Member Since: 9/1/04
The saga of Steven Vukosa, the Italian/Croation Sensation
Around 6 weeks ago a 42-year-old bus driver was asked if he could be a last-minute replacement for a local pro fighter. Like Mickey Ward, he had been forced into an early retirement by injuries, but still had a lot of knowledge and could probably still put on a good show even in his old age. He ended up beating the guy, and it was a title eliminator for the WBC Heavyweight United States National Championship. The championship fight was against a very dangerous knockout artist named Joe Cusumano (18-2 with 16 knockouts). On Friday night, at Jimmy Burchfield's CES Boxing and MMA promotion at Twin Rivers Casino, Vukosa dropped him in the third enroute to winning a unanimous decision. The future looks bright for this new/old boxing prospect.
I've written about Vukosa before, one of the most freak athletes I've ever encountered. When he was a tall gangly young teenager he got his yellow belt in karate. He had an immediate and intuitive understanding of combat principles, but was disappointed in the slow progression in rank by seniority instead of skill, He decided to prove his thesis by throwing on a black belt, assuming a ridiculous fake name and entering a tournament for the New England Karate championship. He then proceeded to beat every black belt in New England. The second place finisher was his twin brother Paul. They were both very tall and appeared older than they were, so when the assembled black belts of New England discovered they had been beaten by a pair of children there was a near riot.
He then took up boxing, and shocked the pugilistic world by winning a National Championship his first year boxing. He joined the ranks of Foreman, Frazier, Ali, and Wilder as one of the VERY few boxers to have accomplished this in the Heavyweight/Super Heavyweight division. Other local boxers described one of his opponents as sobbing in the locker room afterward, crushed that he had trained his entire life and still been clowned by such a goofy-looking kid. People said it was a fluke, but he proved them wrong by winning a second National Title. The only title he couldn't win was the coveted Rocky Marciano Trophy for the New England Heavyweight Champion, and that was only because current amateur rules making him a Super Heavyweight instead of a Heavyweight made him ineligible.
While boxing, he continued to train martial arts once a week at a school that specialized in the traditional Japanese standing submission techniques, but not groundwork. Combining that with a couple of years of high school wrestling, he decided to try the biggest New England grappling tournament of the pre-NAGA era, The Skirmish in Maine. Again, he surprised everyone by winning the whole thing. His twin brother Paul won the next division down.
Not only does he have true tactical genius and timing/distancing like Jon Jones, he trains like an animal. He and his twin brother Paul are the nicest guys you'll ever meet, but they simply don't experience pain, fear or fatigue the way other men do. He's not big on weights, but he and his brother were the muscle for his dad's furniture moving business. He's the kind of guy that can carry a large sofa by himself...without using his other arm. Even when he didn't have big muscles, he had a strength that belied his skinny frame. Unfortunately, his hard training is often his undoing. A lot of coaches know how to push a fighter, not many understand how to push a dedicated athlete...to slow down. Vukosa always wants to train, always wants to take the fight no matter how banged up he is. This led to him losing out on his Olympic dream.