Inducted on November 11, 1999
Vince Dell’Orto had a long and illustrious career as a featherweight that began in Italy, where he was the European featherweight champion in the early 1930s. After arriving in the United States in 1936, he continued his career for over a decade, starting with 32 consecutive wins and going on to bouts with the leading featherweights of his day. In America, Vince won over 170 bouts. He was considered a graceful boxer who prized his footwork as much as his punch.
Vince was born and raised in Milan, Itay, in 1912. Like many Italian youths of that era, he began working at a young age. As an 11-year-old, he found a job with the Italian telephone company. In his teens,Vince developed his passion for boxing.At 19, he made his first trip to the United States to take part in an amateur tour. In 193 I, he won the International Golden Gloves as a featherweight in Canada. The gold buckle he received on that
occasion remained in the family and has since been passed on to his grandson. He often told the story about how, upon returning to Italy after his victory in North America, he was invited to meet with Mussolini, who kissed him on both cheeks, the real athlete meeting with a wannabe athlete.
Vince’s professional career in Italy took him all over Europe, including Germany and Romania. He eventually became the European featherweight champion. In 1936, with the encouragement of his two brothers, he came to the United States. After he was signed to a contract by Charlie Johnson, he fought wherever he could make money. His bouts took him to St. Nick’s Sunnyside and other small fight arenas throughout the country. He was the main event seven times at the old Madison Square Garden. he won four of those bouts, lost two and fought an eight round draw with Petey Scalzo.
He fought Willie Pep twice, once in Hartford in September 1942 and then in New Orleans on January 4, 1943. Pep had just won the first of his featherweight titles in November 1942. Although Vince lost both bouts, he went the distance each time, losing by a decision on each occasion.
Among the top boxers that he faced were Sal Bartolo of Boston, twice; Jackie Callura, four times; Indian Quintana, Richard Lamos, Bobby Ruffin and many others. He won two and lost two against Callura. He beat Joey Fontana and had wins by knockout against Guy Serean and Harry Tierney.
Although Vince never fought Sandy Saddler, who became featherweight champ in 1947, he trained with him at the famed Stillman’s gym in 1939 and was one of Saddler’s first sparring partners. Vince saw many of the best fighters of the day working out at Stillman’s. He described some of the boxers to the Herald News in 1974. “Chalky Wright was a good puncher. Scalzo used to knock everybody out. And I’ll never forget that I broke my hand on Mike Belloise. Mike was a real tough guy,” Vince said.
Vince was not forgotten in his native Italy. He fought an exhibition match in Milan on his first return there after World War II in 1947. He was the local hero in his native neighborhood of Niguarda in Milan. On his subsequent visits to his parents and brothers, the locals always sought him out to discuss his career. After marrying Elizabeth Bulgarini in 1942, he settled in Clifton, N.J. They had two children, Vincent and Claire. He was especially proud that his two children were college graduates and received the kind of education that was not available to him in Italy. He worked for Botany Mills and then for Curtis Wright Electronics in Elmwood Park. Even late in life, he continued his training regimen, riding his bicycle to work, running and doing calisthenics. He became an avid bowler. Although he had left boxing, he would take some of his boxing gear to his son’s Boy Scout troop meetings and give the boys some basic instruction in boxing.
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