By: Paul Yates
Last December, Massachusetts’s Greg Vendetti flew to Paris to fight hard-hitting Michel Soro in a bout between two WBA world rated super-welterweights. Vendetti entered the ring on a lengthy winning streak and had serious prospects for a shot at his division’s world championship. But within two rounds, he exited the ring cracked, battered, and knocked out by Soro. The devastating loss cost Vendetti his world rating and sent him reeling back to New England’s club fighting circuit. It also raised questions about his future.
Friday night Vendetti faces New Jersey’s Michael Anderson, a lightly regarded but experienced boxer with a 17-2-1 record, in a scheduled 12 round bout at Everett’s Encore Casino. New England boxing insiders will be focused intensely on Vendetti, looking for clues about how the Soro debacle may have affected his self-confidence.
Photo Credit: Joe Gallo
At today’s weigh-in, Vendetti and his team gave no indication of feeling daunted by the Paris disaster. The fighter himself looked lean, imperterbed and bright-eyed as he addressed the media from the dais, speaking optimistically about putting together another winning streak. Vendetti’s team reinforced his air of self-confidence, expressing themselves with vigor and ambition on the subject of their boxer’s next career moves.
Sean Sullivan, vice president at Murphy’s Boxing, insists that Vendetti’s ego shows no ill effects from the Soro bout. “I was with Greg in the locker room after that fight,” he explained. “Greg was strong, very upbeat. He was already focused on rebounding in his next fight. Greg’s an old school fighter, all blood and guts.”
However Sullivan added that Murphy’s Boxing will eventually move Vendetti down a weight class, to the 147 lb welterweight division rather than super-welterweight, which has a weight limit of 154 lbs. “Greg’s shorter than most guys that he fights, so he’s at a disadvantage. But we really think he can be a force at welterweight. He’ll carry his power downward to that weight class.”
Currently 21-3-1 with 12 knockouts, Vendetti is a stocky, heavily muscled fighter who boxes out of a crouch, swarming opponents with sweeping hooks and overhand rights. His infighting strategy makes sense given that he stands only 5’6”. But Vendetti can box and counterpunch a bit too, moving laterally on his feet when necessary and unleashing rapid-fire combinations at medium distance when he needs to use wits rather than brawn. The Stoneham native has proven these skills against formidable opposition too.
Vendetti scored his biggest career win last year when he soundly outfought Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai, a notoriously durable, hard-hitting fighter who had scored 24 knockouts in compiling a 27-4-2 record. Vendetti’s victory was all the more impressive given that Kamegai had previously stood toe to toe for 12 rounds in a losing effort against the ferocious Miguel Cotto in a WBO super-welterweight world title fight. But to fulfill Sullivan’s goal of penetrating the upper-reaches the 147 lbs division, Vendetti will need to fight up to the ability level he demonstrated against Kamegai. That expectation, no doubt, puts more mental pressure on Vendetti.
The outcome of Friday’s fight is not in question. Although Anderson enjoys considerable height and reach advantages (the New Jersey fighter looked at least four inches taller at the weigh-in), at aged 38, he is nine years older than Vendetti. More tellingly, Anderson has rarely fought boxers with winning records, something Vendetti has done routinely. But the near certainty of victory does little to ease the psychological pressure Vendetti presumably faces. That is because Vendetti must win impressively in order to recertify his credibility with the power brokers who call the shots on pro boxing’s world class stage.
According to trainer Joey Ricciardi, Vendetti will definitely get the job done properly. “Right now, Greg’s confidence is sky high,” said Ricciardi. “For this fight, he trained harder, he put a little extra work in every day. Greg’s not doing that to prove anything to himself. He wants to prove something to the world.”
Friday’s match is for the vacant International Boxing Association super-welterweight title, a belt not held in high regard in pro boxing circles. But if Vendetti wins impressively, he will have accomplished something more important, which is to have proven that he is once again ready to face the world’s leading contenders.