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A straight shot in a crooked business

That is how Pete Frissina and his father/trainer look at tonight's bout in Tampa against Arthur Johnson.

By JOHN C. COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


HOLIDAY -- In the small, hangar-style Magnum Boxing Gym, tucked discreetly behind a Checkers off U.S. 19 in quiet Pasco County, Pete Frissina and father/trainer Jack Frissina are getting loud.

The Tarpon Springs men rail against boxing, rail against overrated fighters, crooked promoters, poorly scored fights and a system they think has, well, railroaded Pete's career.

"Out of all the businesses, and I'm 63 and been around and done a little of everything, this is the most disgusting, terrible business on the planet," Frank said, shaking his head.

For almost an hour, that is the theme. It doesn't matter that tonight, Frissina will fight the biggest match of his life. Shaking off the dirt from the long and bumpy road to get to this point is a hard thing to do.

It also helps keep Pete Frissina focused on his purpose. He is fighting mad but resolved to take matters into his own hands at 8 p.m. when he fights Arthur Johnson (23-5) for the 118-pound USBA bantamweight championship at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory in Tampa. "This whole thing has been an upward struggle," said Frissina, 23-3 with 14 straight wins. "One, I didn't have a good promoter until now. I had rinky-dink promoters who promised me all these big things but didn't come through with nothing but lies. If you don't have a good promoter, you keep on fighting all these tough fights with no TV exposure, and with no TV, no real money."

Frissina has fought mostly in Tampa for Tampa-based HCG 5-Star Promotions (from whom he recently split), but also in Peru, Aruba, Las Vegas and New Orleans. None of the experiences has been particularly pleasurable. Asked what he has earned, he responds almost embarrassingly, "I'd rather not say."

So why continue?

"I got no choice," Frissina said. "I'm 25, what am I gonna do now, go work at McDonald's? I gotta do it. I ain't got a college education. I'm still young enough, I guess, where I could go back to college, but I feel I'm so far into it now."

In Johnson, a former NABF champ who was a member of the 1988 Olympic boxing team and has fought in five world championship fights, Frissina gets an opponent who is worth beating. Frissina's past two opponents were a combined 23-36-3.

Johnson is trained by boxing legend Angelo Dundee -- Muhammad Ali's former trainer -- and is ranked No. 6 by the IBF.

"This is definitely huge," said Pete Frissina, ranked No. 3. "It's for the USBA title, which is a real belt, and he's No. 6 in the world. If I lose, it may not take me out of the rankings, but it'll drop me to No. 10. Everything's on the line."

Including, potentially, a three-year, seven-figure contract he says he just signed with promoter Vlad Wardon.

"Everything from here on in is crucial," Frank Frissina said. "We can't afford a loss. You can go from (No. 3) to (No. 0) in a hurry. We've done everything conceivably possible to get this job done. Now we find out if we belong."

Santos wins decision

TAMPA -- St. Petersburg's David Santos was a 10-round unanimous decision winner over Emmilio Alarato at the Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.

According to Fourth Street Boxing Gym's Richard Horsley, Santos (35-5) "gave the guy a boxing lesson winning every round."

The super-featherweight fight was scored 100-90 on every card, Horsley said. Santos was the main event on a card that also saw St. Petersburg and Fourth Street Gym fighter Glen LaPlante win his second fight, a four-round decision over Tyrone Johnson of Georgia. Tampa heavyweight Brian Blalock spoiled the debut of Chauncey Cuffie in the other fight.

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