‘Mr. Wolf’ on the hunt: Carmine Tommasone interview

Luca Rosi
22/01/2019 3:02pm

Carmine Tommasone knows he’s up against it when he challenges unbeaten sensation, Oscar Valdez, for the Mexican’s WBO featherweight belt on 2 February. But as the fighter from the small town of Contrada (Avellino) reveals to Boxing Monthly, he’s crossing the Atlantic to make the most of his date with destiny...

Tommasone on his title shot...
"When I got the call from my manager and promoter Christian Cherchi in mid-December, I couldn’t believe it. It was an early Christmas present. These opportunities don’t come along very often, if ever. I’m 34 now so I might never get another chance. It was good to get a six rounder under my belt in Florence on 30 November [a UD points win against the Mexican Giovanny Martinez]. The Matchroom Boxing Italy/OPI Since 82 card [at the Obihall, which was recently renamed Tuscany Hall] was so well organised and televised live both here in Italy on DAZN Italia and Sky Sports in the UK. A great night for us all."

Tommasone on mitigating Valdez’s power...
We all know that Valdez is one of the best featherweights in the world and a ferocious puncher [24 wins, 19KOs]. But I’m not just going over to make up the numbers. I’m confident in my skills and will give it everything I have. He hasn’t fought in almost a year, having suffered a broken jaw in his last fight [against Scott Quigg]. Is that an advantage? A very small one but it will prey on his mind, so I don’t think he’ll be 100% psychologically.

Tommasone on staying alert early on...
Together with my long-time trainer Michele Picariello [Contrada Boxing Club], we’ve been working on maintaining a high tempo during the fight. The key will be to use my jab, which is my best punch, to keep him at bay during the first three or four rounds. We know that he likes to come out of the blocks fast, so I need to be ready and get through those early rounds relatively unscathed. He’s only human and will need to catch his breath after that. I got caught cold in the first round when I won the Italian title in my 13th fight against another banger in Mario Pisanti, so it’s something I’ve always been wary of.

Tommasone on a ‘stop start’ career...
As I’ve said, I had a tune-up in November, having already started camp back in August, so it’s just been a case of shedding those last two kilos. In an ideal world, I’d have liked to have been more active the past three years – my last 12 rounders were for my wins for the WBA Intercontinental belt against Cristian Palma in 2015 and the EBU EU title against [Glasgow’s] Jon Slowey that same year. Then I had the time out for the Olympics and recaptured my WBA belt against [Jesus Antonio] Rios later that year. Those fights had built my confidence. Since then, I’ve only had a couple of six rounders.

Tommasone on his Olympic history...
It was an incredible honour to represent my country at the Rio Games in 2016, the first Italian professional boxer to compete at the Olympics. It was a dream come true. I’d won a lot of junior and senior amateur titles and enjoyed some great wins with the Italian squad. But the Olympics is special. I thought my chance had gone in 2008, when I just missed out in Beijing, losing 17-16 in a box-off against Alessio Di Savino. It wasn’t easy to qualify for Rio and get used to the three round format, but my technical skills held me in good stead [Tommasone would lose to Cuban Lazaro Alvarez in the round of 16 at lightweight].

Tommasone on his American dream...
I’m really excited to be going to the US. Of course there’s a bit of trepidation but that’s just the adrenaline pumping. We’re heading out on Saturday 26 January, a week before the fight. I’ll be travelling with my trainer Picariello as well as Christian and his father Salvatore Cherchi. The fight itself will take place at the [12,000 seater indoor] Ford Center at the Star, Frisco, Texas, which is the training facility of the Dallas Cowboys. It’ll be a new experience for me but one I’m really looking forward to.

Tommasone on Italian boxing history...
I know that there have only been three other Italians to have won world titles in the US and all three of them legends: Primo Carnera [vs. Jack Sharkey at MSG Bowl, New York, 1933], Nino Benvenuti [vs. Emile Griffith, MSG, New York, 1967] and Gianfranco Rosi [vs. Darrin Van Horn, Trump Castle, Atlantic City, 1989]. Agostino Cardamone, who was also trained by my coach, also fought for the world title Stateside against another fearsome puncher, Julian Jackson. He’s now a coach himself, from the Irpinia district like myself. He has given some great advice during the build-up. He was my idol growing up and remains so to this day.