Forgotten Legends: Leonard Dorin

By: Steve Gallegos

Only a handful of world champion boxers have come from the country of Romania. Lucian Bute is probably the best well known Romanian boxer, however before Bute, there was another fighter who was the face of Romanian boxing. His name was LeonardThe LionDorin. Dorin was an all action, in your face kind of fighter that seemed to rarely take a step back. He was one of the most exciting fighters to watch during the early 2000’s.

Dorin was born and raised in Ploiesti, Romania and was a decorated amateur with a record of 239-15. He would represent Romania in both the 1992 and 1996 Olympic games in which he took the bronze medal both times. Dorin would finally turn pro in 1998, signing with the Canadian promotional company Interbox. He would go 19-0 with six KO’s over the next three years, fighting mostly in his new adopted home of Canada. After winning a unanimous decision over the very popular and exciting Emmanuel Augustus, Dorin was in line for a title shot against Raul Balbi of Argentina.

They met on 01/05/02 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, TX and it was for the WBA Lightweight championship. It was a back and forth toe-to-toe war from the opening bell. Both men were busted up, particularly Dorin, who was cut over both eyes. Dorin had the edge though as his shots had more snap on them and he rarely took a step backwards, coming forward for most of the fight. When it was all said and done, Dorin was awarded a very close 12 round split decision. He was now a world champion.

Dorin would face Balbi again in a rematch four months later in his home country of Romania. This time Dorin was dominant, knocking Balbi down en route to a lopsided unanimous decision. Dorin would not fight again for another year. He would return to the ring in May of 2003 in a unification bout with fellow lightweight champion Paul Spadafora. The “Pittsburgh Kid” Spadafora was unbeaten and had the advantage of fighting at home.

They met on 05/17/03 at the Petersen’s Events Center in Pittsburgh, PA for the unification of the WBA and IBF Lightweight titles. As was the case with Balbi, the fight was all action from the opening bell. Dorin would get the better of Spadafora in many exchanges as he got off first and continued to come forward. As the final bell sounded, it appeared to many that Spadafora’s unbeaten streak had come to an end; however the judges would decide otherwise. The final decision would be a split draw and both men would retain their titles.

Many fans and experts believed Dorin deserved the nod and a rematch was demanded, however it didn’t take place. After having difficulties making the 135 lb weight limit and being stripped of his title after failing to make weight for a title defense, Dorin moved up to 140 lbs and would challenge the ultimate blood and guts warrior Arturo Gatti.

They met on 07/24/04 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, NJ for the WBC Super Lightweight Championship. On paper, this bout had all the makings of an all action war, however it was anything but. In the second round, Gatti landed a hard shot to the body that put Dorin down and out. It was Dorin’s first professional loss and it would be his last fight as he would announce his retirement shortly afterwards. He was 34 years old.

His record as a professional stands at 22-1-1 with 8 KO’s. Today, Dorin resides in Romania as he trains up and coming boxers. Many fans including myself, believed Leonard Dorin had a lot more to offer in the sport of boxing. Did his quest for Olympic Gold have a negative effect on his professional career. Had he turned pro sooner, would he have had more high profile bouts and won more world titles? In the end it was a professional career that started too late and ended too soon.
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AP: Arturo Gatti – Leonard Dorin

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