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Vito Antuofermo-Army Ant


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A true ring gladiator was Vito Antuofermo. A guy never too known for either his power or ring smarts, Antuofermo was simply a very tough and aggressive fighter who won by bullying and outworking his opponents. He looked like he came right out of a gangster movie and later on, after hanging up the gloves, he would even play in a famous gangster movie. But before that, Antuofermo carved out his name in tough 15-round wars against the likes of Marvin Hagler, Alan Minter, Hugo Pastor Corro and Maurice Hope, who was the first man to stop him, at 154. Antuofermo was as tough as they came but his skin was prone to cutting and more than once he lost due to cuts, including rematches with Hagler and Minter, both of which were for the world title. Here is the story of "Army Ant" Antuofermo.


Born February 9 1953 in Palo del Colle, a small town about 15 km from Bari on the southern Adriatic coast of Italy, Vito moved with his family to Brooklyn in NY when he was 17. He soon had to learn how to fight, living in the tough streets of Brooklyn and decided to become a boxer in his late teens. As amateur, he won the 1970 147-pound NY Golden Gloves. In 1971, he was defeated by Eddie Gregory (later Mustafa Muhammad) in the finals of the 147-pound Open division. Vito stands just under 5'8 and so, when he turned pro, he did it as a super welterweight. His first pro fight was on November 30 '71 and he won by PTS4 against Ivelaw Eastman. He went 17-0-1 before losing to Harold Weston by TKO5, after getting badly cut over the left eye. He was ahead on the scorecards at the time. He continued winning and beat Denny Moyer by UD10, September 9 '74. On November 22 that year, he defeated the legendary Emile Griffith at Madison Square Garden by UD10, winning decisively by outpunching the aging Griffith. He also defeated then-promising Vinnie Curto by another UD10 August 8 next year. He was 34-1-1 when he was given a chance to win the European light middle/super welter title against the German Eckhard Dagge, who held it. He had to go to Germany to fight, at Deutschlandshalle in Charlottenburg, January 16 '76 and he came away with the title after cutting Dagge in the 3rd and cruising to a split decision victory. On March 26 at San Siro in Milan, he made his first defense by stopping Jean-Claude Warusfel of France by a corner retirement in 13. He then surprisingly dropped an 8-round decision to Frank Wissenbach away in Germany, in a non-title fight, in June. He defended for the second time on October 1, at Pallazetto dello Sport in Rome, against the young Maurice Hope. It was here that his lack of true power became the decisive factor, as he had Hope in trouble in round 13 but failed to finish him off. In round 15, Antuofermo looked spent and Hope went for the kill and first stunned Antuofermo with a quick left and two rights combo, before stopping him with a barrage, with only 12 seconds left of the fight.


After this unfortunate loss, he moved up to 160. He knocked out Eugene "Cyclone" Hart in 5 in his second fight there. Hardly a surprise, as Hart had a glass jaw. He also scored a UD10 over very solid contender Bennie Briscoe, who was one of the hardest hitters in the division. After defeating Willie Classen, Willie Warren and Mike Hallacy, all on points, he got a crack at the undisputed world title against the crafty Argentinian Hugo Pastor Corro, who had defeated Rodrigo Valdez twice and Ronnie Mazel Harris as well. They were even in age and height but Corro the technician was expected to win against the less polished brawler Antuofermo. The fight took place on neutral ground, in Fontvieielle in Monaco, June 30 '79. The fight was very close and Corro was dominant at first, but, according to reports, Vito won the 6 of the last 7 rounds and in the end got the nod in a split decision. All scorecards had a one-point margin. For Corro, the loss would send his career on a downward slope from which it never recovered, but for Antuofermo it was the beginning of his fame and glory. There had been a while since an American was holding the world middleweight title and Antuofermo, although born and raised in Italy, became a truly popular figure in USA. Exactly 5 months after winning the title, on November 30 at Cesars Palace, he took on the guy who would turn out to be the future of the division: Marvin Hagler. It was a gruelling fight for the champion and he sported numerous cuts at the end of it-6 in all, of which 4 would take 25 stitches! Despite that, the crowd and announcers were stunned when the scores were read: Dalby Shirley had the champion ahead by 144-142. Duane Ford had it 145-141 for the challenger and Hal Miller had it 143-143. A draw and Antuofermo had miraculously retained his world titles. Despite the controversy, WBC president Jose Sulaiman said:"There is no doubt Hagler deserves a second chance. But after Minter." And so happened. Antuofermo fought his second defense against the tall Englishman Alan Minter, at 6 feet almost 5 inches taller than the champion. The fight was again at Caesars Palace, March 16 '80. Minter was also known as a bleeder and both guys suffered cuts but surprisingly, there was little blood. Minter controlled the pace with his jab but Antuofermo kept rushing in like a bull and driving Minter to the ropes. The big surprise happened when in round 14, Antuofermo put Minter down with a body shot. It was generally assumed that if anyone would manage to score a knockdown, it would be the heavier-handed Minter. However, it mattered little for in the end, the British judge scored the fight wide for Minter, even ridiculously wide and Chuck Minker also gave it to the Englishman by 144-141 while Ladislao Sanchez only had it for the ex-champion by 145-143.


Thus, he was no longer the champion but his loss was a dignified one. His comments after the fight were a bit less dignified, as he said:"I thought for sure I won. This fight, they gave it to him. I wasn't wrong, your judge is wrong. They should suspend both those judges." The executive secretary of Nevada Boxing Comission also stated that the judge Roland Dakin was prejudicial, scoring it 149-137 for Minter, despite the fight being close and Minter being down once. This controversy helped Vito get a rematch, this time at Wembley, London. It was on June 28 that 1980 that Minter impressively defended his title by dominating for 8 rounds before the fight was stopped due to excessive bleeding over Antuofermo's left eye. All 3 judges had given Minter all the 8 rounds. Despite being only 27, it was clear that all the wars and the bad cuts had started taking their toll on Vito. In April 1981 he was back in the ring and won on points against journeyman Mauricio Aldana, however he was down in the first round, which was a sign he had definitely lost his prime. He was then given a rematch with Hagler, who wanted revenge now that he was the new champion, after stopping Minter in 3 rounds previously. It was on June 13 '81 that Vito fought his final world title fight, but was a very different man than the one Hagler had before faced. He was already cut after only 30 seconds, on the brow and Hagler worsened the cut in the next round with more solid punches. In the third, Antuofermo was down briefly from a straight left. Ever the warrior, he pressed forward but was again cut badly under the right eye in round 4 and then it was worsened by an apparent headbutt by Hagler, before the fight was stopped after the ending of the round. When asked if he would fight again, he responded with a huge grin. He however took 3 years off from boxing before returning in 1984 and winning 4 fights against lower-level opponents. On October 20 '85, he was again stopped by a bad cut against the much younger Matthew Hatton, this time over his mouth and the fight ended after 4 completed rounds. That was the last fight of his career and he retired at 32, with a record of 50 wins, 21 by ko, 7 losses and 2 draws.


Vito Antuofermo was a hard as nails guy with the heart of a lion and he was only stopped "for real" once, in the Maurice Hope fight, in 15 rounds. Despite his warrior spirit and mentality, he was not very liked by some sportswriters (because of his crude style perhaps?) and a Sports Illustrated writer disparagingly called him an "ex-sausage grinder" after his draw against Hagler. However, his courage and heart and toughness was apreciated by the crowd and that's all that matters. Had he been a harder hitter, who knows. He overcame these shortcomings to capture the world title, against all odds. In 1990, he appeared in "Godfather III" as the bodyguard of Joey Zasa, a minor villain in the film. His nickname there was "The Ant", which inspired me to pick the title "Army Ant". Like the army ants, Vito was small but dangerous and would "eat" you if you didn't give it all you had. I hope you enjoyed this article.

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