But there are some people still around to this day which makes this impossible. Let’s just say I received a warning and that if I went through with that fight I would have come up missing.

 DH: Was there bad blood between you and Hagler?

VC: No! There was the usual hype the gate kind of stuff, but Marvin and I were always good friends. Even while boxing we worked construction together. But I was the big-shot in Boston at the time, not Marvin. He was still on the way up. Now, I’m not going to say I would have beaten him, but we had sparred over 1,000 rounds together by this time and knew each other well. It would have been a good fight.

 DH: After the Hagler debacle were you off-limits to the Boston promoters?

VC: Dan, I was blackballed all over the world. No one wanted to touch me. I’ll tell you a funny one, in order to get a fight I was scheduled to fight Willie Classen in Madison Square Garden because I signed under an assumed name. (laughing) But the ring announcer recognized me just as he was about to announce my alias. He announces, “And in this corner, wearing white trunks….Vinnie Curto.” He actually announced my real name. Well by that time they couldn’t pull the plug on the card and they had to let me fight. There was a lot of people pissed off over that.

DH: How did you get this cleared up?

VC: (laughing) You won’t believe it. It was Frank Sinatra. Frank loved watching me fight and we had become very close. Well, he sets me up with a promoter up in Montreal and I was back in business.

Vinnie Curto (right), going toe-to-toe with middleweight champ Rodrigo Valdes in their 1974 non-title match in Madison Square Garden (photo photo by Arturo LeConte in World Boxing Magazine).

Vinnie Curto (right), going toe-to-toe with middleweight champ Rodrigo Valdes in their 1974 non-title match in Madison Square Garden (photo photo by Arturo LeConte in World Boxing Magazine).

DH: While up in Canada, you took on one of their hottest prospects in Eddie Melo in ’79. Melo had already graced the cover of Boxing Illustrated he was so well regarded. But you ended up breaking a lot of Canadian hearts with what you did to him.

VC: Dan, I gave him a shave and a haircut in that fight. Y’know, word got around about my childhood and Eddie used it to rattle me at the weigh-in. My Dad had passed away by this time and although I had to live what he and his perverted friends had done to me, I still loved him. And when Eddie started taunting me on this subject I just looked at him and said, “you show me what you have when that bell rings.” And I gave him a going over, scoring a shutout.

DH: You continued winning steadily, including winning a rematch over Bennie Briscoe. Was all forgiven back in Boston by this time?

VC: Yeah, I was starting to gain activity again back home and the Briscoe fight really helped. Bennie wasn’t used to anyone backing him up. I didn’t have the kind of punch that could do that but I did it with fast combinations and took him out of his game. But it was still close.

DH: When did you hook up with Sylvester Stallone and his Tiger Eye Promotions?

VC: I think around ’82. I was training in the 5th St. Gym and was approached by Richie Giachetti, who was Sly’s resident trainer. So they sign me up to fight this Mexican kid named Negrete. Now, I always try to do some homework on my opponent, but I can’t find nothin’ on this guy. So at the weigh-in, Negrete is on the scales, and I said to him, “I can’t find anything in the record book on you.” He looks at me, smiles and says, “I’ve been in jail for the last five years.” (laughing) I beat him easy but my second and last fight with Tiger Eye was even crazier.

DH: What happened?

VC: Stallone was going through a separation, so me and a couple of more fighters actually moved in with him in the Palisades. Well, I had a little dog and one day Stallone is going crazy because my dog pissed on his lawn. (laughing) I mean he won’t let it go that his grass is ruined. I mean, he was really blowing this out of proportion. Anyways, I’m fighting Jeff McCall, a good fighter, and I beat him over 10 rounds. Stallone is gone and only Richie Giachetti is with me in the dressing room when I ask him for my purse, which was around $15,000 I think. But Giachetti starts mumbling, “Well…y’know…Sly is going to have to replace his lawn…so there is no purse.” That was all I needed to hear. I grabbed him by the throat, dragged him out the door, through the casino towards the teller with him screaming, “Ok! Ok! Ok!” (laughing) I ended up getting about $10,000 out of it and that was it with Tiger Eye Promotions.

DH: After 13 years in the ring and on an unbeaten run of 29 fights, you received your first shot at the world title in June of ’85 against South Korea’s Chong-Pal Park in Seoul for the super middleweight title. Tell me about your shot at the crown.

VC: Dan, I beat him hands down in that fight. That decision was horrible. I didn’t have a chance in his hometown. I will say this about him though. That guy could punch like Joe Louis.

DH: You won three straight and rematched Park in Los Angeles. What did Park do so differently in this fight?

VC: Nothing that I can think of. It was a real close fight, but I got caught in the 15th and it was stopped.

 DH: Did I hear you ended up with a concussion after that fight?

VC: I did end up in the hospital, but just for observation. I was quickly released.

DH: You fought on and off for a couple of more years and finally hung up the gloves for good in ’96 after 24 years of slinging leather. But not without achieving something in your last fight.

VC: That’s right. I won a 12 round decision over Jimmy Haynes and won the WBF cruiserweight title. I went out with a bang winning a recognized title.

DH: Vin, you fought so many high-profile fights in your career, what was your biggest payday?

VC: Uh…I think that would have been the second fight with Park. I made about $100,000 for that one.

 DH: What have you been doing with yourself since hanging them up?

VC: I’ve done a bit of acting as well as training fighters. I wrote a book called ‘Boxing Aerobic Releasing Technique’ and I’m currently writing a book on my life story.

Vinnie Curto with his WBF Cruiserweight championship belt.

Vinnie Curto with his WBF Cruiserweight championship belt.

DH: Any regrets along the way?

VC: (laughing) Oh, man, where do I begin? I suppose I will always regret not having that fight with Marvin Hagler, but I liked breathing more. Also, I was crushed in the late ’90s when a movie being made on my life just collapsed.

DH: Wait, wait, stop there! I didn’t hear this before. What movie?

VC: They were making a movie on me called, ‘Out On My Feet’, and it was going to star Mark Wahlberg as me and Robert DeNiro as Angelo Dundee. I think it was financing that pulled the project a week before shooting began. But getting back to your question of regrets, I’ll tell you my biggest regret. Keeping my mouth shut when I was a kid. Nobody knew what was going on. No kid should have to keep quiet about something like that. I was never very religious but I wish God was nicer to me when I was a kid.

DH: Vinnie, how’s life today?

VC: Things are good. I now live in Studio City, California. My girlfriend, Barb Gold and I have been together 11 years, and y’know, Dan, I should also mention that I’ve been married six times and have seven kids. (laughing) I always say I’m the King of commitment with a fatherly touch.

Vinnie Curto’s early youth can best be described as an emotional roller-coaster. But it was a coaster that didn’t stop. It became a never-ending loop of despair. However, it took a special kind of person with enough inner resolve to stand up, grab the lever, and change tracks on this bleak ride. For, in this highly personal war of Vinnie Curto’s, he is to be lauded for being the last man standing.


See ya next round,


Dan Hanley

  • Share/Save/Bookmark

Comments are closed.

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can take care of it!