Vinny Maddalone continued to stake his claim as the "heavyweight Arturo Gatti" with another entertaining brawl on national television, this time against Shannon Miller, who he sent to the canvas three times en route to a fifth-round stoppage Friday night at the City Center in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
The win marked Maddalone's return to ESPN2's airwaves for the first time since his 2004 war with unbeaten Brian Minto, in which he dropped Minto in the first round before being knocked out himself in the 10th and final round.
This time, Maddalone (25-2, 18 KOs) would fight past some rocky moments, fatigue and a badly cut left eye to send Miller (11-1, 6 KOs) to his first defeat as a professional.
"This kid was tough," said Maddalone. "You put anyone to stand in front of me like that and it's going to be like that every day, it's going to be a war."
There was little in the way of a "feeling out" process between the two in the first round as Miller, a full-time accountant, came out winging bombs, with Maddalone eagerly obliging with power shots of his own. Midway through the round, Maddalone got rocked by a left from Miller, but moments later a looping right dropped Miller on his back. Miller rose and was on wobbly legs, but a subsequent left hand hurt Maddalone a second time. So what does Maddalone do just before the bell? Drop Miller a second time. Again the Troy native rose, but the bell intervened before Maddalone could follow up.
With the crowd screaming itself hoarse, Maddalone came out hard in the second, looking for the finisher. Miller didn't back down, though, as he stood in the pocket against the heavy-handed Flushing native. The two continued to trade leather as the round progressed, Maddalone swinging his wide right hand and Miller scoring with lefts and rights. In the final minute, Miller hurt his foe again; with Maddalone's left eye cut badly and swelling, the end seemed to be looming until a right hand jarred the unbeaten Miller once again just before the bell sounded.
The right hand of Maddalone found its mark again and again in the early stages of the third, but Miller held up well and found openings for his own power shots on the inside, starting to land with more and more accuracy as the round closed.
The hellacious pace finally dropped in the first minute of the fourth round but quickly picked up again in the second minute with each fighter taking turns jarring the other. Maddalone was visibly winded in the late stages of the round, and with Miller having survived his rough first round, he looked to be the fresher and more accurate fighter heading back to the corner.
But in the fifth round, Maddalone made up for whatever fatigue he was suffering when he sent Miller down hard for the third time -- this time with a left hook that landed a split second before Miller's own hook. Miller gamely rose again, but referee Eddie Claudio had seen enough and called the war at the 45-second mark.
For Maddalone, it may have not been pretty, but you can never knock the heart of the New Yorker, or of Miller, who may be the world's toughest accountant.
"I know I've got the heart, but I want to work on the skills," said Maddalone. "I told [promoter] Joe [DeGuardia], just put me in the ring with somebody, I'll give it everything I got."
In the ESPN2 Friday Night Fights co-feature, junior middleweight Andrey Tsurkan made his first appearance since suffering a broken ankle in 2004, handing out a one-sided thrashing to late replacement Julian Burford en route to a fifth-round TKO victory.
Tsurkan set the pace early behind a stiff jab and some crisp combinations at close range. Burford, who claimed before the bout that this would probably be his last fight, fought that way and was rocked badly at the end of the first round.
There was more of the same in round two as the Ukrainian walked through whatever offense Burford was able to generate. In the final minute, Tsurkan again stunned Burford, and with the Clevelander on rubbery legs, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
Burford gamely hung in the fight through rounds three and four, even though the busy Tsurkan continued to land almost at will, rocking his foe with a left uppercut shortly before the bell ending the fourth.
After this pattern continued in the early stages of the fifth round, the ringside physician made his way to the corner, prompting referee Ricky Gonzalez to halt the bout at the 1:05 mark of the round.
With the win, Tsurkan, who fought for the first time since June of 2004, improves to 23-2 with 14 KOs. Burford falls to 12-2 with 10 KOs.
In undercard action, welterweight Maximino Cuevas moved to 5-1 with 2 KOs after a first-round knockout of Sheldon Rudolph (3-2, 2 KOs). Rudolph was dropped to a knee after a single left hook to the liver, and though the Paterson, N.J., native rose to his feet before the 10 count, he was unable to continue. The time was 1:19.
Wayland Willingham improved to 7-0 (4 KOs) with a four-round unanimous decision over Shaki Moore (9-10-3, 1 KO) in a welterweight bout. Scores were 39-37 across the board.