No one can say to JoPino Scarcella, “You could have been a contender.”
Because the North End native – whose parents are from Calabria – was a contender. Or as they say in Boston, “a contendahh.” Quite literally.
In 2004, Scarcella, who is built squat and strong like a bullet and is just as fast with his fists, was featured in Season One of the NBC reality show “The Contender” under the tutelage of Sylvester Stallone. He had the sultry good looks for the burgeoning reality show world and he had the boxing prowess as a New England Golden Glove champion. He didn’t get far in the show, but did wangle his way into the ring as the sparring partner for Vincent “Vinny Paz” Pazienza.
But hey, as Scarcella himself likes to say, he is “a Joe of all trades.”
And when he says it, he likes to sprinkle his sentences with some Calabrian dialect, using his Italian tongue as a seasoning for his communications, like chopped garlic, as he speaks. Scarcella’s life is so dramatic and full, he needs two languages to keep it all straight.
He is the designer of a line of magnetic leather back support belts that became part of a medical study at Children’s Hospital. The actor Sean Penn has one. So do a couple of former New England Patriots players. He is still trying to get a patent for his “Z Belts” – which caught the attention of the Children’s Hospital orthopedics department.
He is an actor who has landed small parts in Boston-based films like “Ted” and “Here Comes the Boom.” He has played the handsome stranger on TV shows like “Chicago Hope” and a construction worker on the American soap opera “All My Children.” He got the acting bug back way back in 1978 when the then eight-year-old appared in the Eastie-filmed “Brinks Job” movie with Peter Falk.
He is also a model featured in JC Penney commercials. Most recently, Scarcella’s legs were featured in a photo spread in an exercise magazine.
The most unlikely job for a guy like Jopino Scarcella though is his full-time one: as a hair stylist. Most men are stunned when they come in for a haircut or drop their wives at Hair by Jopino and note the burly boxer behind a chair wielding a set of scissors, or singing Antonello Venditti love songs in Italian as he paints foils to come up with the perfect blonde. Jopino spent years on the West Coast primping the Beverly Hills crowd for famed stylist Italian stylist Giuseppe Franco and now his name has bicoastal appeal – especially for those seeking that perfect blonde.
Two years ago, hair by Jopino became a permanent fixture in Winthrop when he purchased his own salon. But that doesn’t mean he is not going to give up on acting. Or designing. Or modeling. Or personal training other boxers.
“I have done it all,” Scarcella says. “And I’m not done yet.”