Phillipe and Jorge often think of how nice it would have been if Warren Zevon's "Boom Boom Mancini" ("Hurry home early, hurry on home/Boom-Boom Mancini's fighting Bobby Chacon") had been about local boxer Vinny Paz, nee Pazienza.
The reason for the sentimentality is the release of new bio, Fight or Die: The Vinny Paz Story, by Vinny's longtime friend Tommy Jon Caduto. (Note to Vinny: We aren't buying it, but we want free autographed copies, please, since we have been in your corner since dinosaurs walked the earth. Or at least John Hawkins and Matty Smith.)
P+J remember the days in the mid-1980s when Vinny's then-girlfriend, an 18-year-old sweetheart, would hand-deliver press releases about his upcoming fights to us in our office. At the time, the ProJo had an unwritten rule that boxing was to be frowned upon as a barbaric sport which should not sully its pristine pages. The NewPaper, our rag of the moment, had no such airs, and we were happy to lend a hand to Vinny's climb to fame at any and all times.
Back then Phillipe was also writing a sports column and, on a whim (prompted no doubt by a whim or two of Pabst Blue Ribbons and Jose Cuervo Gold shooters), asked Vinny, who was to embark upon a tour of Italy to sharpen his skills and beef up his record, to correspond with him and give the down-and-dirty on his fighting agenda while in his wonderful and totally off the wall (said only in the best way) father Angelo's native land. Vinny agreed to do so, despite the additional burdens of trying not to get his lights punched out by some Neapolitan knucklehead.
After Vinny finished his first fight with a knockout, a missive arrived from our hometown hero. While expecting to have to do a rewrite and edit worthy of Hercules, not to mention believing it would come in on crayon on the back of a Martini & Rossi cocktail napkin, it was instead extremely well-written, needing almost no revisions. But the funniest part was that it was delivered on the type of small, lavender-tinged, scalloped-edge, perfumed stationery that grandmothers send with a $5 bill on your birthday when you are a youngster.
But instead of saying, "Here's a little something for you, darling," the prose was, "So I beat the crap out the guy with a bunch of left hooks and he was spitting blood when the bell rang. " Incongruous match of style and substance, beyond belief, but ultimately hysterical.
Vinny Paz has been criticized for a number of his actions, but P+J will forever remember that side, which you rarely see in a a sport that glorifies hardness of soul. We remember having his father Angelo waking him up from a nap just to say hi to his visitors at the gym where he trained in Olneyville, and his mother giving P+J a cookie recipe during one of his fights as she sat in her kitchen, too afraid to watch her son take the shots necessary to eventually flatten his opponent in the ring. What a beautiful family.