As the two super middleweights stood toe-to-toe for the first time since signing their respective names on the dotted line, the reality began to set in for both Vladine Biosse and Joey Spina.
“Now I know it’s right there,” Spina said after chatting with reporters at Tuesday’s informal press gathering at the Providence Downtown Marriott. “A lot of times in my career, I’ve gotten my hopes up and things have fallen through. Now I know it’s here, and it’s going to happen. I’m excited.”
The battle for bragging rights in the city of Providence is less than a month away, and the pre-fight hype is beginning to reach its boiling point. Battle lines have been drawn throughout New England as fight fans and boxing aficionados carefully choose sides.
Will Biosse’s athleticism set the tone, or will Spina’s trademark power be the difference?
Local fight fans will find out Thursday, May 24th, 2012 when Biosse defends his New England super middleweight title against the “K.O. Kid” in the eight-round main event of “Up For Grabs,” presented by Jimmy Burchfield’s Classic Entertainment & Sports at the Twin River Event Center in Lincoln, R.I. The showdown between these two Providence natives has been dubbed the biggest fight to hit the Ocean State in more than a decade.
“The city is mine,” Biosse said. “I am the super middleweight champion. I have defended the title plenty of times. Of course, I have a lot of respect for Joey for what he’s done in the game.
"He’s done an incredible job, but I think I’m being underestimated being the new guy in Rhode Island. Joey’s counting on his hard punching or whatever, but we all need to remember I do have a hand also, and I do knock people out.
“A lot of people are discounting my power. I’m able to box and I’m able to punch, so it’s going to be a great night. Whoever doesn’t see this fight is going to miss a lot.”
Biosse (12-1-1, 6 KOs) appeared calm as ever Tuesday afternoon as he and Spina (26-2-2, 18 KOs) exchanged pleasantries between interviews with the assembled press.
The buzz developing in Rhode Island has brought out the best in both fighters, but neither Spina or Biosse have lost their competitive edge, an attribute built through years of hard-earned victories and ring wars most fighters in this neck of the woods have yet to experience. There’s mutual respect on both sides, but neither fighter has even begun considering the possibility of losing.
“Everyone knows Vladine is a well-conditioned athlete,” Spina said, “but if he fights me the way I want him to fight me, it’s going to be an easy night.”
On paper, Spina has the edge in experience, having fought 30 professional bouts since his debut in 2001. Four years into his career, he captured the WBC USNBC super middleweight title – a belt he defended three times – with a win over Carl Daniels, and eventually earned a spot among the Top 10 light heavyweights (175 pounds) in the world before losing to Providence’s Peter Manfredo Jr. in 2006. The “K.O. Kid” also captured the IBF Inter-Continental title with a knockout win over Jay Pina.
“He’s the bigger, stronger, more experienced fighter,” Spina’s trainer, Jose Santos, said of his protégé. “He’s been in there with top-quality fighters. Vladine, he’s a great athlete, but I just think the transition from being a great, great athlete to being a real fighter at this level is going to be too great for him.”
“[Spina] hasn’t wanted it more than he wants it now, especially coming off a fight. He’s been telling me, ‘I want to fight back-to-back.’ Mr. Burchfield is giving him that opportunity, albeit against a tough opponent, but I don’t think it’s as tough an opponent as some of the guys he’s been in there with when you consider the experience level. I think it might be a little overwhelming for [Biosse].”
Santos has worked against Biosse before; he worked veteran John Mackey’s corner in October when Mackey fought to a draw against Biosse at Twin River – Biosse’s first fight since his lone loss to Denis Grachev in May of 2011.
“I thought [Biosse] lost,” Santos said. “Every round, Mackey would come back to the corner and say, ‘This is like sparring. This is easy for me.’ And Joey’s no Mackey. Vla’s a great guy and a good fighter, but I just don’t know if he’s going to be able to withstand the pressure and punching power.”
Led by head trainer Orlondo Valles, Biosse’s camp is confident it has pinpointed Spina’s strengths and weaknesses, noting Spina’s penchant for dominating fights from the outside with looping left hooks and overhand rights. Valles’ plan is to work the body, thereby neutralizing Spina’s reach advantage.
“It depends on which Vladine shows up,” Valles said. “If the real Vladine shows up, he’ll win the fight easily.
“Vla is an inside fighter. I’m not putting anything past Joey, because he’s strong, but his bread and butter punch is his left hook and sometimes his overhand right. When you fight someone with a powerful hook, you don’t want to give them the leverage to hit you with the power. I think if Vla can stay on the inside, he can beat Joey. If he makes a mistake on the outside and gets caught with a lucky shot, it’s going to be a long night – and a scary night.”
Although Manfredo Jr. utilized a similar game plan to beat him six years ago, Spina appears unfazed by what Valles and Biosse have in store for him on the 24th.
“All I need is six inches to punch,” Spina said. “I’m too big and physical strong. I walk around between 215 and 220 pounds. I’ve boxed heavyweights to cruiserweights – the best in the world. Size, to me, doesn’t matter. His walk-around weight is 175. That’s just too small for me.”
Tickets for “Up For Grabs” are $35.00, $50.00, $75.00 and $125.00 (VIP) and can be purchased by calling CES at 401.724.2253/2254, online at www.cesboxing.com
or www.twinriver.com , at the Players Club booth at Twin River, or through any TicketMaster location. Doors open 6 p.m. with the first bout scheduled for 7.
Twin River has waived its 18+ rule for “Up For Grabs.” Anybody under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult and must enter through the West entrance.