LENNY Zappavigna has experienced the proverbial highs and lows of being a professional prizefighter. From the ecstasy of campaigning in the US, fighting in the MGM Grand Garden Arena on an international pay-per-view and having his name under the bright lights, to the dark days that followed a stoppage loss to Ameth Diaz in an IBF title eliminator shortly thereafter.
Zappavigna talks about his journey with the maturity of a man that is only just beginning a rebirth, starting against Japanese livewire Shuhei Tsuchiya at The Melbourne Pavilion tomorrow night.
“This is my weight, this will be the weight I’m campaigning at and I want to be rated in, hopefully I get the win on Thursday night and you will see me back on the world scene,” said Zappavigna in an exclusive interview with Aus-Boxing. “I’ve learnt a lot from my losses, my training my mental state. I’ve grown up. I’m back and I’m enjoying it a lot more.”
“My preparation has been good; I’ve been putting in hard work in the gym. I’m in the best shape I’ve been. I’ve been doing some great rounds with Anthony Mundine. I’m ready to go, I’m confident my weight is good. I will make the weight easy and I’m looking for a good win Thursday night.”
The return to the spotlight has been steady for Zappavigna, 26, a former IBO lightweight titlist and Commonwealth Games bronze medalist – who is riding a five-fight win streak – dating back to April 2012, where he impressed in a third-round knockout of Kiwi Brad Milner at welterweight. For Zappavigna (now 30-2, 20 KOs), a part of the struggle appeared to be his battle against the scales.
Since his professional debut in 2006, the Sydney-based product has ventured as low as lightweight and as high as welterweight.
Many will argue that Zappavigna should campaign at lightweight, where he despite his apparent struggle to make weight, had a stack of success. This included lifted national and regional honours, including a highlight-reel knockout over Korean Ji-Hoon Kim in an IBF lightweight title eliminator.
Some will argue that Zappavigna is a true light-welterweight, having impressed in routine routes over former world champion Gairy St Clair, while also becoming the first fighter to stop former world title challenger Tommy Browne in 2008. Despite the conjecture, one thing appears to be clear for Zappavigna – he definitely will not campaign at welterweight – the division he last appeared in for his last fight in October.
That particular fight, against the talented but equally tricky Rivan Cesaire went eight rounds, with many disputing the 76-75 scorecard given by the three judges.
“Styles make fights and Cesaire made it awkward for me. It wasn’t my weight to be fighting at, at welterweight. It was a good fight, I learnt a lot from it,” he continued. “I got the win, but I’m hard on myself I was looking for the knockout a bit too much. I know now I’ve just got to learn to be a little bit more patient in there.”
As Zappavigna admits, styles do makes fights and the style that he will be faced with in Shuhei Tsuchiya (15-2, 13 KOs), is one that he is all too familiar with.
“He is more of a fighter with a punchers record.” says Zappavigna of Tsuchiya. “He hits hard, he likes to come forward to fight, which I like. I need to be very wary of him, I need to be careful. I know I need to put in a good performance and I’m hopeful I get a good win.”
“If I win this fight on Thursday night it is going to put me number three in the world, which will mean I’m looking at an interim world title or fighting for an eliminator.”
In a game where winning is essential and looking good in doing so is just as vital, Zappavigna hopes a successful rebirth in the light-welterweight division is exactly what he needs to re-ignite his promising career.
“You’re going to see a demolition. The minute I walk in there, I’m going to be strong and fast. I’m looking to put on a good performance – it’s going to be a good fight.”
Photo: Damian Brierty/Visual Delight