Vito Antuofermo was born in Bari, Italy on February 9, 1953, but moved to the US with his family at the age of 10. Taking up boxing at 17 through a Brooklyn police gym, he had a good New York amateur career. He won the welterweight Golden Gloves in 1970, and came in second in 1971 after losing to the future light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. He turned pro in November 1971, beating a much more experience 16-30-3 pug over in Queens.
Antuofermo did well on the New York club fighting circuit, racking up a 17-0-1 record before losing his first bout to Harry Weston in July 1973. Antuofermo lost because of a bad cut over his left eye, causing the bout to be stopped in the 5th. “Cuts” were the by-word of Antuofermo’s career, and he had the kind of rough and tumble style that guaranteed he would be cut a lot. However, the 5’8″ middleweight was otherwise durable, strong, and loved to mix it up. That made him a crowd pleaser.
The guy who put “Italian” into Italian-American went on boxing, beating undefeated John Sullivan, shopworn Denny Moyer, and faded great Emilie Griffith in 1974. By now Vito’s career was also taking him back to fight in Italy, where he was very popular, and this led to bouts in Germany. The Italian-born, Brooklyn-reared boxer was building an international following. In 1976 he beat European champion and future 154lbs world champion Eckhard Dagge. However, he then hit a roadblock in the form of back-to-back losses. He was outpointed by Frank Wissenbach in Berlin, and then stopped by future WBC 154lbs champion Maurice Hope.
World Championship Days
Going back to work, Antuofermo strung together several wins and finally got his shot for the World Championship in June 1979. 44-3-1, Antuofermo fought Hugo Pastor Corror of Argentina in Monte Carlo. 47-2-1, but only 25 years old, Corro had captured the title the year before, and was making his 4th defense. It was a hard fought battle, but Antuofermo came on just enough in the last third of the bout, winning six out of the last seven rounds and eeking out a narrow Split Decision win. Antuofermo, also 25, was now the Undisputed World Middleweight Champion.
His first defense was not going to be an easy one: 46-2-1 “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler. Meeting the bald, switch-hitting southpaw in November 1979 in Las Vegas, Hagler did very well in the first two-thirds of the fight. Then Hagler got cautious. That let Vito get back into the fight, and he came at Hagler like a rampaging bull. The result was a controversial draw. Many thought that Hagler had done enough to win the first 9 or 10 Rounds of the fight, but he unquestionably slowed down in the last 4 or 5. Antuofermo kept the belt.
In March 1980 he met the tough Englishman Alan “Boom Boom” Minter. Both men were bleeders, and both men were cut, but thankfully cuts played little role in the outcome. Minter stood up and boxed from the outside, Antuofermo brawled, and put Minter down with a left hook-chopping right combo to the body in the 8th. Minter got up and boxed back. The result was a Split Decision, with a British judge giving Minter a scandalously ridiculous number of rounds. Many thought Antuofermo had won, with even Minter admitting he was suprised to get the nod. The result was a rematch three months later, and this time the results were decisive: Minter knocked out Antuofermo in the 8th.
Minter went on to defend his title against Marvin Hagler, and lost it. That led to Antuofermo getting another shot at the middleweight crown, in a rematch with Hagler. They met again in June 1981 in Boston. This time Hagler was in his famous “Destruct and Destroy” mode, and Antuofermo was knocked down in the 3rd and busted up badly. In particular, he took a gory gash over the eye, leading his corner to throw in the towel in the 5th.
Antuofermo took 3 years off, and then made a comeback in 1984. After winning 4 in a row, he beaten by 18-0 Canadian Matthew Hilton, who went on to briefly hold a 154lbs world title. After that, 32 year old tough guy Vito hung up the gloves for good. His record was 50-7-2 (21KOs).
After boxing, Antuofermo pursued an acting career in Italy, appearing in films, television and plays. He landed a small part in the American film The Godfather Part III, and owns a lanscaping company back in New York.
Sources: boxrec.com; ESPN Classic Sports; YouTube; eastsideboxing.com; The Ring