Giulio Rinaldi, the light heavyweight champion of Italy, is learning to drive a tractor. "It keeps my mind off Archie Moore," he says. Rinaldi beat Moore last October in Rome, and will meet him again next week in Madison Square Garden, this time for the world light heavyweight title.
Rinaldi has been training for the fight in a resort named Villaggio Italia in the Catskills, 125 miles north of New York City. In summer the grounds are crowded with vacationers, but this is still the off season—waiters have time for a mid-afternoon nap—and Rinaldi and his group have the place pretty much to themselves. "We have provided Giulio with a homelike atmosphere," says Aldo DiBelardino, the owner of Villaggio. "We think of him as a son. After the fight he will come back here to relax. We will have a party if he wins and I will jump into the swimming pool. In my tuxedo."
A few days before the fight Rinaldi will shift his camp to the parking lot outside Leone's restaurant, one block from the Garden. He will train inside a large tent and live in an apartment above the restaurant. "It will help him adjust to the air," says Lew Burston, the Garden man assigned to look after Rinaldi's needs. "The altitude at Villagio is 2,000 feet. The fight will be at sea level."
Rinaldi himself does not seem enthusiastic about training at Leone's. He thinks the air in New York is stuffy. Rinaldi does not speak English but he got the idea across by sliding his hand along the inside of his collar.
This is Rinaldi's first trip to the United States. His home is in Anzio, on the west coast of Italy. (During the tortured months in 1944 when Anzio was a shell-ridden Allied beachhead, Giulio was hidden in a cave with other local children.) Since his October victory over Moore, Rinaldi has become a popular figure in his country. "Over there he is bigger than Lollobrigida," says Lew Burston. Packs of fan mail from young ladies in Italy have been arriving at Villaggio, but Giulio will not be allowed to read them until after the fight. "It might divert him," says Aldo DiBelardino. "He is a normal boy. He likes food, drink and, naturally, the girls."
Rinaldi's training diet calls for steak, which he dislikes, and prohibits spaghetti, which he loves. He also loves music. When he arrived in New York he astounded everyone at a press lunch by walking to the microphone and singing Il Mare. Around Villaggio he is always tapping out rhythms, supplying "la-la-la" for lyrics. One thing Rinaldi does not like is smoking. Visitors to his camp are commanded to put out cigarettes. "No smoking, please," are three English words Rinaldi has learned to speak, with a suitable scowl.
A fierce expression
Rinaldi has a good face for scowling. He has black hair, bushy black eyebrows and a small, almost pointed chin. He could easily pass for the neighborhood tough. He is 26 years old and single. He has no steady girl, or so says his mother, who is staying with him at Villaggio. Rinaldi's father is dead. Signora Rinaldi says she will not watch the fight, and when she says it she closes her eyes, shakes her head and taps herself on the heart. "She will pray," says Burston.
Also with Rinaldi is Luigi Proietti, his manager-trainer. Proietti, a short, balding man, speaks broken English but fluent French. Burston, who also speaks French, acts as a bridge, so that questions directed at Rinaldi are asked three times in three languages.
Rinaldi has three sparring partners, Luigi Napoleoni, Freddie Mack and Randy Sandy. Napoleoni doubles as an opponent at cards. The two sit in the dining room playing a game called "scopa," yelling the results of each round to Proietti. "First one win," says Proietti, rising in his chair and thumping his chest. "Then the other."
Two of the sparring partners, Napoleoni and Mack, are light heavyweights. Rinaldi defeated Mack in Rome three months ago. Recently Mack's wife gave birth to their first son, whom they named Giulio. Randy Sandy is a middleweight. "He is for speed," says Proietti. Sandy wears a bright yellow robe, on the back of which is printed "Randolph Sandy."
The workouts are held in the Villaggio dance hall. The walls are red, the ceiling pink. A ring has been set up identical to the one in Madison Square Garden. "The floor is soft," says Burston. "It's like walking on a mattress. The rings in Europe are harder, but Giulio will just have to get used to it."
Rinaldi spars six rounds a day, then skips rope and punches the bag. Later he will increase the number of rounds. Rinaldi's weight is already down to 175, the limit for the fight.
The workouts generally end in the late afternoon. After a shower, Rinaldi eats dinner, the hated steak. Then he has more time to kill until bed. He may play scopa with Napoleoni, or listen to some music, or even take a late drive on the tractor. Anything to keep from thinking about Archie Moore. There will be time enough for that later.