Spadafora's comeback trail at fork in road

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The only sound heard over the crack of wood burning in the stove that heats the room is the pit-pat of leather pounding flesh. The leather is wrapped around the fists of super lightweight Paul Spadafora, and the flesh belongs to whoever his sparring partner is that day.

Spadafora, 38, has been training for this since a fight in April, and, win or lose, it likely is the last stop before his comeback takes a drastic turn.

If he wins, he will be catapulted into the discussion for megafights that could mark a perfect ending to his fairy-tale comeback.

If he loses, it could be at the end of the road.

His training camp, where the stove burns 24 hours a day, is Buzz Garnic Jr.'s Round Two Boxing Gym in an isolated part of California, Pa., and its location perfect for blocking out distractions.

Spadafora prefers it that way.

"[Garnic's] camp is the best in the world. He is like my dad," he said.

This bout, which takes place Saturday at The Harv, part of The Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack and Resort, is for the interim WBA super lightweight world title.

The title belongs to Spadafora's opponent, Johan Perez (17-1-1, 12 KOs), who is eight years younger and 2 inches taller than Spadafora, who is facing his toughest test in a decade.

Tom Yankello, Spadafora's trainer, knows the opponent offers a major test.

"I think he is a very good fighter. I think that he has got a little bit of everything.

"He can bang a little bit, he can box a little bit and he's got the physical attributes," he said.

Spadafora expects a tough fight and said "I think he is going to try to knock me out.

"He's going to try to come right at me. He is a hard puncher."

The tough fight provides motivation to train even harder, and Yankello has noticed an obvious difference.

"I have to say I haven't seen [a better Spadafora]" he said. "He is very focused and disciplined. I haven't seen this in a while, if ever."

Spadafora (48-0-1) will be attempting to tie Rocky Marciano's all-time record of 49 wins without a loss.

The only blemish on his record is a draw.

Yankello is used to the intense pressure that goes with fight night. He worked the corner for junior welterweight Bill Hutchinson (7-1-2, 4 KOs), of Pittsburgh Wednesday.

Hutchinson won by unanimous decision a few hours after the news conference for the Spadafora fight.

Yankello also will work the corner for Morgan Fitch Saturday.

Fitch (11-0, 5 KOs), a super middleweight who fights out of Pittsburgh, faces his toughest test to date in Darnell Boone (19-21-3, 8 KOs).

Boone knocked down Andre Ward, WBA and WBC super middleweight champion, and Adonis Stevenson, WBC light heavyweight champion.

Yankello acknowledged the risk in fighting such an opponent, but he also acknowledged his faith in his boxer.

"I think that Morgan is ready for that test. He is at the point in his career where he needs to step up to the next level," he said.

Likewise, Yankello is confident that Spadafora can pick up a win Saturday and continue his comeback.

"I expect a good tough fight, but, at the end of the day, craft prevails."


NOTE -- Ticket information: Base ticket prices are VIP ringside starting at $100, Section A $50, Section B $35 and bleachers $25, plus service fee. Tickets can be purchased at Mountaineer Casino's Players Club in person or by calling 1-800-804-0468, Ext. 8297, or online at or Parking is free, and the first bout Saturday is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m..

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