The next two weekends will see two quality Italian title fights taking place in Rome.
On March 25 in a fascinating match-up that will pit youth against experience and skills versus power, 23 year old Vincenzo Bevilacqua will face veteran campaigner Luciano ‘Bazooka’ Abis for the vacant light-middleweight title. The contrasts between the two fighters couldn’t be more stark: the deft, tidy Bevilacqua has won all ten of his fights so far since debuting two years ago, but has yet to score a stoppage; the hard-hitting Abis has 39 fights under his belt that include EU and European title fights. However he has had only one fight in the last four years.
If that fight features two boxers at very different stages of their careers, this Saturday’s super middleweight title fight – and Roman derby – between champion Valerio ‘Ice’ Ranaldi (12-1) and Alessandro Sinacore (13-2) brings together two fighters of similar age and experience, both looking to use the Italian title as a springboard to a higher level.
Saturday’s bout will be a rematch. The two first met last July, with Ranaldi winning a majority decision over pre-fight favourite Sinacore to register a second successful defence of his title.
Ranaldi had been somewhat overlooked in the build-up to that fight, despite being the champion. Sinacore was seen as the pedigree fighter at the time. He was an ex-national champion in the amateurs, a southpaw and appeared to be the bigger puncher, with five of his first six fights finishing inside the distance. He’d also spent much of his professional career in the same gym as experienced and quality pros such as Emanuele Blandamura, Domenico Spada, Pasquale Di Silvio and Emanuele Della Rosa – all boxers who had fought at European level or beyond.
There had never really been much fanfare about Ranaldi. The first impression from his fights is one of an honest, meat-and-potatoes grafter, solid but lacking in any remarkable attribute. Yet this belies a consistent arc of improvement throughout his career and an impressive ability to adapt. This writer first saw him in an early amateur bout in 2009. Back then the ambling, one-dimensional Ranaldi was dropped and stopped by one punch from the mercurial Mirko Geografo. Two years later Ranaldi won the regional championships. In 2012 he made it all the way to the semi-finals of the national championships, losing to eventual winner Raffaele Munno. As a professional he had beaten two old grizzled gatekeepers of the Italian scene in Luciano Lombardi and Roberto Cocco, winning and successfully defending the Italian title. Still, most of the attention was on Sinacore going into their first fight.
That night Ranaldi proved impressively versatile. Though he generally kept the pressure on Sinacore, there were spells in which he’d be conservative, watchful and successfully weather his vaunted opponent’s assaults. This was encapsulated by a moment at the end of the first round in which a judicious Ranaldi right hand knocked Sinacore into the ropes, overriding the latter’s almost-three minutes of busy bluster.
Sinacore’s trainer, Eugenio Agnuzzi, feels his fighter might have been affected by the hype that night.
“It was a good fight for the fans but Alessandro didn’t fight as we’d hoped”, Agnuzzi told Boxing News. “The Roman boxing scene had him as the favourite. We didn’t do enough to cocoon Alessandro from that and he went in there convinced he was going to win and hurt him. He wasted a lot of punches trying to stop him and he became predictable in his attacks. Ranaldi took confidence from that and fought a great fight.”
At thirty-two years of age Sinacore needs to win Saturday’s rematch. If he’s not yet quite in the last chance saloon, he’s certainly moseying in that direction. A second loss to Ranaldi would stimy pretensions of going beyond Italian level.
“This is going to be a tough fight”, said Agnuzzi. “ He knows we have to win. If we want to move up to the next level, we have to win. If we lose, we will have to re-evaluate everything.”
Ranaldi is perhaps the slight favourite this time round. His camp are confident but eager to avoid any complacency after the first, albeit narrow, victory.
Giulio Spagnoli, Ranaldi’s promoter for this fight (he was previously with Davide Buccioni), was looking forward to the fight.
“The fight will definitely be difficult. We’re expecting Sinacore to be at his absolute best for this. Personally, I think Ranaldi is slightly better. He’s still growing and improving as a fighter. If he shows that improvement on Saturday, he’ll win more clearly than he did the first time. If he doesn’t, then the odds could be in Sinacore’s favour.”
With boxing ambitions and local pride at stake, the ingredients are there for an entertaining and competitive clash.