Vinny Paz on coming back from a broken neck to defeat the mighty Roberto Duran
By Michael Kelleher
Last Updated: 30/11/16 5:39pm
When Vinny Paz knocked out Gilbert Dele in October, 1991 to become the second fighter in boxing history to win both the lightweight and light-middleweight world championships, he was on top of the world.
One month later, everything Paz - formerly known as Pazienza - had earned was ripped away from him when he was involved in a head-on car collision that left him with a broken neck.
Paz fractured a vertebra that was within an eighth of an inch of his spinal cord and was informed by his doctor a return to the boxing ring was out of the question.
Sky Sports Black Friday sale
Upgrade to Sky Sports now and get six months half-price! Don't delay - book today
When 'The Pazmanian Devil' emerged from hospital weeks later, he did so with a cage-like contraption called a 'halo' drilled into his skull to ease pressure on his spine and was told any heavy blows could threaten his ability to walk.
But Paz ignored the advice of his doctors and was soon back working out in secret, away from the concerned gazes of his close-knit Italian family members.
Incredibly, he defied the odds by returning to the ring a mere 13 months after the accident, to defeat future WBC world light-middleweight champion Luis Santana via a 10-round decision.
His remarkable tale has now been turned into Hollywood blockbuster, Bleed For This, and he visited Sky Sports News HQ on Wednesday to tell his story.
"I broke a vertebra in my neck and I was lucky to be able to walk, very lucky, blessed. I really could not believe it was over like this, weeks after I won my world title," Paz said.
"I did not want to go out like that. I defied some odds. I stayed strong. I did not quit. I was persistent and determined to win and to fight again.
"I got lucky and it worked out. It makes for a great movie. People are going to get mad inspiration from my movie."
One year after his miraculous comeback, in December 1993, Paz won his third world title, this time at super-middleweight, when he knocked out Dan Sherry to capture the IBO crown.
Paz went on to win two more world titles and twice defeated legendary Panamanian superstar Roberto Duran in the process.
"There is always doubt in everybody," Paz said. "When I had the halo on my head and screws in my skull, I looked in the mirror many a night and said 'what are you doing Vinny Paz?' but I made it work.
"I was not ready to hear 'you are not going to fight again son'. Dr Cotter - I wasn't ready to hear what he had to say.
"So I took it into my own hands and luckily enough someone was looking out for me. I made it work out pretty good for myself."