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Vinny Cidone -- Middleweight contender 1947-52
by Salvatore A. Rappa, Boxing Historian

Vincent Cidone, an Italian-American, was born in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn. While still a youngster, his family moved to Coney Island in Brooklyn where he grew up and learned (for protection) to become a tough street fighter. By 1940 he graduated from the Maintenance High School of Brooklyn. During World War II, he proudly served his country in the United States Navy. While in the Navy, Vinny joined the boxing team, and for the first time he fought in a ring with boxing gloves. Though inexperienced, he always held his own in the ring. In 1945, Vinny married his childhood sweetheart, Angela. To this day, some 55 years later, they are still happily married, have two wonderful children and enjoy several grandchildren.

In 1946, while following a profession in painting, this tough kid Vinny became interested in the sport of boxing. During that year he had hung around a boxing gym just to work out. Vinny decided to try boxing as a career. He never had any amateur bouts. His reasoning was that if he was going to fight, he might as well get paid for it. In 1947 Vinny found a great manager, namely Hymie Wallman, and became a professional fighter. As a middleweight, he started an impressive career with a string of 18 straight victories many of which were knockouts. He was noted for his terrific left hook and fighting heart. Vinny trained hard and was always in very good condition for all his fights and always gave his best. While in training, he would run 10 miles a day on the Coney Island beach. Though he fought tough fighters like Ernie Durando, Herbie Kronowitz, Joey DeJohn, Walter Cartier, Al Priest, Paddy Young, Aldo Minelli, Georgie Small, Lou Valles, etc., his most noted bout was with the boxing legend, Rocky Graziano.

By 1950 Graziano, then a former champion, was seeking another title fight. Rocky knew he had to first win over a top contender to secure a fight with the present champion, Jake "The Bronx Bull" LaMotta. Vinny Cidone's name had been suggested as an opponent to Graziano's manager, Irvin Cohen. At this time in Vinny's career he had beaten most of the best middleweights around. However, within the last year or so, Mr. Cidone had developed some eye problems. He had some very bad cuts over his eyes, which, of late, started reopening during so me of his fights. This, in fact, caused him to lose some tough bouts by the TKO route even though he might have been ahead on the scorecards. Graziano's manager knew Vinny was a great left hooker and felt uncomfortable about taking the fight. However, Cohen accepted the match realizing that Cidone may cut and this would give Rocky an edge. Even though Vinny respected Rocky and his great punching ability, he was excited to get the fight and have a chance at such a popular slugger as Graziano. The bout was scheduled to be fought in the Milwaukee Arena on May 9, 1950. The events that followed would live with Vinny Cidone the rest of his life.

A week or so prior to the fight, Mr. Cidone and his trainer, the legendary Freddie Brown, boarded their plane for Milwaukee at Idlewild Airport (now known as JFK). After being seated, they were both told they had to leave the plane because the flight had been overbooked and they would have to take the next flight. Vinny explained the importance of taking this flight due to his prescheduled commitments involving his fight with Graziano. When the airline stewardess insisted he and his trainer unboard the plane, Mr. Cidone refused. The airline personnel had to get their security guards to finally convince them to leave. Well, Cidone and Brown took the following flight. When they finally arrived in Milwaukee, they were informed their original flight had crashed and all the 160 plus passengers were killed. Vinny always felt God spared him that day for it was not his time to die.

Back to the fight itself. Rocky weighed in at 160-1/2 lbs. To Vinny's 158 lbs. Late in round 2 at the shock of some 12,813 spectators, Cidone floored Graziano with a terrific left hook. Rocky got up after a 9 count, but was clearly dazed. There was not enough time in that round for Vinny to finish the knockout. Round 3 was to be one of the toughest rounds in both fighters' careers; each man slugging toe to toe, punch for punch, when (as expected) near the end of the round Cidone's left eye suffered a bad cut. Before the start of round 4, as Vinny was in his corner, the referee looked at Vinny's cut. He decided to stop the contest because of the size of the cut over Vinny's eye. Vinny pleaded to continue the bout, but the referee's decision stood. Of course, Mr. Cidone was disappointed, but took pride in the fact that he came so close to knocking out the great Graziano. If Vinny had not been cut, no one knows who would have won. All of the fans were thrilled with the excitement of the battle and applauded both Rocky and Vinny after the fight ended. Pinky Mitchell (former Jr. Welterweight champion), who covered the contest for Ring Magazine, wrote, "This was one of the most thrilling fights ever staged in the City of Milwaukee." Rocky and Vinny have always had mutual respect for each other, which never faded through the years.

After a few more years of fighting, with similar eye problems, Vinny decided to retire in early 1952. At the end of his career, Vinny's boxing record consisted of 47 bouts, 35 wins and 27 knockouts.

In January 1956 Vinny and his family purchased their first house in Central Islip, Long Island.

Shortly after his retirement from boxing, Vinny went back into the painting field, where through hard work and ability, he rose to the position of Vice President in the Painter's Union; and after 35 years of loyal service, he retired in 1987.

During the 1970's, Mr. Cidone served his community by organizing and performing in boxing exhibitions throughout Suffolk County. Vinny raised funds for various community projects. He called upon his retired boxing friends to assist in the exhibitions. Vinny was so respected in the boxing world; his friends came to his aid. He raised funds for many Suffolk schools, including Islip, Brentwood and Huntington. Some of the other fighters called to help out were Ernie Durando, Bobby Cassidy, Joey Giardello and Billy Graham. Even his buddy, Jake LaMotta, appeared one such fund raising exhibition where he and Vinny boxed a 3- round exhibition.

In October 1997 the Madison Square Garden network interviewed Vinny and Joe Miceli (the former welter weight contender of the '50s). In November 1997 these two fine fighters were again interviewed, this time by the Classic Sports Network.

Vinny Cidone, a religious man who now resides in Islip Terrace, Long Island has been a respected resident of Suffolk County for over 44 years. Vinny is also a member of the "Ring 8 Boxing Veteran's Association", whose goal is to assist former fighters in need of medical services as well as provide them with financial help. At this time, Vinny is still involved with his community. He works part-time for the Senior Citizens Association in Islip.

I have had the privilege of knowing Vinny Cidone for the last seven years. He is a wonderful, warm-hearted human being who is always ready to support his fellow man. He has spent his lifetime being a good guy.

If anyone would like to write to Vinny Cidone, he can be reached at 28 Satellite Drive, Islip Terrace, NY 11752. I am sure he would appreciate any fan mail.

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