At 37 years of age, Tommy Rainone can almost feel the remaining days in his boxing career being counted out. Some might label Rainone a “journeyman,” but he has been better than that, compiling a 26-7-1 record with six KOs and no losses in which he was stopped while fighting everywhere from the ancient Blue Horizon in Philadelphia to Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium, Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
“I know I’m never going to fight for a world title, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams of things I can accomplish in the sport,” Rainone said recently. “Fighting at Nassau Coliseum was one of them on my bucket list.”
Rainone gets to put a check by that goal when he faces Mexico’s Fidel Monterrosa Munoz (37-13-1, 30 KOs) in a six-round junior middleweight bout on the undercard of the Premier Boxing Champions on Fox TV Saturday that marks boxing’s return to renovated Nassau Coliseum for the first time in 31 years.
When the Rockville Centre native first heard rumors of boxing’s return to the arena in his backyard, Rainone launched a frontal assault on promoter Lou DiBella to land one of the precious openings on the card. It was a seesaw battle in which the promoter at first indicated Rainone only could be on the so-called “B side” against an undefeated opponent.
The prospect of being matched that tough at his home arena after having spent only 86 seconds in the ring in the past 15 months was not appealing. Eventually, Rainone and DiBella reached an agreement to put him in a six-round bout that might allow him to knock the rust off before facing the undefeated boxer DiBella suggested down the road. Then, there were problems securing an opponent until they settled on Munoz.
“He’s got more knockouts than I have wins, and he has more wins than I have fights,” Rainone said of Munoz. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge. This is a good, strong durable guy who has been in very tough fights during the course of his career and fought for a world title (in 2010 against WBC lightweight champ Humberto Soto). He’s nine years younger, so, it’s not an easy fight.”
The scramble to get on the Coliseum card and find a suitable opponent is typical of the obstacles Rainone has faced throughout his pro career. His primary job is as an overnight supervisor at a local Hilton Hotel, where he mostly handles the bookkeeping.
But Rainone has stayed in the gym pursuing his passion. “I’ve done this about as hard as you can do it,” Rainone said. “I work a full-time job; I’m self-managed; I have no promoter; I have to sell tickets. I couldn’t do this any harder than I do it. I’d like to get 30 wins. I’m at 26, but I’m not going to force the issue. If I feel I’m declining, I’m done.”
No one has to tell Rainone how many boxers hang on too far past their expiration date. He’s seen the pattern many times. Even the best of them often lose several fights toward the end when they absorb the worst physical damage of their careers.
“It’s like quitting smoking,” Rainone said. “It’s so easy to say you’re going to do it, but that addiction is there and you’re putting it off a little more. I’ve never thought about retirement too much, but now, it’s a constant thing on my mind. I know the writing is on the wall, and I have the opportunity to retire from boxing rather than have boxing retire me.”
For now, Rainone doesn’t hear the final bell tolling for him just yet. So, he plans to squeeze every drop of enjoyment from a proud career.
“What’s the rush to get old?” Rainone asked. “Once it’s over, it’s over. I know I’m heading for the finish line, and I’m just trying to soak it in and appreciate it and do some things my future self will thank me for.”