A star is born: Meet Andrzej Fonfara

Andrzej Fonfara

Andrzej FonfaraAndrzej Fonfara in an interview that took place on July 14th, 2012,“I’m a normal kid who wants to be champ someday…I will go to Canada, England, or anywhere and fight anybody for a world championship.”

Sam Geraci : Again, congrats on an exciting fight and a terrific win and thank you for taking the time as you said you would at the weigh-in to talk about the fight today.

Fonfara: No problem

SG: Going back to the weigh-in, at the weigh-in I watched you as you sit focused basically by yourself while your team was running around and doing most of the talking while the other fighters joked and took pictures. At the time, I wanted to ask you some questions but I didn’t want to say anything to affect your focus on what was your biggest fight thus far. So, I will now. What were you thinking at the weigh-in? What was going through your head?

Fonfara: I was just focused on the fight you know. I wasn’t thinking about anything but the fight. I wanted the time to go by faster because I wanted to get into the ring with Johnson. I was sitting there playing out the whole fight in my head. The whole time I was thinking about his style and how I was going to match it. I was visualizing the whole fight.

SG: Before the fight, what did you think was going to be the key?

Fonfara: Jab, move my feet, and use combinations. If I used only one shot at a time I knew it wouldn’t be enough. Even when I caught him with just the jab or the right hand it wasn’t enough. He has good defense and a good chin so I had to use combinations. He can block one or two punches but if I throw four or five punch combinations he can’t block it all and then I had to follow up with the jab again after and move my legs the whole fight.

SG: How was your focus leading up to this fight? Did you prepare any differently?

Fonfara: No, No. I always do the same thing. I am very disciplined with my training and with my team and family’s help. Breakfast, rest, workout, my father’s pasta for dinner, after dinner I always walk around my house, and then rest, and get ready to do it all again.

SG: How is your relationship with your father and your family?

Fonfara: Very close. Before I prepare for this fight and every fight my father and my whole family always help. We are very close. My brother is my manager and with my mother, father, and cousins we are all very close.

SG: Even though everyone agrees that Johnson is not the same fighter he once was, your performance was impressive because Johnson can probably still beat a lot of fighters in the top ten. After the fight, Johnson said that he thinks you could hang with any of the top fighters and he was impressed with your power and your ability to take a punch. When do you plan to fight again and who do you want next?

Fonfara: I don’t know when I am going to fight again but I want to have at least one more this year. We have to sit at the table and map it out, but I want to fight the best. I want Cleverley, Pascal, Shumenov, and even Dawson. I want to be world champion and I want to fight the best. I am ready. I want to be the best. Maybe one more tune-up fight with a guy from the top ten but then I am ready. To be honest, I am ready now and not just because of this fight.

SG: I know it’s a little lighter, but after the fight some were talking about a matchup with Pavlik at 168 or maybe at a catch weight here in Chicago. Would you take that fight and what happens in it?

Fonfara: Yes. He is a good fighter and a tall and strong fighter like me. It would be a good fight but I don’t really want a catch fight. I am a light heavyweight and I want to fight the best at light heavyweight and become world champion at light heavyweight because with my body I can’t really go down to 168. I am ready for everyone at 175; it’s my time. I will fight anyone.

SG: Would you travel and maybe even go to Canada for the Pascal fight?

Fonfara: Why not? If I have the chance to fight for a world championship, I will go to Canada, England, or anywhere and fight anybody for a world championship.

SG: Not that I don’t want to keep talking the fight game, but I have to ask you some questions about what it means to be one or two fights from becoming a big time name and a big time fighter, assuming you win? So, who is Andy Fonfara?

Fonfara: I’m a normal kid who wants to be champ someday. I train hard and my passion is boxing. I am good because I love what I do. If I go training, I love it. This is my life. I am a normal guy. I won’t change in two more fights or whatever. I will be the same guy. I am a normal guy.

SG: Was boxing always your passion?

Fonfara: I think so. As a small kid I always watched Golota at 4AM because of the time difference, and I always shadow-boxed after the Rocky movies and I always had fights in school as a small kid (laughs). When I was small, I would fight and box with my brother on the bed like it was a ring on TV and the movies (laughs).

SG: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Fonfara: I only have one brother, but I have a lot of cousins and my family is very close so everyone is like brothers and sisters just like back in Poland.

SG: Which part of Poland are you from?

Fonfara: I am from Warsaw.

SG: What was your life like in Poland? Where are you from and what type of upbringing did you have because you only came here like five or six years ago, right?

Fonfara: Yes, I came here like five years ago with a boxing team because we had a show in June of 2006, and my family followed later. Poland is a great country; I love Poland. Now, it is much different than it was like ten or twenty years ago. Now, it’s like here; there are stores and galleries and everything. Before we didn’t have anything.

SG: How was your lifestyle in Poland?

Fonfara: I lived good. I lived the same like I do here. I am a normal guy everywhere. If you are hardworking and a good guy, you can live everywhere and live good.

SG: Going back to boxing, what was your amateur experience?

Fonfara: I had 120 amateur fights. I was junior champ of Poland at 64kg. I competed nationally and internationally. That’s it. I had a good amateur boxing career and I had good trainers.

SG: How old were you when you turned pro?

Fonfara: Eighteen and now I am twenty-four.

SG: Going back to your life outside of boxing, how was it adjusting to the US?

Fonfara: It was kind of like another world at first, but I like the United States and I like Chicago. I have travelled throughout the United States to Colorado, California, New York, Florida, all over and I like it. It’s a nice country

SG: What are the major differences?

Fonfara: Now, it’s very similar. I don’t know. Maybe here it’s maybe still a little easier because you can have a place to live and buy groceries and still maybe have a little something left. Where in Poland after paying for rent or where you live it can be hard after buying food to get other things. I don’t know; they’re both great countries and Poland is always changing.

SG: Greatest inspiration for boxing or motivation?

Fonfara: I love boxing. I don’t know why but I do. If I go into the ring, I like to move and I like to fight with somebody. I like to fight. I want to be the best, and now I want to beat all guys and become the best. Before when I was young, it was Golota because all people in Poland would wake up in the morning to watch Andrew on TV. Before he was my motivation, and now he still supports me and gives advice sometimes.

SG: Who are your favorite fighters now? Active fighters.

Fonfara: I don’t know. I don’t have favorite fighters.

SG: Who do you like to watch?

Fonfara: I like Mayweather; he is a good fighter. Before, I liked Kelly Pavlik. Who else? Klitschkos, both of them. I like Adamek; he is a great warrior with a good chin. And Danny Green is a tough guy and a good guy. I went to Australia and sparred with him last year and he called and wished me good luck. I like him a lot. He’s my favorite guy now (laughs).

SG: Of all time who is your favorite?

Fonfara: I think it is Andrew Golota because even though he wasn’t world champ I grew up watching him and he inspired me.

SG: Who do you want to fight like? Whose style?

Fonfara: I want to fight like me. My own style. I don’t want to fight like anyone. I have my style. You know, I have my punches and my combinations and I want to be my self and that’s it.

SG: What is the best thing about you as a fighter?

Fonfara: I think I have a good jab and a strong right hand. I have the heart to fight. I showed everything for this fight. I must be smart because the smart fighter wins. If you are stupid and just have muscles and good conditioning that is not enough and you will lose.

SG: What are you most proud of outside of ring? I know you are a young guy at twenty-four, but so far?

Fonfara: I proud of my gym. I have a close family and I have very good friends who support me and help me. I have great, great fans who support me and come to my fights. Guys come here from Texas, New York, Detroit, everywhere and I want to thank them.

SG: What does it feel like when everyone is chanting your name like last night? I mean they went crazy even when you missed a punch? What is that like?

Fonfara: (Laughs) Yeah, I know one round I was like, “Come on guys!” and I was pumping my arms to get them into the fight. It’s a great feeling. I fight for me, but I also fight for the fans and my friends because if I win everybody is happy.

SG: What do you want the fans to know about you?

Fonfara: I don’t know. You can write that I am a normal guy. I’m never going to change. I am never going to change. I will always do a photo with my fans or sign an autograph or talk a little bit about everything. My fans can talk with me about everything, not just boxing. I can talk about soccer, sports, anything. Not just boxing.

SG: You beat a legend. Maybe even a hall of famer. I think so, but that can all be bullshit sometimes. Anyhow, what did you learn from someone like Johnson? What did you learn from Johnson in the ring? Out of the ring?

Fonfara: I learned you must be smart with a fighter like Glen Johnson and you cannot give him a chance to break you mentally. I must be tough all ten rounds. If he sees any breaking or weaknesses, he will break you. You must always be active and pumping the jab even when you are hurt. You cannot show any weakness during any second for the whole fight. He hits me and I have to hit him back. No weaknesses with someone like him.

SG: What about outside of the ring? Did you talk with him or anything?

Fonfara: I didn’t really talk with him. I thanked him and he thanked me and just like he said, this was a great fight and everyone would enjoy it and stand up. It was a great fight. You know, you have to have respect for you opponent.

SG: Anything you want to add?

Fonfara: I want to thank my team and my promoter and all of the fans.

SG: Thank you and congrats again. We are all looking forward to your next matchup.

Sam Geraci is a writer for The Sports Blitz Network and can be contacted at SGeraci@TheSportsBlitz.com

Glen Johnson interview: Don’t listen to the commentators

The following interview with Glen Johnson took place on July 12th, 2012 at the Palmer House in Chicago immediately before Johnson made weight for his July 13th fight against Andrzej Fonfara at the UIC Pavilion.

SG: Let’s get right to it. What happens after this fight assuming that you win?

GJ: We’ll look at the fight and then see who wants to fight. They got Bernard Hopkins out there and we’ll see if he’s interested. Certainly, there is Kelly Pavlik. We’ll see. He says he wants to make another step up so we’ll see.

SG: How much longer do you intend to fight?

GJ: It all depends on how I’m feeling. I don’t really have a time slot. It could be in the next fight or it could be two more fights; I don’t know maybe a year or two years later.

SG: I mean, you don’t have the story like many boxers or athletes in that you have to fight do you?

GJ: I’m okay. I’m decent. I’m not where I want to be, but all of us are greedy in that way.

SG: In the boxing world, we always knew you could fight but after the Roy Jones fight you really exploded. What was it like around the world for you after you dominated Jones?

GJ: It was nice. The welcoming and the expectations were through the roof. I fought hard for many years without any recognition, and so after the Roy Jones fight I finally started getting some recognition which I was thankful for.

SG: Was that best for you? What has been the pinnacle so far?

GJ: My highest point was when I fought everybody and got fighter of the year. That was my pinnacle.

SG: What are you most proud of outside of the ring?

GJ: Outside of the ring I love the way I am able to maintain my sanity in this crazy world of boxing. You know, people kinda lose respect a lot and go off and I am glad I never fell into that.

SG: As a follower of the sport, I think you have the best quote I’ve ever heard: “I’m not the best; I’m just the guy willing to fight the best.” Is that how you want to be remembered?

GJ: You know, I just want to be remembered as somebody who tried to do it the right way. Respectfully. I don’t want to go out disrespecting anybody. I don’t have to disrespect my opponents to compete against them. I just want to do it the right way and make as much money as I can doing it the right way.

SG: Besides your ability to take a punch, when looking at each of your attributes: speed, defense, power or skills as a fighter, nothing stands-out as really special but when looked at as a whole fighter you have been special. What is it that has made you a special fighter?

GJ: I think detail. Just paying attention to where a guy is and where a punch is coming from so you can set something up. I really pay attention to the details. You know, I think my all-around knowledge of boxing is probably my strongest point.

SG: I’ve been asking this to a lot of older fighters, but are you guys still that good or are these guys just not that good?

GJ: I think I am just that good (laughs). At least I want to believe so (laughs).

SG: Who is the best fighter today?

GJ: The best fighter today…I don’t know; it’s difficult. I would say the best talent today is probably Chad Dawson. I think he is the best talent but I don’t know if he is the best fighter. I don’t know if he is complete.

SG: Who wins? Dawson or Ward?

GJ: I would say Ward because of where the fight is going to be.

SG: What do you mean by that?

GJ: I just don’t think Dawson fights well under pressure. I just believe the crowd gonna react to anything Ward do and not so much off of anything he do, and I just don’t think he’s mentally strong enough to stay the course without being applauded.

SG: That fight is everything that is right about boxing. What about the bad side? What don’t you like about the sport right now?

GJ: I think what’s bad about boxing right now is the bad decisions by the judges. And, you know, you need something in place that says “the best guys need to compete against a certain level of fighter.” You know what I mean. We need the competition to be better. I hate to see the one-sided fight. I don’t like to watch a fight and feel sorry for one guy. I want it to be competitive. I would like to see guys fight people of a certain skill level.

SG: What about PEDs and steroids?

GJ: I don’t know much about all of that, but if it’s true it’s awful. It’s crazy.

SG: Back to what you know: as someone who has fought at 160, 168, 175 and I think you’ll fight almost anywhere, how much does five or six pounds really matter? I mean you hear so much that it can make or break a fighter.

GJ: It don’t matter too much to me. Weight is not an issue. I believe my skillset will work well at any weight class.

SG: If you had something to say to younger fighters what would you say?

GJ: Pay attention to boxing because boxing is about skillset and don’t let your ego get in the way of learning.

SG: What about to the fans? What do the fans not know about the sport that they should?

GJ: Don’t listen to the commentators most of the time. Look for punches that are scoring and not just the fact that the guy is throwing punches.

SG: When it’s done, when you retire, what are you going to do?

GJ: I would love to do some color-commentary. If not, I will do my own thing in remodeling homes and in investing in homes by buying and selling. You know, I’ll probably get into some promoting and stage some boxing shows or concert shows.

SG: Is there anything else you want to add?

GJ: Just thanks to my fans for continuing to stick with me. When times are low, they follow me all the way back to the top.

SG: Thanks champ.