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World Boxing Federation Champions Of The Past: Vinnie Curto

Posted on September 10 2015                                              Bookmark and Share
By: Clive Baum



Since the World Boxing Federation was originally founded by American Larry Carrier in 1988, many of the sport’s biggest names have won a WBF title, and proudly defended the blue, red and gold belt all over the world.

In the Champions Of The Past Series we take a closer look at some of the boxers who held WBF titles in years gone by, from lesser known champions to world renowned fighters, legends of the sport and current or future Hall of Famers.


The story of former WBF World Super Cruiserweight Champion Vinnie Curto is a very noteworthy one, to say the least. In many ways its a very sad story, but its also a story of a person who went through hell, several times, and came out on the other side to make something of himself.

While the World Boxing Federation (WBF) no longer recognizes the Super Cruiserweight division, Curto certainly deserves to still be recognized for his achievements, not only during a twenty-four year professional boxing career, but also in life in general. Unfortunately, this article will be too short to do his story full all.

Born on July 10 1955, Vincent Joseph Curto grew up in East Boston, Massachusetts. Both his parents were homosexuals, and only married each other “to appease normal society practices”, as Vinnie puts it. And their relationship wasn’t exactly a good foundation on which to build a happy family.

Sadly, Vinnie´s father, Jimmy, was a violent alcoholic, and both physically and sexually abused his son. And his mother didn’t bother to do anything about it. To make matters worse, Jimmy also allowed his gay friends to repeatedly molest young Vinnie, and the overall horrors of his childhood scarred him for life.

But through the adversity, turmoil and abuse, Vinnie proved to be of a different breed. With a father he describes as “a monster”, he experienced things that would totally destroy most people, but ironically it was that monster who got him into boxing and paved the way for what he describes as his first love.

My father had this dream about me being a champion, and he would always tell whatever bartender was available to listen, that his son was going to be a champion one day”, Curto explains.

One time the bartender told him to take me upstairs to the New Garden Gym. There we were climbing three flights of stairs, and on each landing my father took a swig of Seagram´s Seven (whiskey) from a bottle he had in his back pocket.”

We got to the fourth floor, in front of a very large aluminum sliding door that had a giant racket going on behind it. We open the door and there were two black fellas boxing, three Puerto Rican fighters hitting heavy-bags, and a couple of white fighters skipping rope. It was a bee hive of activity.”

My father sat and passed out on a rubdown table. I was so happy (he passed out), because I thought he was gonna put me in with those black fellas. They were hitting hard, fast and with precision. When the bell rang to end the round, the two black fellas hugged each other and kissed each other on the cheek.”

People at ringside gave compliments and encouragement. A strong light glowed within me. It was my first experience with love. It showed on my face, because one of the black trainers, a guy named Freddie Small, said: “Hey kid! You want to do this?”

I said, “I would love to but I have no money”. Freddie replied: “Show up, and that’s payment enough”.”

And show up Vinnie did. He started training, and eventually developed enough skills that after less than twenty amateur bouts he was courted by none other than the legendary Angelo Dundee. Trainer of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, Dundee knew potential when he saw it, and he saw it when watching Curto win a tournament in Florida.

Dundee started sending letters to Vinnie, believing they could do great things together and asking the young man to join his camp in Miami. When Curto left the Navy in 1972, he took Dundee up on his offer and went to Florida to turn professional, still only seventeen years old.

Vinnie made his paid debut as a Middleweight on October 10, 1972, promoted by Angelo´s brother Chris Dundee, at the Auditorium in Miami Beach. He stopped solid journeyman Victor Taco Perez (7-10-1) in five rounds, and before his nineteenth birthday he had raced to a 17-0 (7) record, and had several ten rounders on his resume.

Among his victims were respectable foes such as Dennis Riggs (34-16-2), Nat King (17-4), Terry Daniels (31-10-1) and Baby Boy Rolle (33-8-2), but Curto was thrown in too deep when he was matched in a non-title fight with reigning WBC World Middleweight Champion Rodrigo Valdes (53-4-2) in October of 1974.

But at only nineteen years of age Curto handled himself quite well against the much more experienced, harder punching and more technically sound Colombian, showing true grit in losing a ten-round unanimous decision at the famed Madison Square Garden in New York.

Having lost his unblemished record, the Valdes fight was the start of a two-year rough patch in the boxing career of Vinnie Curto. Not that it was ever going to seriously discourage him, but he only managed to win three of his next eight outings, between November 1974 and August 1976.

After beating Chucho Garcia (95-33-6) in his first fight back, he lost a decision to undefeated Tony Licata (47-0-3) in February of 1975, and only got a draw in a fight that many felt he won against “Bad” Bennie Briscoe (50-14-1) at the Spectrum in the perennial contenders hometown of Philadelphia.

I would have had to kill him to win”, Vinnie told the Los Angeles Times in a 1986 interview. “They´d give him a draw from a stretcher...”.

In his very next fight he was again wronged, in the opinion of many, when he lost a razor-thin (45-46, 45-46, 45-47) decision over ten rounds to future WBC and WBA World Champion Vito Antuofermo (31-1-1) at the Tropicana Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Six weeks later he drew with John Pinney (27-2-2) back in Miami, before starting 1976 with two victories. In August of that year he lost again, this time to Gene Wells (35-10-2), but then he finally got back in the swing of things and went 23-1-1 in the next three years, finally lining up a rematch with Briscoe.

But before that, Curto was banned from fighting in the US after pulling out of a fight with Marvin Hagler on short notice. Curto says he was approached by people connected to the mafia, who wanted him to lose the Hagler fight on purpose.

The plan was then to convince Hagler to lose the rematch on purpose, and a rubber-match was supposed to be a real fight.

Curto refused the proposition, and went into hiding. As a consequence of the, at the time, unexplained withdrawal, all boxing commissions across the US suspended his license, and he was forced to continue his career in Canada, where he won nine fights before his US license was reinstated.

On December 15 1980, in his original hometown of Boston, Curto put the record straight as he out-boxed Briscoe (64-20-5) at the Hynes Auditorium to win a clear, and well-deserved, unanimous decision after ten rounds. Looking back at the fight, Vinnie recals:

Briscoe was by far my toughest opponent. You couldn’t hurt him with a bazooka, so my plan was to box my ass of all night. And I did, and won!” But, despite having proved his worth, it would be another three-and-a-half years before Vinnie got at title-shot.

After the rematch with Briscoe, Curto racked up another nine victories to take his impressive professional record to 53-5-3 (21), and was awarded with a shot at the WBC Continental Americas Light Heavyweight title against the capable Mark Frazie (27-4) in Miami on August 25, 1984.

Curto beat Frazie by twelve-round decision, and despite being a title-holder, albeit of a minor championship, at Light Heavyweight, he was ranked highly by the International Boxing Federation (IBF) at Super Middleweight and got his first crack at world-glory the following year.

In June of 1985, Curto and his team traveled all the way to Seoul, South Korea to challenge reigning IBF world champion Chong-Pal Park (37-3-1), and, according to Vinnie, everything went according to plan. Except for the decision of the judges:

I was the elite contender for the title, but no one wanted to promote the fight for me in the United States, so I had to take the shot (in South Korea). I clearly out-pointed him, but didn’t get the decision in his hometown...”

The three judges scored the fifteen-round fight in Park´s favor by 144-142, 146-141 and 146-139. The last two cards suggested a relatively clear win for Park, but the controversy was significant enough to warrant a rematch, which was eventually set for The Sports Arena in Los Angeles in June of 1986.

With three victories in the interim Curto entered the second fight with Park confident that in the USA he would not be denied by the judges again, but this time it would not go the distance.

No excuses”, says Curto. “I was ahead on two of the cards, but was stopped in the fifteenth round by Park. His name alone gave me a black eye.” (Note: according to BoxRec, Park was ahead on all three cards).

The second defeat to Park appeared to be the beginning of the end of Curto as a top-level fighter, and after two more losses and a No-Contest his career looked to be over in 1991. But three years later he decided to make a comeback, as a Cruiserweight.

Curto won four out of five fights between November 1994 and July 1996, with the loss being a horribly unjust decision against journeyman Ernie Valentine (16-22-1) in Boise, Idaho in July 1995. In September of 1996, Curto got the opportunity to fight for the WBF World Super Cruiserweight title, and took it with both hands.

41-year-old Vinnie defeated Jimmy Haynes (8-3-1) for the title, and finally achieved his dream of becoming a world champion. While the Super Cruiserweight division (190 Lbs. - 200 Lbs.) never really “caught fire” and was short-lived, the accomplishment means a lot to Curto:

For the first time as a fighter I got the respect I should have gotten twenty years earlier”, he says, and claims he was stripped of the title without warning for not defending it. Whatever the case, this was the last fight of Vinnie Curto´s career, and he retired with a fine 62-10-3 (26), with one No-Contest, record.

After the aforementioned Mark Frazie fight in 1984, Vinnie was approached by a spectator, who turned out to be a producer of the hit TV show Miami Vice, starring Don Johnson. The producer asked Vinnie to make an appearance on the show. Vinnie did so, playing the role of bodyguard to the character of Bruce Willis.

This was the start of a new career for Vinnie, who has over the years had several roles in movies and TV shows. He has also written several movie scripts, one of which was his life story.

The movie about Curto was all set to go into production some years ago, starring Mark Wallberg as Vinnie, Robert De Niro as Angelo Dundee and Vinnie himself playing the part of his father. However, titled “Out on my feet”, the film fell apart when the main investor died. Vinnie is still hoping that one day it will somehow be made.

As mentioned earlier, this article is not close to covering the amazing life of Vinnie Curto, and a movie should certainly be made if there is any justice in this world. A book is reportedly in the works, and can only be a very interesting read, not only for boxing fans.

Stories about his relationship with Frank Sinatra and Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, among others, and how he was once managed by Sylvester Stallone, are bound to be entertaining. For better or worse, Vinnie Curto has lived a life that deserves to be immortalized.

Married six times, he has seven kids. “If you look up the word divorce in the dictionary, you will see a picture of me holding up two signs”, Vinne says with a laugh. “One that says “will work for birth-control”, and the other saying “Eating is a tough habit to break.”

For more on the life and career of Vinnie Curto, please visit his website:

  Part 20: Robin Reid
  Part 19: Lionel Butler
  Part 18: Mads Larsen
  Part 17: Ken Sigurani
  Part 16: Orlando Fernandez
  Part 15: Roger Turner
  Part 14: Roy Jones Jr.
  Part 13: Fitz Vanderpool
  Part 12: Steve Roberts
  Part 11: Thulani "Sugarboy" Malinga
  Part 10: Junior Witter
  Part 9: Jimmy Thunder
  Part 8: Juan Lazcano
  Part 7: Jeff Malcolm
  Part 6: Ricky Parkey
  Part 5: Carl Daniels
  Part 4: Angel Manfredy
  Part 3: Samson Dutch Boy Gym
  Part 2: Greg Haugen
  Part 1: Johnny Nelson
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