"He never stopped coming; man, he was crazy," Minto said.
Abandoning his jab after the third round, Maddalone turned the fight into a brawl and paid the price. He was countered repeatedly by Minto, who also took a beating and trailed badly on all scorecards heading into the 10th round, 86-83, 86-83 and 89-82 at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City. Thirty-two seconds into the round, Minto leveled Maddalone with a curt left-hook that dropped him for the first time in his career.
Maddalone got up on one knee but fell down again, eventually rising at the count of nine. Referee Alan Huggins took one look at Maddalone's face, a shadowy purple of abrasions under both eyes, and waived the fight off, setting Minto's corner into a frenzy and setting Maddalone's career back a few steps.
In the locker room afterward, Maddalone (21-2, 15 KO's) admitted to miscalculating his standing with the judges going into the final round.
"I thought I was behind on all cards," he said. "I'm upset with what happened, but that was a great fight. It's a fight that should have been on HBO. I felt confident heading into the 10th round. I'm not really a boxer. My style is to come right at you; I just didn't see the punch coming."
Most people never saw Minto (18-0, 11 KO's) coming either. He had fought all but two of his fights in the Midwest and had never fought on national television. The future for Maddalone, who lost a decision to Al Cole the last time he stepped up in class, is unclear.
HBO, the most important and virtually only network that pays in boxing, is not interested in signing either Maddalone or Minto at the moment, according to Kerry Davis, head of boxing at the network.
The bout, with its numerous momentum shifts, is a probable fight of the year nominee, but HBO, with its stable of world champions, is committed to signing only highly ranked fighters not back-alley brawlers like Maddalone. Though he is a huge draw, Maddalone has yet to shed the image of the straight-ahead puncher, which puts him in an awkward position: He can continue fighting this way and get paid less than he is worth by ESPN2, or he can go back to the gym and refine his style. Either way it's a risk: Stay the same and maybe he becomes a cult hero like Mickey Ward was late in his career; change styles and he risks losing fans turned off by his safer style.
"After a fight like this, his stock definitely goes up," said Maddalone's promoter, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing. "His exciting style will undoubtedly open some eyes."
Up until the seventh round, Maddalone had dominated the fight, dropping Minto in round one with a straight right hand that landed behind the ear and trapping him on the ropes. Minto, for his part, was content to give away the early rounds in exchange for the later ones. The knockdown, of course, almost derailed those plans.
"My legs were dead after that," said Minto, who weighed 208 pounds compared to Maddalone's 228. "I was trying to survive, trying to get my legs back, but I knew he would get tired. I watched him fight like 20 times on tape. I knew his style, but he didn't really know mine."
Minto took control in the seventh, moving backward and bouncing shots off Maddalone's forehead and nearly splitting him in half with body shots. Maddalone was exhausted, but so was Minto from throwing so many punches, and heading back to his corner after the eighth round, Tommy Yankello, Paul Spadafora's former trainer, implored Minto to fight harder. Maddalone had staggered Minto with three consecutive overhand rights to end the round and Minto, dazed from the blows, walked back to the wrong corner twice.
"I told him (after the eighth round) to suck it up," Yankello said. "I told him that he had to fight for his family, that he had to punch until he couldn't punch anymore. I wanted him to show me his heart. I didn't expect this kind of fight."
"God was with me tonight," Minto said later.
After the fight, Maddalone went to Minto's dressing room to congratulate him on the win. They talked about getting paid "HBO money" if they ever fight again.
Heidi Minto, his wife, was on hand to celebrate the couple's third wedding anniversary July 21, and she said jokingly that she would kill him if they fight again, but given their situations, what choice do they have? A rematch seems inevitable.
Moments later, Minto, suffering from dehydration, was taken to Atlantic City Medical Center. Maddalone, upbeat despite the loss, went back to his dressing room.
"Maddalone takes a good punch whether he is tired or not," said his trainer, Bob Jackson. "Once Minto was hurt, he ran like a thief. Sure, we would fight him again."
Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2004 Community News Group
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