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Looking forward to Spadafora-Dorin II

| Tuesday, May 20, 2003

The draw at Petersen Events Center was much more a defining moment for Paul Spadafora than it was a blemish on the previously untainted record of "The Pittsburgh Kid."

Spadafora may not have won the battle, but he took major strides toward achieving his ultimate objective, which is to become something more than a local sensation.

Although he slipped to 36-0-1 in standing toe-to-toe with Leonard Dorin, Spadafora has never been closer to achieving international respect and acclaim.

We knew "The Pittsburgh Kid" could box.

Now, we know he can also fight.

Dorin can, too, which should make the rematch between the IBF lightweight champion of the world and the WBA lightweight titleholder as anticipated as Spadafora-Dorin I was compelling.

It's premature to put these two on the same level as legendary adversaries such as Ali-Frazier, Leonard-Duran and Robinson-LaMotta, but the epic staged Saturday night already has boxing enthusiasts drawing comparisons to the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward scrapes that have repeatedly proven to be viciously entertaining.

Spadafora-Dorin II can be such a fight, as the first one surely was.

The argument can and has been made that Spadafora would have been better served to continue playing the technician, and that may well be true as far as winning Saturday's encounter was concerned. But while that may have resulted in a unified title (minus Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s WBC lightweight crown), it might also have put HBO and the boxing community outside of western Pennsylvania to sleep.

Spadafora fought such a fight when he defended his title against Angel Manfredy last year at the Palumbo Center. The "Pittsburgh Kid" was at his technical best that night, which meant that the most entertaining aspect of the evening involved observing the wardrobes and antics of all the wiseguy-wannabes in attendance.

This was decidedly different.

This was as courageous as it was combative.

This put Spadafora on the map.

Long-time boxing analyst Larry Merchant of HBO was so moved by what transpired that he mentioned Spadafora in the same breath as Pittsburgh legends Harry Greb, Billy Conn and Fritzie Zivic.

Spadafora isn't in their class, Merchant maintained, but he's in their mold.

No one was saying such things after Manfredy was disposed of in a perfunctory fashion that to that point had been typical of Spadafora.

What might they be saying the next time?

That "The Pittsburgh Kid" has truly arrived• That he's an undeniable rising star• That a meeting with Mayweather is no longer conceivably possible but absolutely mandatory if the sport and its fans are to be properly served by the promoters and managers and TV executives dividing up all that money?

In that light, Spadafora lost nothing and gained everything, even though he failed to beat Dorin this time.

Spadafora even demonstrated the class of a champion after fighting as one by offering to have the rematch staged in Romania, returning the favor of Dorin fighting in Spadafora's hometown, and by accepting a decision he disagreed with much more with grace than contempt (as did Dorin).

In a game too often dominated by sleaze and behavior that's either childish, cretinous or criminal, Spadafora and Dorin provided a breath of fresh air.

More and more, it's becoming apparent that Spadafora not only knows what he wants from his career but is also well aware of the best way to go about getting it.

Clearly, he's taken the pursuit of such to a new level, draw and all.

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