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

Paul Spadafora Overcomes the Odds to Get Back On the Comeback Trail

By: Heath Harlem
Follow @pittgrad0214

On Saturday, December 1st Pittsburgh Pennsylvania’s own Paul Spadafora will enter the ring about 45 minutes outside of his home town in Chester, WV (the same ring where 13 years ago he became a world champion) in an effort to continue his climb to the top of the boxing world when he faces Solomon Egberime in a bout scheduled for 10 rounds.  Spadafora, the former IBF lightweight champion had a rise to the boxing world that was seen by many as miraculous in its own right.  It ultimately came crashing to the ground taking Paul to lows many never could imagine for him both inside and outside of the ring.  To many it seems like a long shot that Spadafora would ever get the opportunity for a big fight against any of the top welterweights or junior welterweights in the game, the fight that Spadafora feels he deserves.  Despite the long odds against him, Spadafora feels that on Saturday, December 1st he is taking the next step towards that big fight, a fight that he is confident will come.

When Spadafora enters the ring on Saturday the 1st, the crafty southpaw will bring a record of 46-0-1 along with a Hall of Fame resume that includes 8 title defenses (in addition there were 2 non-title fights during his reign as IBF Champion) into the ring.  This great career almost ended before it got started when as a teenager Spadafora was shot in the achilles by a police officer when he was a passenger in a car that refused to stop when the police tried to pull it over.  While the doctors thought his boxing career was over, Paul fought back and made his pro debut on October 18, 1995.  He won his pro debut defeating Steve Maddux via knockout.   During the first 4 years of Paul’s career he won his first 24 bouts, showing much talent, but fighting almost exclusively in the Pittsburgh area.

On January 22nd, 1999 Spadafora raised his profile in the boxing scene when he won a 10 round unanimous decision against Rocky Martinez.  This was Spadafora’s first fight on national television and it took place in Martinez’s hometown of Chicago.  After a tune up fight in March of 1999, Spadafora faced Israel Cardona in August of 1999 for the vacant IBF lightweight title.  Paul took home the belt, winning a dominating 12 round unanimous decision in Chester, WV.  Spadafora was at the top of the lightweight division for the next 4 years.  His fights began taking place in larger venues and he was appearing regularly on HBO.  On May, 17th 2003 Spadafora suffered the only blemish on his career record when he fought Leonard Dorin to a Draw in a WBA and IBF unification bout.  That was Paul’s last fight at lightweight.  He moved to junior welterweight after that fight due to issues making weight.

During his reign as champion Paul became more famous in the fight world for what happened in a training camp, than anything anyone saw on HBO.  Paul was chosen as a sparring partner for Floyd Mayweather Jr in 2001.  While Paul was a champion in his own division, not many would have thought he would dominate the larger, supposedly faster Mayweather.  In a 6 round sparring session that was captured on video tape, Paul dominated Floyd for 5 out of the 6 sparring rounds, sending shockwaves that are still being talked about today.  This was the last time Floyd ever allowed cameras to tape a sparring session, and it showed exactly how talented Paul is in the ring.  There are many boxing fans that see this sparring session years ago as reason enough for Floyd to face Spadafora in 2013.

After the Dorin bout Paul’s personal life hit rock bottom.  On October, 29th 2003 Spadafora was arrested for shooting his pregnant girlfriend, Nadine Russo in the midsection outside a gas station.  The two had a dispute after Russo drove Spadafora’s vehicle over a median into a gas station parking lot leaving 2 flat tires.  The argument escalated and they got out of the vehicle where Russo was taken across the street and ultimately shot. Despite the violence occurring in a populated area, there were conflicting witness statements on the incident.   Spadafora was charged with attempted murder and was released on $50,000 bail.   Paul fought twice more after the incident while out on bail against inferior competition in April and July of 2004.  On September, 7th 2004 Paul was arrested for crashing into a police car while driving under the influence of alcohol.  In December of 2004 Spadafora was jailed when he failed a probation required drug test. While locked up, Paul acknowledge that he needed help to get clean and turn his life around.  Spadafora had a pervious history of violence associated with alcohol use.  In an effort to get the help he needed Paul plead guilty in February of 2005 for shooting Russo.  As part of his plea bargain, Paul was released in 2006 and returned to the ring and defeated Frankie Zepeda via TKO on Nov 22nd 2006 in Erie PA.  He fought again on March 9th 2007 in Mount Pleasant Michigan defeating Oisin Fagan via a 10th round split decision.  Paul was jailed again for a probation violation shortly after that fight causing him to remain inactive until April 2008.
 
From 2008-2010 Paul fought sparingly (5 times total) while being managed by Al McCauley.  These bouts were off of the boxing radar as they were against second and third level competition, taking place in small venues with no TV and little other media coverage.  Paul was inactive for the entire year of 2011.  During 2011 Paul contends that his management had told him that he would face Floyd Mayweather Jr in the fall.  Ultimately Floyd fought another southpaw, Victor Ortiz in September 2011 and never indicated that there was any deal to fight Spadafora.  In September 2011 Paul was arrested again for another alcohol related violation, this time DUI.  Since his management was not working in his best interests, Paul wanted out of his management contract that expired on June 24th 2012.  McCauley and team petitioned that the contract be extended on the basis that Paul was unavailable to fight during a time of the agreement.  The commission sided with Paul, effectivly releasing him from his contract allowing him to sign with Roy Jones Jr’s Promotional team.  Paul began his latest comeback with an easy and impressive unanimous decision victory of Humberto Toledo at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort, the site of his greatest victory on August 8th 2012.  Paul’s former management is suing for a share of Spadafora’s last fight purses.

On Saturday, December 1st Paul will face his toughest test in the ring in almost 10 years when he faces Solomon Egberime.  The plan for Paul is to leverage a big win against Egberime into a fight on a larger stage in 2013.  To many, the odds seem long for Paul to get to that point.  First thing against him is his age (37 years old) with many of those years victim to drugs and alcohol.  Being that it has been 10 years since Paul was at the top of his game, he is no longer a household name with much attraction outside of hardcore boxing fans.  Spadafora is being managed by Roy Jones Jr’s team awhich is outside of the big time promoter’s stables, giving them little incentive to risk one of their fighters coming out on a losing end.  Paul is a southpaw and due to not being a knockout fighter (only 19 KO’s in 47 career fights); he has accumulated 342 professional rounds.  It would be a tough task for any fighter to step into the ring with someone with a resume like Spadafora’s.

There are many things against Spadafora in his attempt to get a chance to fight on boxing’s biggest stage again. However, it can be seen as a miracle that Spadafora is in the position he is today to face Solomon Egeberime after all he has been through.  Paul now claims to be sober, and he now has the opportunity to continue a career that was a long shot to get anywhere before it even started.  In order to take the next steps towards any future big time fight, Spadafora must first defeat Egberime convincingly on Saturday, December 1st.  While the boxing world hasn’t seen Paul Spadafora on a big stage in a number of years, many will be watching Saturday the 1st to see if he can take the necessary steps.