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"I love being Vinny Paz!"
An Exclusive Interview with the Pazmanian Devil
By JD Vena

Prior to Oscar de la Hoya winning the jr. middleweight title this past summer, there had only been two other boxers who had won that title as well as a lightweight world title. They were Roberto Duran and Vinny Paz, formerly Vinny Pazienza. Besides Paz and Duran's feat, that is where their similarities end, for there are many differences between the two, most of which would favor Duran. But one thing you could never say about Vinny Paz is the fact that he's never quit. In fact, he is by far the braver of the two.

You could go so far as to say that Paz is one of the bravest fighters of our time. Some, including Paz would believe that his bravery has been too much for his own good. Just imagine for a moment, Paz who turned 39 on December 16th, broke his neck over 10 years ago and is still fighting at an age where few can. Though his skills have receded considerably, Paz still shows an incredible amount of flair and the ability to fight, particularly in his last three bouts. They were fights you wouldn't have expected to happen after he lost a one-sided bludgeoning at the hands of Aaron "Superman" Davis this past January. But here he is, still willing and yearning to fight and do what he does best: entertain.

Vinny Paz got into boxing to live a dream he envisioned after seeing the motion picture, Rocky. Most of those dreams have come true so far. If you' re a fan of Vinny Paz then you have Sly to thank because Vinny's storybook career has provided you with some major thrills. The CBZ caught up with Paz recently to discuss his impressive ring career and as you would expect, the Pazmanian Devil still has big dreams and fire to spew. Though you would expect him to have shown signs of wear or slowness in his speech, he still has all of his mental faculties and he can leave you in stitches with some of his Jake LaMotta, tongue-in-cheek comments. Just don't invite Paz over for your parents' house for dinner.

CBZ: Vinny, when I interviewed you a couple of years ago you told me that when you retire from boxing you would have your nose fixed up. Well you had your nose fixed last year and here you are fighting for the fourth time this year. When you got your nose repaired did you know that you would be fighting again or did the desire to fight just return?

Vinny Paz: JD, I broke my fuckin' neck and came back to fight. Why the hell wouldn't I fight after getting a nose job? (Laughs) I knew I wanted to fight again. I've always wanted to fight. There was never a question whether I'd ever get back in the ring. Also, I didn't fix my nose to the point where I wanted the way I want it when I retire from boxing.

CBZ: Have you always wanted to reach 50 wins before you retired or was it something that you thought about fairly recently?

PAZ: I thought about it years ago but I never thought that the feat was attainable to be honest with you.

CBZ: Why?

PAZ: I don't know, I just thought that it was too many fights and would take too long. I use to joke around with my friends and say, 'Why don't I shoot for 50 wins?' just to bust balls only to hear them say, 'What are you nuts? That's too many fights!' 50 wins was thought of as a mountain but I'm ready to climb it.

CBZ: People have been speculating recently whether you will eventually belong in the Boxing Hall of Fame. Do you expect to be inducted one day?

PAZ: Hey, it's not over yet. We'll see what happens. I have another couple of fights to win. You never know what can happen in there. Hopefully, I'm fortunate enough to get a title shot at super middleweight in my 50th fight against Eric Lucas. We're aiming at Lucas in March for his WBC title. That is my goal right now. That's why I haven't fought on TV recently. I don't want Lucas to see what I'm capable of doing so that he'll think fighting me will be an easy thing. Let him go by my last loss against Aaron Davis, a fight that I looked terrible in. I hope he does. Now if I win Lucas' title, then I would have made history. A lot of people tend to overlook that I'm the second fighter in history to win a lightweight world title and a jr. middleweight title. Duran was the first. Now if I win the WBC super middleweight title then I would be the first to win the lightweight, jr. middleweight and super middleweight titles. So far I've won 5 world titles: 3 of them were minor and two of them were major titles. I have die-hard fans that have walked up to me in the street and told me that if I beat Lucas, then I would be the first fighter in history to have won a world title in three different decades. Great fighters like Sugar Ray Robinson, Roberto Duran, Tommy Hearns, Sugar Ray Leonard and Chavez never accomplished that, but if I win it, I'll be the first. Therefore, why wouldn't I deserve to be in the Hall of Fame?

[Editor's note: Evander Holyfield is the only fighter to win a world titles in three separate decades.]

CBZ: A lot of people, including your promoter, Jimmy Burchfield and matchmaker, Ted Panagiotis didn't like the idea of you getting into the ring with Aaron Davis, having been inactive for over 14 months. A lot of it had to do with you wanting to get into the ring with a tough opponent, it also had.

PAZ: (Jumps in) I asked for Davis. I'm a crazy fuck and I asked for him and I didn't care. I thought I could beat him and I didn't give a shit if I took 10 years off. I thought I could beat the guy. People forget that I have taken long periods of time off before and come back and win. After I lost to Roy Jones, I took a year off and came back and knocked out an undefeated kid named Dana Rosenblatt. I did that after coming off the worst defeat of my career. I wanted everyone to know that I could beat Rosenblatt and that I was back. The Roy Jones night was just a bad night and I lost to a great fighter. After the Rosenblatt win, I took another year off and fought a tough, ready, Glenwood Brown. Brown is a tough, tough kid. We had a great fight together. People have told me that the 10th round we had was one of the best they have ever seen.

CBZ: Some say that another reason why you fought Davis was because ESPN had rejected some other opponents that Burchfield had offered. One of them was Richard Grant, who appeared recently on the Friday Night Fights beating James Butler, a recognized top contender. Does it irk you that ESPN would turn an opponent down for you but not for Butler? Up until your last two fights, all of your previous fights had been televised since before you won the lightweight title.

PAZ: To be honest with you, it was my plan to fight off television so that Eric Lucas would fight me. Getting three solid wins I figure that would be enough to put me back in the ratings and then hopefully I get a title shot. I know what I can do. I know that I can fight and there aren't too many guys who can fight better than me.

CBZ: Years ago I remember seeing Buddy McGirt in tears after winning a fight that wasn't even for a world title. He had been coming back from what was thought to be a career-ending injury to his shoulder. As a spectator, it seemed as if it was his most cherished win. What has been your biggest thrill of your career? Was it coming back from your neck injury and defeating Luis Santana? Was it when you won your world titles?

PAZ: That's a tough question because there have been a lot of them. I'd be lying to you if I just picked one. When you asked me that question, I immediately thought of a handful of great memories and a couple of ladies too (laughs). What immediately came to my mind was my win over Joe Frazier, Jr. What immediately came to my mind was when I won the National Sports Festival on ABC's Wide World of Sports as an amateur. What immediately comes to my mind was when I beat Greg Haugen for the lightweight title. What immediately comes to my mind was when I beat Gilbert Dele for the jr. middleweight title. Those were major moments in my life.

CBZ: You began your career fighting as a lightweight and in your last few fights you've been fighting recently as a light heavyweight. It's a popular discussion these days how fighters gain and lose incredible amounts of weight just to make a lighter weight division. What was it like for you making the lightweight limit back in the day?

PAZ: Man, you wouldn't believe how many fighters who walk around at 180 and then make lightweight. I can't believe that I ever did it. I can't believe what I put my body through and I can't imagine putting my body anything remotely like it.

CBZ: When you were a lightweight champion, what weight did you walk around at?

PAZ: I use to blow up to 175 or 180. My normal weight was around 165 in between fights. It's still hard for me to get down in weight. I've put my body through hell. When I fought Davis, I didn't fuckin' care. I took water pills for the first time since when I was a lightweight. I took an anti-inflammatory injection for my hands and just said, 'Fuck it!' I didn't want to put the plastics on before the weigh-in. I don't know why. I just wasn't right for that fight. It might have had to do with a girl, a new love in Florida. I trained in front of her and she was pushing me. I left everything in the gym and in the end, I just had no fuckin' energy. So I took water pills. When I got cut in the nose, I bled like a sieve. That's what anti-inflammatory shots and water pills do to you: they thin your blood. My blood was pouring like a faucet. It looked a lot worse than what it was. Women!

CBZ: Women? Mickey Goldberg (from Rocky), use to say, "Women weaken legs!" Do you believe in that sort of thing?

PAZ: That's bullshit! Women weaken pockets, not legs. It's a mental thing. If you let it get to you than maybe it can effect you. I mean unless you get your dick sucked before you step into the ring that then wouldn't be cool. The day before though you should be able to get away with it. The day of, definitely not. It's an old-school fallacy because you build back that testosterone immediately. This game is all mental which is why I have stayed so strong. Many times, you'll have the best sex of your life and the next day have the most kick-ass workout you've ever had. What happens to some guys is they will be fighting someone and midway through the fight when they start having doubts asking themselves questions they will say, 'Shit! I shouldn't have had sex last night.' By having that in the back of their minds they start to feel weaker. It's just like a guy who is fighting over 8 rounds for the first time of his life and then starts to fade because he doesn't realize what he is capable of doing. It's all a mental thing and if you allow it to effect you then it will. Only the strong survive. It's definitely bad if you're out looking for sex and I've done that before. When you screw around like that then yes it will make a difference. Going out chasing for pussy when you should be resting is not good.

CBZ: Do you look back at the Davis fight and say, 'I never should have taken the fight.'

PAZ: Never. I wish I prepared better or differently. There's a big difference. I still think I can beat Aaron Davis. I just had nothing that night and good for him. There can only be one winner and he was the winner that night.

CBZ: You've mentioned throughout this interview that you want your 50th to be against Lucas for the title, but could there be other fights out there that would interest you? A rubber match with your archrival Rosenblatt perhaps? Does it bother you that you nearly beat him the second time with only the full use of one hand?

PAZ: It does bother me about losing that fight. I think that if I won a world title in my 50th win then that would be enough for me to call it a career. That would pretty much wrap everything up for me. I'd fight Rosenblatt but he has a torn rotator cuff and has never been cooperative in fighting me so, fuck him.

CBZ: Before there was a Rosenblatt, there was Greg Haugen. Why were things so heated between you two?

PAZ: Well, Haugen was a smart-mouth and I was too. But people don't really know what happens behind the scenes. They see little clips on TV or hear something but they don't realize what happens behind the scenes. I'm a man and I take everything, my ups and downs like a man. After he beat me to regain the lightweight title, I wrote him a letter to congratulate him. When I did that he invited me to Seattle to see his first defense against Miguel Santana. He sat me ringside for the fight in the front row and I remember being very happy for him with his championship. Anyway, Santana butts him and Haugen got a huge cut over his eye that forced the fight to be stopped. Since Haugen couldn't continue the backwards-ass commission in Oregon said that Santana was the new champion. When I heard that, I jumped into the ring and said, 'You can't do that! You have to go to the scorecards when the fight is stopped from an accidental cut.' They ended up changing the decision in Haugen's favor. People don't know that. Then they had me and Greg fight at a higher weight a few years later and I whipped him. I came in at 143 for the fight and stepped into the ring at 155. I felt great and I won. When I beat him he started yapping after and crying like a baby. I hate crybabies! Take it like a man. Win like a man and lose like a man. He was acting like a total pussy after the fight and ever since then I wrote him off. I haven't seen him since and I don't want to.

CBZ: There was some friction when you fought Duran a few years ago. Is that not right? I remember you mentioning that you could never imagine fighting someone that you had looked up to and had a poster of on your wall. What was it like fighting someone like Duran?

PAZ: The first time I fought Duran at the MGM Grand I remember looking at him in his corner across the ring and thinking, 'I can't believe I'm in the fuckin' ring with Roberto Duran!' That was Duran's last good fight. He fought pretty well that fight. We made some money together but that's all. I took him out not too long ago in Florida.

CBZ: So unlike Haugen, you made up with Duran after your fights together?

PAZ: Oh yeah! I love the guy. When he lost to Joppy I cried my eyes out. I should have cried when he lost to Camacho. Duran was an 8-1 underdog and I bet $5,000 on Duran to win. I would have won $40,000. I went into Duran' s dressing room before the fight and said, 'You gotta kill this guy!! This is your whole life here!' He looked at me like I was nuts. I did have a few glasses of wine before I went in there though. Anyway, when he lost to Joppy I saw him after the fight and hugged him. I was all choked up. The man is great and I love him.

CBZ: What has your relationship with Jimmy Burchfield like? Besides being your promoter, he seems to really look up to you; in fact I've never heard him refer to you as 'Vinny.' He always refers to you as 'Champ.' PAZ: My relationship with Jimmy started about 20 years ago when I won that ABC tournament. He sent me a letter to congratulate me and invited my family and I to his restaurant. We ended up becoming best friends. I just love the guy and I made him my promoter. I got Jimmy into boxing. It's been a great relationship and I love working with him. He's one of a kind and great for the sport of boxing.

CBZ: He's been very supportive of you winning 50 fights. With him being so close to you do you think he'll urge you to retire after that win? PAZ: Jimmy has always had my best interests at heart. We're very close and he has stepped in my father's shoes ever since my dad acquired Alzheimer's Disease. I've done business with Jimmy. I've partied with Jimmy. I've drank red wine with Jimmy. Both of us would weigh out the negatives and positives and decide what's best. Right now my goal is set for 50 wins and he knows it. He's been a big part of that mission. It's our mission.

CBZ: What is it about fighting that you like the most. Is it the adulation, fighting in front of a big crowd or just getting in there and slugging it out with someone? Besides wanting to reach 50 wins, there is no denying that you really love to fight.

PAZ: It's everything you said and more. I love being Vinny Paz and Vinny Paz is a fighter. I've had my heartaches and bad times like anyone else. But all & all, I enjoy kickin' butt for a living and entertaining people. I like to inspire people. It's pretty cool. Fighting has been my life and it 's never been a big deal for me to get in the ring and fight. It's part of being myself.

CBZ: I've heard that fighters are sometimes offended when someone approaches them and says, 'Man, you're a warrior.' The fighter can sometimes think that the fan is basically saying, 'You have inadequate defensive skills and just like taking shots to land some.' Would you take offense to someone calling you a warrior?

PAZ: I use to take offense to that but now I take it as a compliment. I am a warrior and I enjoy being called that. Believe me, I have my battle wounds to prove it. I am a warrior!
  • Roberto Duran
  • Hector "Macho" Camacho
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