Paz, who lives in nearby Cranston, RI, was a decorated amateur boxer who compiled a 100-12 record, highlighted by his gold-medal winning performance at the 1981 National Sports Festival, which aired live on ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Two of New England's all-time greatest amateur boxers, Vinny "The Pazmanian Devil" Paz and "Irish" Micky Ward, will be honored this Saturday (Feb. 23) by the USA Boxing Alumni Association at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
USA Boxing Alumni Association will host a fundraiser and membership drive prior to and during the CES Boxing event, which will be featuring three championship matches, including former NE amateur boxers such as Jamaine Ortiz and Amanda Pavone, plus Shelly Vincent.
Paz and Ward will be signing autographs and posing for pictures, starting at 5 p.m. ET, and Sportsworld will conduct a boxing memorabilia auction with a portion of the proceeds going to the USA Boxing Alumni Association.
"The USA Boxing Alumni Association wants to thank all new and current members attending the benefit honoring Micky Ward and Vinny Paz," said Chris Cugliari, USA Boxing Alumni Association Director . "Both Micky and Vinny exhibited an extraordinary amount of determination and toughness throughout their careers, and the Alumni Association wants to thank them for serving as great examples for today's amateur boxing champions. We appreciate all the time and effort that Micky and Vinny have dedicated to promoting amateur boxing and look forward to honoring them for their accomplishments."
As a professional, Pazienza later changed his last name to Paz, and he retired with a 50-10 (30 KOs) record, including five world titles in three different weight classes. During his pro career, the electrifying Paz defeated the likes of Robert Duran (twice), Lloyd Honeyghan, Gilbert Dele, Greg Haughen, Melvin Paul and Jeff Bumpus, among the more notable.
"I have respect for boxing," Paz commented, "but I don't miss it because it's been so long since I've boxed. I do miss the discipline that's needed to box. USA Boxing was a good stepping stone to the pros for me. I love Micky. He's a warrior. I'm proud to be his friend."
Ward, fighting out of Lowell, MA, was a three-time New England Golden Gloves champion. He started boxing at the age of seven, making his amateur debut against Joey Roach (HOF trainer Freddie Roach's brother), captured top honors in the 1983 AAU New England and Regional championships.
As a pro, Ward became one of the most popular boxers in the world, compiling a 38-13 (27 KOs record, including the World Boxing Union (WBU) super lightweight title-winning performance. He was a three-time Fighter of the Year participant in 2001 (Emanuel Augustus, 2002 & 2003 (Arturo Gatti), as well as the first boxer with double-digit losses to earn a $1-million purse. His notable victims included Gatti, Steve Quinonez, Shea Neary, Reggie Green and Alphonso Sanchez.
"USA Boxing taught me how to do the right thing by being with so many good people," Ward explained. "I made so many good friendships in the amateurs. It'll be great to be with Paz again. He's one of New England's all-time greatest boxers and a great friend."
In addition to being involved in two of the greatest boxing trilogies - Paz vs. Haughen and Ward vs. Gatti - the inspiring lives of Paz and Ward were the subjects of award-winning movies, respectively, "Let It Bleed" and "The Fighters". Paz, who recovered from a broken neck to win a world title, was played by Miles Teller, overcoming-the-odds Ward by Mark Wahlburg.
Paz and Ward will be honored in the ring along with another special guest, Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger, who started in boxing as an official in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Smoger, who sits on the USA Boxing Alumni Association Board of Advisors, was the third man in the ring for Duran vs. Paz II and Ward vs. Augustus.
"Maybe there's something in the New England water because Vinny and Micky epitomize tremendous fighting heart and spirit," Smoger remarked. "Vinny was a firestorm of fighter and tough to officiate. You had to be on your toes every minute and couldn't rest during his fights. Micky was a pleasure with officiate, never complained, and he fought ever round. Both of them always showed me the utmost respect."