Leonardo Zappavigna: The Throwback

By Tony Nobbs: On December 5, in the main support to Daniel Geale-Daniel Mc Kinnon, rising star Leonardo “Lenny” Zappavigna (17-0, 13 whacks) stole the Foxsport televised show and looked something very special scoring a dominant sixth round stoppage victory over two time world title challenger Tommy Browne in an All Western Sydney showdown at The Cube in Campelltown. The win garnered him the IBF Pan Pacific light welterweight strap that now join his Australian and IBO Asia Pacific lightweight belts, trophy’s and medals, including a Commonwealth Games bronze in 2006, he accumalated in 90 amateur bouts (81 wins)..

On paper , Browne looked like Lenny’s toughest test to date. Tommy (26-5-1 going in) had won eight of his last nine starts- the only defeat came on points to Willie Kickett over eight rounds in a “comeback” fight of sorts. He also had been a WBC Youth featherweight champion, had a 2004 decision win over future WBC world champ Rudy Lopez and in his two title tries in ’05 had gone the distance with In Jin Chi for the WBC title (Lopez later upset Chi) before being halted in ten heats by WBA boss Chris John . Indonesia’s John is generally recognized as the worlds best at 126 pounds – based much on his points win over Mexican superstar Juan Manuel Marquez . But the “Zappa” fight was at a stone higher and from the early rounds it was obvious that Tommy, somewhat a veteran at 25, was not strong enough inside to handle the shots of the 21 year old young gun. It also soon became clear that anything the lanky Campbelltown favorite had in his arsenal would not stop Lenny’s forward momentum and non stop attack. The one punch ending was one for the ol’ timers. The left rip under the elbow, which commentator Andy Raymond noted “popped a rib” reminded many of the legendary body punchers of the past.

While Lenny scored a notable three round knockout win Olympian, southpaw Ryan Langham, retaining his National 135 pound championship last year, there was still a question mark next to his name. He had to get off the canvas in the first round against Langham and was also dropped twice in the first in his two round KO of another lefty, relative novice Junmar Dulog. Many figured, even though he was orthodox, Browne’s experience would be too much but after a close opening round Lenny took control.

Born in Liverpool, Sydney on October 27, 1987, Lenny started boxing at age eleven. Trained from scratch by former pro fighter Tommy Mercuri at the Westside Boxing Gym in Leppington, and now managed by the brilliant Billy Hussein, he potentially, has a world championship future. Through his connection with Billy he enjoys top sparring regularly. He has sparred Anthony Mundine and Shannan Taylor recently and works with stable mates at Team Hussein including recent recruit Billy Dib. He even spent time sparring Manny Pacquaio early ’07 and was booked to fight on the same card as the Filipino icon in Texas but it was cancelled at the last second because of TV.

In his Commonwealth Games campaign Lenny looked ready to go pro and he did in June of ’06, scoring a KO 1 over Queenslander Jason Kid Shubert in Brisbane. As an amateur he stopped Willie Kickett and with the WA whiz’s upset KO to Hussein trained Ahmed Elomar, now looks to be at the top of the prospect list. Wearing black trunks (trimmed in green, white and red) a short pony and Duran like beard, combined with his broad physique, 5’6 Zappa cuts an imposing figure as he unleashes a vast array of punches with KO drops in both fists – both up and downstairs. With his dark skin, Italian heritage and crowd pleasing style, marketed – and matched - right, he could develop into a major drawcard. A throwback. There are a couple of local fights for him. Lance Gostelow and Sol Egberime. A possible(more than probable) all Aussie domestic dream war down the track could be Rocky Katsidis. Zappa already has something Mick never won at amateur level – a Commonwealth medal. So far, his pro career ‘s near par.

As Mercuri and Hussein look to continue the learning process of their improving charge, Lenny, ranked number 49 in the world by, looks to enter the world top ten in 2009. He faces former IBF super featherweight champion Gairy “Superman” St Clair next Wednesday night, March 11 . The 33 year old Guyanan born Gairy, while losing five out of his last eight –including the controversial nod to Kickett- is still a big name and he has never been stopped. He’s danced with the likes of Corrales, Dorin, V.Harris, Baloyi, Klassen and Khan in a 51 fight career (41-8-2). Mercuri believes Lenny will be tooo strong for St Clair and even stop him, especially at the weight of 140 lb.

Can Leonardo Zappavigna emulate another Aussie - Italian body puncher, Victorian Rocky Matiolli who reigned as WBC super welter world champion in the late 70’s? Time will tell. It’s on his side. At the Commonwealth Games, commentator Barry Michael said Zappa was another Rocky Mattiolli. Interestingly, Barry Boy also nicknamed an up and coming Katsidis “Rocky” because of a fightin’ resemblance to the Aussie hall of fame world beater.

For more on this young star check out:

Article posted on 03.03.2009

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