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

“Road Warrior” Glen Johnson retires

Glen Johnson

Glen Johnson (51-17-2, 35 KOs) ended his career by losing a decisive ten-round decision to Polish light heavyweight, Andrzej Fonfara (22-2, 12 KOs) on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights from Chicago’s UIC Pavillion.

In an exclusive interview with Sam Geraci of The Sports Blitz Network, Johnson announced his retirement.

SG: What did you think?

Glenn Johnson: Fonfara is better.

SG: Better tonight?

Glen Johnson: Better because tonight is my last night.

SG: Congrats and thank you for the last fifteen years. What was missing tonight?

Glen Johnson: I needed to be more steady and apply more pressure and I couldn’t. He’s a strong kid and I just couldn’t do it. If I can’t do it the right way and the way I should be able to I’m not going to do it anymore.

SG: How good is this kid Fonfara?

Glen Johnson: He’s pretty good and he can hit and take a punch. He could use a little work on defense but I think he’s good.

SG: Can he fight the top guys at 168?

Glen Johnson: I like to think that I only lose to the best fighters out there. And, unless I’ve fallen that much, I think he’s pretty good.

SG: Again, thank you for all of the memories and for the last fifteen years. Future hall of famer Glen Johnson for all of the right reasons.

Johnson is a native of Claredon, Jamaica. Nicknamed “”The Road Warrior,” Johnson has fought in nine foreign countries and has competed in fourteen U.S. States over the course of his career.

Jose Luis Castillo: The legend who beat Mayweather speaks

Jose-Luis-CastilloThe following interview with Jose Luis Castillo took place on July 12th, 2012 at the Palmer House in Chicago immediately before Castillo made weight for his July 13th fight at the UIC Pavilion.

SG: Jose, thanks for giving the time right before your weigh-in to sit for a few minutes. It’s an honor.

JLC: No, No, Thank you.

SG: Because we don’t have too much time, let’s get right to it. As a someone who has watched you over the years, I gotta ask: other than the money, why do you keep on fighting?

JLC: Since I lost to Ricky Hatton I lost my desire to box. All of a sudden I have it back again and I want to show the world that I am still a champion.

SG: Assuming you win on Friday, how many more fights do you want?

JLC: I don’t know. I am in great shape so it could be one more or it could be ten more.

SG: In your prime, you could have fought with anybody at 140 from any era. In fact, I, as well as many others who follow the sport, think you fought Mayweather the best and probably should have gotten the nod in the first fight. With all of that and your legendary bouts in mind, how is it for someone like you to fight at this level now?

JLC: I feel very motivated like I did when I first debuted. I am starting again. I want to do everything the right way. My heart is still there.

SG: Not to keep talking about the Mayweather fight, but if you had gotten the nod in that first bout, where would you be now?

JLC: Who knows?

SG: Why do think that fight doesn’t get the publicity it deserves? You know, they try to show Mayweather’s toughest fights as being against Cotto or even Corrales or De La Hoya?

JLC: No, no, no because he is supposed to be the best P4P fighter. And according to me he is the best fighter. I believe he is the best fighter.

SG: What has been your best performance? Your best fight?

JLC: At home with my wife (laughs).

SG: That’s a good one. All of us (laughs)

JLC: I have several; I have been in the game so long. The first one when I won the championship. The second one when I fought Mayweather and I won. The fight with Corrales, even though I lost, that was an awesome fight. I could go on but the best is at home (laughs).

SG: With the Corrales fights, what does it feel like to know that you were involved in some of the greatest fights in the history of the sport?

JLC: I have a lot of pride and I don’t watch my own fights but my sons do. These fights are for my children and my grandchildren to know that I was there and what I accomplished.

SG: Even though you don’t watch them, when it’s going, what do you feel like when you’re in a fight like that? I mean do you know it’s something special?

JLC: No, no it just happened. It was the styles with both of us and we both fought like warriors.

SG: With the titles, the battles, the wins, even the first fight with Mayweather, what do you want to be remembered as? How do you want to be remembered most?

JLC: I just want to be remembered as a humble boxer and fighter. Someone who could get into the ring with anyone and make him pay.

SG: There have been great fights but for the most part the best fighters aren’t always in the types of fights you’ve been in. What makes you the combination of the fighter who can fight the tough fights but is still very skilled? What was you inspiration? What made you like this?

JLC: I don’t know. I always wanted learned from the best. I used to do sparring with one of the best in Chavez Sr. and I always wanted to learn from the best. I always wanted to pick up the good things from each fighter I fought and sparred with.

SG: Going back to Chavez, I have to ask you about what Arum is calling the “Hispanic Super Bowl” in the Martinez-Chavez fight. Who wins?

JLC: I have a very good relationship with the Chavez family and I think it’s going to be a good fight. It’s a very difficult fight and it’s a close fight.

SG: Besides Chavez Jr., which of the younger fighters do you like? Who’s good?

JLC: There are a few. There’s Rigondeaux, Nonito…

SG: Who wins that?

JLC: Very good fight. They’re very good fighters who are fast and strong and they come in very prepared. They’re very talented but you can’t forget the legends and the older fighters (smiles).

SG: Now, I’ve been asking this to a lot of the older fighters so I’ll stay with it. Do you think the older fighters are still good or the younger fighters today just aren’t that great?

JLC: Who knows? We all have our moments and all have our strengths and weaknesses. It’s very difficult to tell. Who knows?

SG: Okay, what’s the biggest problem in boxing today?

JLC: The managers.

SG: Can you expand?

JLC: Like in Mexico and other parts, they take advantage of the fighters. The fighters are just taken advantage of too often by the managers.

SG: When it’s time, and many of us who have been watching you over the years wonder if it’s time, what are you going to do when it’s time to retire?

JLC: It’s not time but I don’t know exactly. In August, I am going to start studying at the university. I just finished high school so I am back to school and I am very focused on that aspect of my life.

SG: When you fought at 140lbs that really was one the stronger weight classes in recent times. Besides you, who was the best of Casamayor, Judah, Mayweather, Tszyu, Freitas, and Corrales?

JLC: Mayweather is number one. Judah was a very good fighter. Freitas would have to be at the end of the line. I want to add that when Judah was a lightweight he was a very good fighter. If he had stayed at the lighter weights, he wouldn’t have lost. He would have been the best pound-for-pound and gone down in history. As he moved up in weight he lost a lot of power and strength.    

SG: Is there anything else you want to add?

JLC: I am happy to be in Chicago. My third son was born here in Chicago. I am going to put on a good show and a good fight.

SG: Is there anything you want the fans to know?

JLC: I hope they enjoy that I am back and enjoy every minute that I am in the ring.

SG: Thanks champ.

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.

Errol Spence: 2012 Summer Olympic Boxer profile

Errol Spence

Errol SpenceErrol Spence Jr., better known as E.J. has one thing on his mind these days, winning a Gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

America’s top boxer is one of the best amateurs in the world as he leaves the gym in Dallas for the Olympic games in London.

“The Truth” weighs in at 152 pounds and resides in the welterweight division and is currently ranked No. 1 in the nation.

“I think about it every time I wake up,” said Spence about the Olympics according to NBC.com  “I want to bring a gold medal back to America.”

His coach says that is more than just a possibility.

“When they say he’s a favorite, he really is a favorite,” said Derrick James.

And if you ask him what drives him in the ring he’ll tell you the truth.

“I hate to lose,” said Spence.

“If I won the gold medal, and I’m on the podium hearing my National Anthem,” said Spence. “I’ll probably break down and cry at the podium.”

Spence is the second straight Dallas-area boxer to make the U.S. Olympic team after Luis Yanez did in 2008.

He started his career at Vivero Boxing Gym in Oak Cliff and now trains under Derrick James at Maple Avenue Boxing Gym in Dallas.

Spence said he trains at the boxing gym two hours a day, goes home to run and later hits the gym to ride the bike and play basketball.

He said he’s worked on making his style more direct and claims his ability to counterpunch as his best asset. James zeroed in on Spence’s power. Lack of consistent focus may be Spence’s biggest liability.

E.J. hopes to use the 2012 Olympics to build experience and eventually turn professional.

One thing is for sure, he has an entire country on his side.

Elijah McCall exclusive interview: The son of a champion

Elijah McCall Interview PhotoAt 6’ 2” and nearly 230lbs, Elijah McCall (10-1-1, 9 KOs), son of former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall, is a rising prospect with athleticism and dynamic punching power looking to make a name for himself in the heavyweight division. In The following interview that took place on June 30, 2012 at the Chicago Park District Boxing Gym at 39 West 47th Street, Chicago, IL 60609 McCall discusses his unique family background, his competitive nature, the transition from football to boxing, and his goal of ten fights in twelve months.

Elijah, thanks for taking the time to sit down and discuss yourself and your career.

SG: I know you were born in Chicago and are making it your home nowadays, but where did you grow up?

EM: I grew up in Basset, Virginia and went to school there for grammar school, high school, and college. But for the last four years since I started fighting, I’ve been all over: South Florida, Vegas, Texas, and now Chicago where we are giving the fans what they want.

SG: Going a little more into your background, what kind of lifestyle did you have growing up as the son of a heavyweight champion in Basset, Virginia?

EM: Oh, shoot. It was a very small town. Everybody knows everybody’s business. Back then my dad was heavyweight champion of the world, and he was very popular around the area, so with that came the good and the bad. So I learned at a very early age how to overcome what other people say and read about you. Unfortunately, that kinda pushed me away from boxing at first. I always wanted to be a boxer and would try to sneak away with my dad whenever I could, but the negative aspects that I experienced as a child kept me away.

SG: Do you think those tough times strengthened your relationship with your dad?

EM: Oh, yes. They most definitely did. Going through what we went through can either make you or break you. It really shaped me into the man I am today. I look up to my dad. I want to be just like him. I want to avoid the bad things he’s done but follow the good things he’s done like becoming heavyweight champion of the world.

SG: As a family that traveled a lot, how were the relationships among your family members while growing up?

EM: Even though we had some hard times, we were all like best friends: my sisters, brothers, parents, cousins, all of us. We were always there for each other by helping each other out and pushing each other to do better.

SG: You have a family of terrific athletes with two of your sisters having played college basketball, one of your sisters competing at the Olympic level, and one of your brothers playing college football. Just how competitive was the household?

EM: The household was very competitive on a daily basis. Everyday we played basketball. My dad loves to play basketball, and everyday we had to compete to play. I wasn’t a great basketball player, so I was a little more on the sidelines trying to earn my way into the game. That was more the sport of my older sisters but everyday was competitive—from playing videogames to cooking to running to the car after leaving the store. Everything was about being first and being the best. It was always about winning.

SG: What was the biggest sport for you growing up then?

EM: Like I said, I always tried to sneak away to the gym with my dad, but it was like a top-secret thing. I didn’t want to let anyone know I was into it. I always loved it, but my first love was basketball and then I found football which I was much better at and then I ended up getting a scholarship to James Madison University to play.

SG: Why didn’t you choose to pursue football? Why boxing?

EM: I always loved boxing even though I played football for two years in college.  I also have to say that the BS with recruiting kinda turned me off from football during my senior year in high school. After high school I made up my mind and told my dad I wanted to box. He told me he wanted to watch me on Sundays so I stuck it out for a couple more years before leaving school to box.

SG: What about your mom? Was she okay with you boxing?

EM: Oh yeah. It goes back to the whole competitive thing. She tells me to move my head, but you learn to move your head because it hurts to get hit (laughs).

SG: What about your dad? I read somewhere that your dad wanted you to have an amateur career first and he only agreed for you to go pro after the two of you sparred? Is any of that true?

EM: That is true. When I went down to Florida to workout with him, I had just come from college football and I was all big and bad (laughs). I had no problems with going amateur but it was 2008. To me, at the time, there was nowhere I could really go with the amateurs unless I waited another four years. Me, being naïve, couldn’t wait four years because I didn’t have the patience at the time even though my dad was telling me to wait. It goes back to the competitive thing. Whatever my dad told me, I was going to do it sooner. If he said I’d be ready in a year, I’d shoot for six months. That’s how it happened. One day, I told him I was going to fight on the undercard of the Abraham-Miranda II fight and we fought and then he said if I could pass the test with him then he’d give me the okay. He was throwing bombs and then because of that competitiveness I pushed myself because I don’t want to get beat by anyone, especially my dad. I passed and he said I was ready to be a fighter.

SG: Recently, many football players are trying to make the switch. What is the biggest transition from football to boxing?

EM: The bulkiness is the difference. In football you have to big. I was much more bulky. Now, I am more lean. That loose muscle is the key, so you can move around and be more athletic in the ring. You have to get that boxer’s shape.

SG: Do you think you have the boxer’s build now?

EM: I definitely think I have it now. It is much easier to move, throw punches, and keep my stamina now.

SG: You’re off to a solid start and you clearly have the athleticism to be a contender, especially compared to other young Americans. Unlike most prospects, however, because of your father and the individuals who have surrounded your life, you know what it’s like to be in the fight game—the ups and the downs. What stands out as the lowest point in your life as far as boxing is concerned and what is the highest?

EM: The lowest point that I experienced in boxing was when I was in London for my dad’s fight with Frank Bruno. My whole family was there and a lot of bad things were done to him and us so Bruno could get the advantage. That all comes with sport, but as a kid it really hurt. I mean the British fans were throwing stuff at us and calling us all kinds of names and mooning us. Then my dad lost, and as a kid that was a lot. I’d never seen my dad beat up. He had a couple of knots on him, and I’d say that was the lowest point.

SG: What was the highest?

EM: I would say boxing at the Horseshoe in Hammond last month because it was a big event, and a lot of family showed up. Both of my grandmothers were there, and it was also the first time I fought in Chicago so it was like a homecoming. It was also the first time I fought with Nate Jones as my trainer and I overcame a little adversity and won by knockout against a tough opponent who came to fight. It was a good fight and not just some easy fight and that’s why I took it even though I wasn’t in the best shape because all I was doing was running at the time. The only sparring I did was months before the fight with a good prospect named Rafael Murphy back in Texas. It was a good test.

SG: As a young fighter without amateur experience, how is learning and developing as a pro? You can’t move too fast but you don’t want to move too slow?

EM: It’s tough because you have to balance learning and developing with keeping a great record. You know, back in the old days in the 60s ad 70s, great fighters had five or six losses and were still top contenders and you didn’t want to fight them because event though he got six or seven losses he’s a bad dude. Today, it’s different but I think I am progressing the right way.

SG: What does the next year hold? How many fights do you want in the next twelve months?

EM: I want to get ten fights. Around next year during the fall or wintertime I will be ready for the top contenders. My skills are only getting better. I have only been boxing for four years—no amateur only pro. I got the punch and I’ll take the risk to throw that punch.

SG: How many in Chicago?

EM: I like to get six in Chicago. I would also like to gain more experience by going back to Vegas to fight. I would like fight in Atlantic City and New York, and I would definitely love to go back to fight in Harlingen, Texas.

SG: What do you need to improve on most?

EM: I think I can be so confident with my punch that I can get caught posing at times, and I need to remember to stay active in the ring and not just look for the big punch.

SG: What is your greatest strength?

EM: My power and speed are definitely my greatest strengths. I am also very athletic and light on my feet for my size so I can get in and out of danger when necessary.

SG: Who are your favorite fighters?

EM: My dad, of course (laughs) and Julio Cesar Chavez the original, I love Mike McCallum, and of course Joe Louis.

SG: What about today?

EM: I like Andre Ward, Carl Froch, and number one, Floyd Mayweather.

SG: Which heavyweights do you want to be like?

EM: We ain’t talking about today are we? (laughs) I want to be like Joe Louis. I liked the way he approached his opponents with calmness and how he set up the right hand and was able to deliver the hook. He was always smooth. He was never out of position. I like Joe Walcott’s footwork. I love his footwork.

SG: Do you watch a lot of the old fighters? Do you watch them with your dad?

EM: Yeah, I watch a lot of the old fighters. I watch them on my own. Oh, I like Larry Holmes a lot too.

SG: What about for your family life? Any goals? I mean, you come from a huge family.

EM: Well, I do want a big family but that’s part of the sacrifices of boxing and I have to watch it and wait.

SG: Elijah, thanks for the time. Is there anything else you want to add?

EM: Well, I pretty much want to thank everybody. I want to thank the fight world for even giving me the opportunity to show who I am as a person. I am not here to make any excuses and I don’t want any handicaps because I am the son of a champion. Treat me the same way you would treat someone off the street. Let me show you how to become champ.

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


Mayweather’s trainer speaks: Interview with Nate Jones

Nate JonesNate Jones, one of the fastest rising trainers in the sport who works with top pros and amateurs like Floyd Mayweather, Fres Oquendo, Shawn Simpson, and Samajay Thomas, took an hour from his busy schedule to sit down for an interview to discuss his career, his life, his relationship with Mayweather, the Mayweather-Pacquaio fight, and the state of the game as far as corruption and PEDs are concerned.

SG: Nate Jones, thank you for taking the time to sit down for an interview. It really is an honor. You really are growing into one of the best trainers in the sport and you were an amateur standout who won the Bronze Medal at heavyweight but outside of the 24/7 series and diehard boxing fans you aren’t that well known today. Let everyone know who you are working with and what you are doing?

NJ: At the present time everyone knows I’m working with Mr. Mayweather. I also train Fres Oquendo who is still a top-ten heavyweight contender. I also train a young amateur named Samajay Thomas who is ranked number one in the nation and number four in the world and was a sure shot for the Olympic team but things happened. I also train Shawn Simpson who is awesome and an alternate travelling with the USA team and Yusef Saleh who is one of the best junior fighters under sixteen and is on his way to the golden gloves. I am also working with a girl named Alicia Gutierrez who is going to be one of the best at 122lbs and a girl out of Ohio named Latisha Sherman who is 6’ 2” and one of the most skilled boxers I’ve seen. And of course Elijah McCall who is the son of heavyweight champion Oliver McCall. This kid has a great future and we are getting him ready for a title shot in the next year or two.

SG: What’s your passion? Is it amateur or pro?

My passion is the game. I just love the game. Pros is what pays the bills but amateurs is what gets you to the pros to pay the bills.

SJ: Outside of Floyd, which of those fighters should everyone be following? Who is going to be special?

I have three. I think Samajay Thomas will be a special fighter if he focuses, Shawn Simpson is doing everything right and is on his way to big things, and Elijah McCall as of right now are my prospects that are gonna make a big noise. But my amateurs in the next ten years with Diego Chavez and Yusef are gonna be top ten too. And I still got a top heavyweight in Fres who is really the only American right now who can be the heavyweight champion. And don’t sleep on my two girls: Alicia Gutierrez and Latisha Sherman.

SG: Why do you think your pro career didn’t meet expectations? Everyone thought you might be a longtime contender or even a champion.

NJ: I broke one of the rules boxers should never break: boxing and drinking don’t mix. I was undefeated but I was an alcoholic. It eventually caught up with me even though I always trained hard. Drinking kills your brain cells and so does boxing and it caught up with me in a rapid way. It shortened my career by about ten years.

SG: Getting back to your career now. How would you describe yourself as a trainer?

NJ: Well, I think I am one of the best as of right now and so do some of the top fighters and trainers like Emmanuel Steward, Roger Mayweather, Floyd Sr., Buddy McGirt and these are all the guys I totally respect.

SG: What is it that makes you a good trainer?

NJ: It’s my passion. I want to be the best. I want it just as bad as they do. When they win championships, it feels like I won it too. I get flashbacks (laughs).

SG: In addition to your knowledge of the sport in the ring, you have a unique understanding of the sport outside of the ring. Let’s talk a little about that understanding. Let’s start with the dark side of boxing: After the Brewster fight, you suffered some neurological damage. How can that be avoided for young fighters and how has that affected your life?

NJ: It can be avoided by doing the sport clean cut. You can’t drink; you can’t cut corners; and I cut corners. I made the Olympic team but I still cut corners and at the end of the day it caught up to me. That’s the dark part of my career. I trained hard but at night I played hard.

SG: Has the neurological damage affected you now?

NJ: I feel my mobility when I run ain’t the same and my reflexes ain’t what they used to be, but I learned to deal with it and take the good with the bad.

SG: On the other end of the spectrum, as someone who works with the top fighter and highest paid athlete in the world in Floyd Mayweather, how has that experience changed your view of the sport? Can you elaborate on your relationship with Floyd? How is that special?

NJ: As we got older, we really grew to appreciate and value our friendship because for twenty years we’ve been having each other’s backs. And in the last ten years of my life Floyd has been a very big part of my training career because he’s the one who told me after my career was done, “Nate, don’t let your head down. You’re gonna be a good trainer. You know the game.” He gave me the idea to go into the gym because I wouldn’t even walk into the gym after my career was done and slowly I started going back and watching Roger and working with fighters until I finally bought my own pads and really started working. That was how my inspiration came.

SG: Not to just dwell on Floyd, but what is something that most people don’t know about Floyd that we should know? In other words, something that if the rest of the world knew, he wouldn’t be so disliked?

NJ: What people don’t know about Floyd is that he has a good heart. At times he can be difficult, but Floyd has a good heart. I mean he feeds a lot of families. He do a lot. He gives back. Let me tell you a story about Floyd. In 2010 after the Mosley fight, my mother, Christine Johnson died of colon cancer. When I was in my car, Floyd called. I just told him that she was gone and we both cried together. We talked for more than an hour as I drove and he comforted me in one of my toughest times. My mom and his mom knew each other from the Olympic days. He was there. He has a good heart and that’s one thing people don’t realize about him.

SG: Here’s another tough question. I’ve got to ask something that blew my mind about you that not everyone might know. Is it true that you buried your Bronze Medal with your twin sister who died from Lupus? Why?

NJ: Before I made the Olympic team, it was probably one of the roughest times of my life. It was her and my mama that was truly there for me when I was in prison. She showed me how much she cared about me. She had my back and she was my number one fan. She just wanted me to do good in my life and not mess it up. She truly had my back and it was because of them I made it to the Olympics and won that medal.

SG: Do you think she’d be proud of you now?

NJ: Of course. She’d be proud of me now and she’d be taking my money (laughs) and making me give her stuff.

SG: You also lost you brother. How old were you and how close were you?

NJ: Oh, very close. I was twenty-eight. He died of an overdose of heroin. We was very close. He had a good job; he took care of old people. He was very honest and never stole, but he struggled and it caught up with him.

SG: How did those losses change who you are? Especially being there for your brother. How did they make you stronger as a trainer and as a person?

NJ: It made me just realize that sometimes you gotta help people that can help themselves. Sometimes it can be your family members or it can be your friends because if I wasn’t there to help him then he would have been worse and maybe done bad things.

SG: What about your life with your family now? What kind relationship do you have with them?

NJ: Well, I’m married. July 12th will be one year. And you know I’m just trying to provide and take care of them and make sure they have a good life. I have one daughter who is a sophomore at DePaul and she is an “A” student and was top of her class and I have one younger daughter that keeps me busy.

SG: What do you like doing most with your family?

NJ: I just like hanging at home. I’m a home-guy. The only time I’m really outta town is for boxing. I’m just a home-dude. I like watching the game and spending time with the family. And of course, eating (laughs).

SG: What do you want for your your kids in their lives?

NJ: I just want them to be happy and have some stability. Ya know, have a bank account, have trusting relationships, and meet somebody that cares about them.

SG: Were those things you didn’t have growing up?

NJ: Those are the things I wanted growing up, and now that I got them, I want them for my children.

SG: You’ve done a lot in boxing. Outside of boxing, what are you most proud of?

NJ: Outside of boxing, I’m mostly proud of my family—being married, taking care of my family, and watching my daughters grow and succeed. I’m proud of becoming a man. I want to have something for them and my grandkids when I’m gone. I’ve also just started a 501c3 not-for-profit called the Nate Jones Foundation that tries to keep kids off the streets and motivate them to succeed through boxing and mentorship. We are new and are working on grant writing and a website.

SG: Before we go, I do have to ask you a couple of things and it’s what you always hear: do you think the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight will ever happen? If so, what happens?

NJ: Of course. It’s too big for the game. I think it’s too big of a hit. I believe it’s gonna happen within the next year because it’s getting to close to the end of both of their careers and it’s time to make it happen.

SG: When it happens, do you think they will still be the fighters we wanted to see for the last couple of years?

NJ: If it don’t happen in the next year, no, because Floyd should retire in the next year and a half and the same with Pacquiao.

SG: You’re going to pick Floyd, but what happens in that fight?

NJ: Floyd knocks him out before six rounds. Fundamentally, Manny makes too many mistakes. He really is not a good and technical fighter, and he makes a lot of mistakes. With that fight, the way Floyd will train and be ready he will be on top of his game.

SG: Unfortunately, I have to get your take on this too: Berto, Peterson, James Toney, Fernando Vargas, Shane Mosley, and most recently Antonio Tarver and maybe Chavez again: As an insider, how big are steroids in boxing?

NJ: It’s very huge.

SG: Is it huge like it was in baseball? Is it bigger?

NJ: I think it’s becoming bigger if nothing is done to clip it now. I think the whole game should resort to what Floyd is doing and introducing to the game with Olympic-style drug testing. Everyone in boxing should want that. I would want that if I were fighting today. The greats don’t have to cheat.

SG: What about the judging? Recently, we had the Abril-Rios fight and then the Pacquiao-Bradley fight. Can anything fix it?

NJ: I just think the politics is ruining the game. We can start by doing the things Floyd is asking for: drug testing and making sure the fighters are the ones making the money and not just the promoters. And it also starts off by getting one board.

SG: As great as Floyd is, do you think helping clean up the sport could end up being his legacy?

NJ: It should be part of it. He’s doing a lot of good for the sport, and he doesn’t always get credit for it.

SG: Nate, thank you for your time. Is there anything else you want to add?

NJ: I am looking forward to having a good 2012 and 2013 and I think the Floyd-Pacquiao fight will happen and we will win by knockout and I think it will be a big year for my fighters, me, and the Nate Jones Foundation.

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

Boxing results from Elk Grove Village, IL

Elijah McCallIn an all-action brawl that brought the crowd to its feet several times, Sergio Montes De Oca (6-1-1, 1 KOs) of Chicago, IL and Salvador Perez (2-1-2, 1 KOs) of Campeche, Mexico fought to a majority draw. One judge scored the bout 39-37 for Montes De Oca while the other two scored it 38-38.

In the second bout of the evening, rising prospect Elijah “The Real” McCall (10-1-1, 9 KOs) of Bassett, VA completely outclassed Travis “Iron Man” Fulton (17-30, 17 KOs) of Cedar Falls, IA via second round stoppage. Although many at ringside felt the fight was stopped prematurely, McCall was clearly on his way to knocking out Fulton. After the fight, the always-charismatic McCall stated, “I wanted to see him laying on the mat. When there’s steak on the plate, it’s time to eat.”

Following McCall’s destruction of Fulton, MMA fighter PJ Cajigas (0-0-1) of Chicago made his pro boxing debut at light heavyweight in a tough fight with Gerald “Da Humble” Taylor (5-3-2, 2 KOs) of Chicago, IL that was scored a unanimous draw of 37-37 on all scorecards. Taylor floored Cajigas in the first round with a left hook, and Cajigas floored Taylor in the second round with a right uppercut.

In another pro debut, Simon “The Punisher” Buettner (1-0) of Carpentersville, IL knocked out winless Jadell “Jacob” Wells (0-4) of Canton, OH with a dynamic left hook in the first round.

As a result of the fight cancellation between Chicago fan-favorite Mike “Hollywood” Jimenez and Mustafah Johnson (8-12-1, 1 KOs) of Indianapolis, IN, Henry Coyle (17-2, 12 KOs) of Mayo, Ireland closed the night with an unimpressive unanimous decision over a game but overmatched Damon Antoine (9-38-2, 4 KOs) of Akron, OH with one score of 80-71 and two scores of 80-72.

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

Adamek, Chambers: Round by round recap, results from the undercard

Tomasz AdamekIn a crossroads fight to determine who is a top-ten fighter versus who deserves a title shot, Tomasz Adamek (48-2, 28 KOs) defeated “Fast” Eddie Chambers (38-2, 18 KOs) via unanimous decision in an entertaining fight in which Chambers fought courageously with one arm throughout most of the fight because of an injury. Two judges scored it 116-112 while one judge somehow scored it 119-109. From my couch, I scored it 116-114 for Chambers.

Here’s what I saw:

Round 1: A very close round in which Adamek was the aggressor but Chambers landed the more effective shots. Unfortunately, I don’t think Chambers’s clean shots were enough to take the round. I scored it even.

Score and Takeaways: Adamek was aggressive but did not look sharp. Although Chambers looks very fast and sharp, especially with the right hand, he needs to be more active to win rounds. Could be a significant round in determining the fight if its close. 10-10

Round 2:Again, this is a tough round to score. More of the same from round one: Adamak comes forward and Chambers effectively counters with the right. I thought Chambers landed enough clean rights and suppressed Adamek’s aggression.

Score and Takeaways: Chambers looks very confident and sharp while Adamek’s game plan is not working; Adamek looks slower and more bulky than we are accustomed to seeing. 10-9 Chambers

Round 3: It’s not said often, but at this point, Adamek is being out boxed and to some extent outclassed. Adamek continues to come forward but is being countered by the right consistently. Towards the second half of the round, Adamek began to throw shots a little more wildly.

Score and Takeaways: According to the broadcast, Chambers might have injured his left arm. Having said that, he his looking impressive. Unless Adamek can land something big or Chambers fades, this is starting to look like a wide UD victory for Chambers. 10-9 Chambers.

Round 4: Despite the injury, Chambers deftly handles Adamek’s aggression. The counter right and at times the lead right of Chambers are controlling this fight. Adamek continues to come forward with determination but is becoming less effective and seems to be tiring.

Score and Takeaways: The defense of Chambers has been really impressive. He hasn’t been hit cleanly with anything of substance. Adamek looks somewhat lost at this point. He needs to switch to plan B or C if he has one 10-9 Chambers.

Round 5: For the first time in the fight, Adamak chose to back up and become the counterpuncher. It worked. While he didn’t cause any damage, he was more effective and Chambers was really inactive.

Score and Takeaways: Adamek’s experience is beginning to show. Although he didn’t cause any damage, the switch to counterpunching has changed the fight. Because Chambers hasn’t thrown the left consistently, I am beginning to wonder how damaged it might be. 10-9 Adamek

Round 6: Adamek was very effective in fighting while backing up. This was by far Adamek’s best round. He completely outpunched Chambers. Chambers is beginning to look tired and his work rate has plummeted.

Score and Takeaways: Contrary to popular belief, Adamak should not try to overpower the “smaller” fighter. Since making the adjustment to wait for Chambers to close the distance, Adamek has looked impressive and taken control of the fight. Adamek 10-9

Round 7: Chambers completely dominated the round with his defense and his right hand: lead and counter rights. Whenever Adamek throws a lazy jab, Chambers is quick to counter. Good round for Chambers.

Score and Takeaways: It seems as though Adamek has no answer for Chambers when Chambers is active. Unfortunately for Chambers, he seems to be fighting with one hand. Adamek is also beginning to show some signs of fatigue. 10-9 Chambers

Round 8: For some reason, Adamek has reverted to coming forward and missing as he did in the earlier rounds. Adamek has been completely ineffective when leading with the jab. Despite Adamek’s ineffective aggressiveness, Chambers is doing more showboating than fighting. He has been too inactive again. Close round.

Score and Takeaways: If Chambers would increase his work rate, this fight wouldn’t even be close. Having said that, I am not sure if he can fight any better with only one arm. How can you increase your work rate with only one hand doing all of the work? But, because he didn’t increase his work rate in this round, I scored it even. The scoring of this round could very well determine the winner. 10-10

Round 9: Adamek is finally opening up. Adamek might finally realize that Chambers is only fighting with one hand. In addition, Adamek is back to being patient and waiting for Chambers to close the distance before exploding. Although he isn’t landing much more than Chambers, he is winning the round. Good round for Adamek

Score and Takeaways: It is clear that Chambers can no longer use his left. If Adamek and his corner are smart, they’d stop with the ineffective jab and continue fighting in spurts of powerful combinations like Adamek did this round. Chambers can’t fight back in exchanges with just one hand. 10-9 Adamek

Round 10: Chambers came out aggressive and has landed the right with authority. Adamek is beginning to look tired and Chambers is countering every lazy jab with a quick overhand right. Despite a few effective jabs from Adamek, Chambers dominated the round.

Score and Takeaways: Although most of us might consider Adamek more of cruiserweight, tonight he is fighting like a heavyweight; that’s not a good thing. Adamek seems incapable of mounting the high volume attack needed to carry the fight. Instead, whenever he tires, he reverts to that lazy jab and gets countered. Who knows what would have happened tonight if Chambers had two hands. 10-9 Chambers

Round 11: Chambers came out and countered another lazy jab from Adamek with an effective overhand right to start the round. Adamek is back to being the aggressor which has been and continues to be completely ineffective. Although he didn’t land many shots, I thought the tight defense as well as several of effective right hands of Chambers was enough to carry the round.

Score and Takeaways: This fight comes down to this: Whenever Adamek is the aggressor with that lazy jab he gets dominated by the right. Because Chambers is fighting with only one hand, Adamek should be exploding with combinations as Chambers closes the distance. For some reason, however, Adamek has done it consistently. 10-9 Chambers

Round 12: Adamek came out with urgency and dominated the first minute of the round. If Adamek had fought the whole fight like this, especially considering that Chambers fought nearly the whole fight with one hand, Adamak might have won the fight. Adamek has completely outworked and out-landed Chambers with big shots. Big round for Adamek.

Score and Takeaways: This is the work rate that made Adamek a force at the heavyweight division despite his lack of size. Although Chambers was never hurt, he was unable to counter with the right because Adamek stayed refrained from throwing his lazy jab and threw powerful combinations with both hands. 10-9 Adamek

Total: 114-116 Chambers

This type of fight often leads to controversial decisions because one fighter doubled the punch output of the other fighter despite being out-landed. Adamek threw 919 punches compared to 422 from Chambers, but Chambers landed 152 punches compared to 134 for Adamek. There were definitely a few rounds that could have gone either way, especially rounds 1 and 8, but a score of 119-109 is absurd. I am looking forward to a rematch. The winner of the rematch ought to be considered for a Klitschko before a fighter like Arreola is.

Undercard Results:

John “The Apollo Kid” Thompson (8-0, 2KOs) defeated John “No Mercy” Mackey (6-6-1) via unanimous decision. One judge scored the fight 59-55 while the other two scored it 59-56.
Tureano Johnson (9-0, 6 KOs) defeated Roberto Young (5-5-1, 4 KOs) via unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight 58-56.
Jose “Mangu” Peralta (9-1, 5 KOs) defeated Dontre King (6-11-2, 2 KOs) via fourth round TKO. Peralta floored Kink in the third and fourth rounds.
John “The Apollo Kid” Thompson (8-0, 2KOs) defeated John “No Mercy” Mackey (6-6-1) via unanimous decision. One judge scored the fight 59-55 while the other two scored it 59-56.
Patrick “Paddy Boy” Farrell (7-1-, 3 KOs) defeated David “The Amateur” Williams (6-6-1, 2 KOs) via unanimous decision. One judge scored the fight 39-36 while the other two scored it 40-35.
Bryant “Bye Bye” Jennings (13-0, 6 KOs) completely dominated and outclassed the game Steve “Freight Train” Collins (25-1-1, 18 KOs) via unanimous decision to win the USBA heavyweight championship. All three judges scored the fight 100-89. Despite hurting Collins throughout the fight and being credited with a knockdown in the fourth after the ropes held up Collins, Jennings was unable to close the show. Although Jennings was unable to stop Collins, his hand-speed and ability to put punches together were impressive, especially considering his limited experience. From this fight alone, the only noticeable weaknesses in Jennings’s game were his defense against the right hand while exchanging and his lack of punching power.

Jamaal “The Truth” Davis (13-8-1, 6 KOs) defeated Doel Carrasquillo (16-19-1, 14 KOs) in an uneventful fight. Davis controlled the first six rounds with his jab and movement but faded in the seventh and eighth rounds. One judge scored it 79-73 while the other two scored it 78-74. I have no idea why this fight was televised on a Saturday night before a meaningful heavyweight fight.

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

Wherefore art thou boxing redux

I remember boxing.

I remember 1986, when I rooted for Marvin Hagler, only to see him lose a 12-round classic to Sugar Ray Leonard.

I remember being at a house party ten years later, when Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield came to blows after Tyson had taken a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear… twice.  It was the best pay-per-view money any of us had ever spent.

I remember the disappointment on my father’s face in 1978 when Muhammad Ali lost to Leon Spinks.

I remember the programs he had in his apartment from Ali vs. Frazier in the Garden.  Boy, what they must fetch on eBay right now.


Memories of a sport, the sweet science, which so many of us grew up with, that so few of us do now.

Further exemplifying what has gone wrong with professional boxing, one fight which once stood to revive the sport, may never take place, and even if it does, has now lost its luster.

In the meantime, another sport, equal in its brutality, is giving boxing a standing eight count; it won’t be long before the referee calls the fight.  Take gross mismanagement in one sport and multiply that by the near perfect marketing and growth rate of another and you have boxing’s extinction.  This weekend’s controversial Bradley-Pacquiao decision was the bitter icing on the cake. Read more here…

Exclusive interview: Fres Oquendo calls out Arreola and talks life after boxing

Fres Oquendo at the GymThe following interview of Fres Oquendo took place May 29, 2012 at Chicago Fight Club Gym at 4835 N. Elston, Chicago, IL, 60630

“Fast” Fres Oquendo, who is coming of an impressive ninth round TKO of Joey Abell on the 25th of May, took an hour from his busy schedule to sit down for an interview to discuss boxing at age 39, PEDs, corruption in the sport, future opponents, his legacy, and his youth boxing academy.

Sam: Congrats on your May 25th 9th round TKO victory over Joey Abell. How did you feel in that fight as compared to earlier in your career?

Oquendo: Thanks. I’m healthier now than I was in my twenties for the simple fact that I’m doing everything right from the training and management to going all-natural with natural supplements from the earth and even alkaline water. I feel great. My body is healing itself.

Sam: In that fight I thought I saw a few wrinkles from B-Hop [Bernard Hopkins]. In particular the straight right hand followed by the quick footwork after the right.

Oquendo: We both did some work down at the 5th Street Boxing Gym and of course you pick up something from a fighter with footwork like Bernard. That was some veteran footwork moves I used on the 25th.

Sam: So, like Hopkins, you have been able to maintain a high level by living a clean life and staying in shape. Some fighters, however, like [Andre] Berto and [Lamont] Peterson and even [James] Toney and [Shane] Mosley have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. What do you feel about that and what those fight cancelations have done for the sport lately?

Oquendo: Unfortunately, these guys are being misguided and misled by whoever is advising them and they’re not good people and it’s real sad. It’s become a black eye for the sport and it’s gotta be stopped. Guys like myself are the poster-child for what’s right and if you work hard, take care of your body the right way, and supplement your body the right way you can have a great long career and life like me and Bernard Hopkins.

Sam: So you think the fighters were taken advantage of? What do you mean by that?

Oquendo: Well, those guys like Berto are working with people like [Victor] Conte who have been in trouble and to be working with someone like that it just shows how naive some of these guys are and it’s sad. They still need to be responsible for what they did.

Sam: What do you think about fighters who won’t take the drug tests?

Oquendo: They got something to hide and they are guilty of not keeping the sport clean and they should be prosecuted for that.

Sam: So, as far as you regiment, how has it changed or how is it at 39?

Oquendo: Oh, man, I’ve been on a strict diet. For the last five years I’ve been taking blood tests to see what works well with by body and what reacts right. Everything that you eat is not healthy. Something might be healthy for one person but not another. For me, dairy and some nuts don’t work good, so I have to take other things like Almond Milk or other natural supplements and I think they have helped sustain me to this point in my career.

Sam: Alright, let’s talk about the ring. Who are you working with now in the corner?

Oquendo: Nate Jones, the 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist who is Floyd Mayweather’s assistant trainer, my old nemesis, my old foe from the amateur days. A great trainer and a great friend who is here training me.

Sam: How has that relationship been through the years?

Oquendo: Aw, it’s been great. We have stayed close. He was a great amateur. Unfortunately, his career did not blossom in the pros. That just goes to show that some amateurs don’t get that opportunity to blossom in the pros. For me, I didn’t get that medal in the Olympics but I blossomed in the pros. It was tailor made for me, and I’ve been top ten for fifteen years.

Sam: Fifteen years is a long time to be in the top ten. A long time. One thing I gotta say about older fighters who make it though is that they are technically sound. Hopkins is technically sound. [Antonio] Tarver is technically sound, Toney and even [Ronald Wright]Winky who we’ll see this weekend to see if there is anything left is technically sound. Other fighters like Roy Jones and Shane Mosley who relied on speed and reflexes have really declined once the raw speed and reflexes were gone.

Oquendo: Yeah you’re right. Being technical will give you more time.

Sam: Here’s another question about aging fighters. Are you guys still able to compete because of being technically sound and what you guys are doing to stay healthy or is it more that this generation of young fighters just isn’t that good?

Oquendo: No, this generation is good. I don’t want to say anything bad about this generation or take anything away from this generation. I think they are good. We have the experience of everything in and out of the ring and we now take care of our bodies, but there are some good young fighters. Victories like mine last week and Hopkins’s over [Jean] Pascal show that if you say “no” to drugs and stay true to yourself anything is possible.

Sam: What about the other man in your corner all of these years? Your brother?

Oquendo: My brother Henry. That’s my right hand man. My Shadow. My inspiration. We’ve been through all of our trials and tribulations and we’ve hung together since day one. He makes me proud. He’s getting his Master’s degree. I am very proud. When we get our stable of fighters at my gym, they are going to have me training and my brother and team helping them out so we can do it right for these kids. Do it honest.

Sam: How does your relationship with your whole team compare to your team when you were younger?

Oquendo: We got great chemistry. Tom Tsatas is a strong core and Nate as a trainer and my brother Hector Morales with my legal team keep everything moving the right way and they keep me focused and away from all of the distractions.

Sam: Seeing that things are going well, how much longer do you plan to fight?

Oquendo: Oh, not too long. I mean I love the sport and I feel great even better than when I was in my twenties but not too long. Maybe two to three fights but not more than two or three years. Only God knows. I want that elusive title then I’ll run off to the sunset.

Sam: Most of the public views you as a champ the day you dominated Byrd. How does that make you feel?

Oquendo: It feels great knowing that everyone knows what happened but that needs to change in boxing. These judges and promoters are corrupt, and they’re giving a black eye to the sport. It’s about time that judges started getting suspended. In my fight with Mormeck everyone knows I won. Rafael called it a candidate for worst decision of the year and that guy got a huge payday to fight one of the Klitschkos while guys like me who are the poster-child for doing things the right way are getting left behind. That won’t happen to me again. I was pimped out there, and I won’t let that happen again.

Sam: I am with you 100%. One of the judges who was suspended was from the [Paul]Williams-[Erislandy]Lara fight. What do you think about what happened to Williams?

Oquendo: It’s real sad. He was a good fighter, and it just goes to show how dangerous motorcycles can be. You can be doing everything right and someone texting while driving can ruin it all. I wish him a quick recovery.

Sam: What about the other sad news of ring legend [Johnny] Tapia?

Oquendo: Oh, that’s real sad. He was a good Latin boxer and a nice guy. The autopsy will be out soon. He we went to the dark side from time to time so I hope he has finally found peace. My thoughts are with the family.

Sam: Well, let’s get to it. This is what the fans want to know about Oquendo: Who do you want next?

Oquendo: Again, my big goal is the Klitschkos, but if that doesn’t materialize then a big money fight with one of the contenders like [Chris] Arreola, [Seth] Mitchel, [Bryant] Jennings, or [Tomas] Adamek. The question is whether their people would put them against me, so in the meantime I need to stay active. I’ll get a shot soon. They can’t avoid me forever.

Sam: I’d love to see you in a classic Mexican vs. Puerto Rican matchup especially in September, but I’d also like to see you in a mega Chicago showdown against Adamek that I think would sell well because of the large Puerto Rican and Polish populations in Chicago.

Oquendo: Yeah, that’d be nice. I’d take either fight. My choice would be Arreola because of the Machismo vs. the Sweet Science and I know I’d take him because we sparred and I took him to school. But I am going to Poland soon for a promotion with Roy Jones and his Square Ring Promotions so maybe there will be a possibility with Adamek. Me and him are two fast and athletic heavyweights. That would be awesome in Chicago.

Sam: I think you and Adamek are both crazy enough to take that fight in order to prove your greatness.

Oquendo: Of course, of course. We’re both fighters.

Sam: If the big fight doesn’t come, which I think it will by the end of the year, but if it doesn’t come and you hung up the gloves today, how would you feel about your career?

Oquendo: I’d feel good. I’ve accomplished a lot and I am very proud of what I have done in the ring. To this day, everyone still calls me champ because they know I got robbed. I still have my health, which is not something every boxer has. I am also proud of what I have been able to do outside of the ring.

I fought my way out of the Chicago Housing Projects through boxing to avoid gangs and drugs. I have given back to Chicago and I am starting a not-for-profit in Chicago’s Humbodlt Park community called the Fres Oquendo Boxing Academy (FOBA) that will help kids of Chicago stay out of trouble and learn about the sweet science and how to take care of themselves the right way. Kids in Chicago, like I was, don’t have access to education about how to take care of themselves the right way and this academy will help them for free and teach them to build confidence and self-esteem through the sweet science. Please check it out at www.fobaintl.org.

I would be very happy with my career if it ended today. I have given back to the community, and I have a beautiful family and they are proud of me and what I have done for them. If I left tomorrow, I already have my transition plan with the not-for-profit FOBA. I am very blessed.

Sam: Before we go, I wanted to ask which fighters you like to watch?

Oquendo: Manny Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather…

Sam: Who wins that fight?

Oquendo: They both got distinctive styles. It’s very interesting. Um, I’d give the edge to Floyd. You know, I’m a technical fighter myself and Floyd is a more technical fighter.

Sam: What about the heavyweights?

Oquendo: Um, that’s tough. Not many are good to watch.

Sam: Thanks a lot for the time, Fres. So, one more time. Who would you want most out of Arreola, Adamek, and Mitchell.

Oquendo: The Puerto Rican vs. Mexican matchup is what the fans want. Machismo vs the Sweet Science! Let’s do it for Mexican Independence Day on September 15th.

In 2003, Oquendo should have become the first heavyweight champion from Latin America, but he was on the losing end of one of the worst decisions in boxing history against Chris Byrd for the IBF Heavyweight Championship. Now, after years of proving himself but still finding his way onto the losing end of controversial decisions, Oquendo is nearing the end of an impressive career in which he is searching for one or two major fights to solidify himself as one of the top heavyweights of his era.

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

3 opponents for Saul “Canelo” Alvarez other than James Kirkland

Saul AlvarezSince the tragic motorcycle accident that appears to have paralyzed Paul “The Punisher” Williams, one of this generation’s most exciting fighters, the handlers of rising superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez have been searching for the ideal September 15th replacement in order to produce a mega fight that not only brings in the dollars but also establishes Alvarez as a true 154lb champion.

While it seems as though Golden Boy Promotions has already chosen to go with one of their worthy fighters in James Kirkland (31-1, 27KOs), who may or may not be suffering from a serious shoulder injury come fight time, the three fighters below represent matchups that are also worthy of consideration and might produce more money and more excitement if marketed correctly.

In evaluating fighters for Alvarez for the September 15th card, one must weigh his lack of experience against top-level 154lb fighters against the potential financial and legacy-building rewards of a win or loss against the fighters on this list. That is why, for example, Miguel Cotto (37-3, 30 KOs) is number one while Carlos Molina (19-5-2, 6KOs) and Erislandy Lara (16-1-1, 11KOs) do not even appear on this list. Simply put, Cotto will bring the most to the table in all respects while Lara and Molina present huge risks that do not offer any of the financial or career-building rewards.

And, finally, the list: Three opponents for Alvarez other than Kirkland

1. Miguel Cotto (37-3, 30KOs)

On the weekend that celebrates Mexico’s Independence, I can think of no greater matchup than that of Mexico’s biggest star against Puerto Rico’s living legend. While Cotto’s skillset and experience are far beyond that of the young Alvarez and Cotto would definitely be favored, if Alvarez is the prospect that many of us, including myself, think he is, he should put up a good showing and might even sneak by with a close and controversial decision. While Cotto looked impressive in his loss to Floyd “Money” Mayweather (43-0, 26KOs), Alvarez deserves serious consideration for pulling off a close fight or a decision victory for the simple fact that Cotto is not really a true 154lb fighter. Despite the marketing that was done in the lead-up to his mega fight with Mayweather, Cotto has beaten only one true 154lb fighter in the grossly light-handed Yuri Foreman (28-2, 8KOS). Considering the money and the stardom that could be gained from a win, loss, or draw and considering that everyone agrees that Alvarez is a beatable fighter, I think it would be wise to cash-in go for Cotto if he’ll take it. In fact, I think you could make it an all Mexican vs. Puerto Rican card by pitting Alfredo Angulo (20-2, 17KOs) against Carlos Quintana (29-3, 23KOs) and Chris Arreola (35-2, 30KOs), who is a Dan Goosen fighter like Paul Williams so there shouldn’t be any conflicts, against Fres Oquendo (34-7, 22KOs) in what would certainly rival the Pay-Per-View buys of any Mayweather or Pacquiao card.

2. Carlos Quintana (29-3, 23KOs)

While a matchup with the slick southpaw from Puerto Rico could be risky and doesn’t present all of the rewards of a Cotto fight, a victory over Quintana, which seems likely considering Quintana’s difficulties in taking clean shots and handling good pressure fighters, should establish Alvarez as a legitimate champion at 154lb while earning him another title and invaluable experience against a crafty southpaw. In addition, the Mexican vs. Puerto Rican theme could also help sell this matchup.

3. Vanes Martirosyan (32-0, 20KOs)

Of the fights available to Alvarez, I think the Martirosyan matchup is the least appealing because he lacks the big name and hasn’t really defeated anyone of quality nor has he shown a willingness to take on anyone of quality with the exception of Alvarez to show that he deserves this opportunity on what could be one of boxing’s biggest nights of 2012. Having said that, he has been calling out Alvarez and he has “earned” his ranking with the WBC as their number one contender. If rankings meant anything to the WBC, Martirosyan would be the one to get this shot.

*If the winner of Cornelius Bundradge (31-4, 18KOs) vs. Cory Spinks (39-6, 11KOs) on June 30th were able and willing to fight, I would love to see him instead of Martirosyan at number three.

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

Oquendo wins by TKO, results from Hammond, IN

Fres Oquendo“Fast” Fres Oquendo of Chicago, IL, who is trying to work his way into a major fight with one the top ten heavyweights, showed that at age 39 and despite more than one year removed from a full fight, he his still quick enough with his jab and crafty enough with his counters to challenge anyone by stopping a very strong and surprisingly fast-handed Joey Abell from Everett, WA in the ninth round to capture the WBA Fedelatin Heavyweight Championship.

While there was give and take throughout the fight, towards the end of the third round, a round in which Oquendo was credited with a knockdown because the ropes held up Abell, Oquendo’s jab and ability to counter changed the momentum of the fight. Although Abell’s corner and many ringside felt that the fight might have been prematurely stopped, Oquendo was clearly on his way to stopping Abell, who was bleeding from the eyes, nose, and mouth. Oquendo improved to 34-7 with 21KOs while Abell fell to 28-6 with 27KOs.

After the fight Oquendo called out all fighters but called out Seth Mitchell, Chris Arreola, and the Klitschkos by name. Unfortunately, despite an impressive showing, after the fight Abell posted “I lost and I retire” on Facebook.

Other Results:
Elijah McCall of Basset, VA overcame adversity in the middle rounds to stop a gritty Stan Allen of Gary, IN in the sixth round with a dynamic right hand. McCall, who is trained by Nate Jones and his father, former heavyweight champion of the world, Oliver McCall, improved his record to 9-1-1 with 8KOS while Allen fell to 5-4 with 3KOs.

In an unimpressive pro debut, Nick Ramirez now 0-0-1 of Rockford, IL fought to a majority draw against Southpaw Lorenzo Wilson now 1-1-2 of Indianapolis, IN. One judge scored it 39-37 for Ramirez while the other two scored it 38-38.

Meegal Harper of Chicago Heights, IL maintained his undefeated record and moved to 6-0 with 6KOs with a third round TKO of a very game but clearly overmatched Guy Packer of Battle Creek, MI who moved to 4-37-2.

Donatas Bondorovas of Chicago, IL improved to 15-3-1 with 4KOs by stopping Ramon Valenzuela Jr. of Chicago with 2:38 remaining in the second round in a crowd-pleasing brawl. Ramon Valenzuela, who carried the first round, fell to 7-1 with 1KO.

David Martin III of Hobart, IN overcame a flat first round to score a TKO in the fourth round over a very game and large Tim Washington of Toledo, OH in what appeared to be an early stoppage. Martin improved to 6-0 with 5KOs while Washington fell to 0-2.

After the main event, Emerson Chasing Bear improved to 5-3-2 with 3KOs with an unimpressive and lackluster win over an exhausted looking Phiillip Triantafillo who fell to 2-1 with 1KO.

To close the night, fan favorite Mike Jimenez of Chicago, IL improved to 7-0 with 4KOs in a third round stoppage of Adrian Hermann of Everett, WA who fell to 3-4-1 with 1KO.

By Sam Geraci, Ringside
Photo: Jaime Ramirez