May 27, 2015

PBC on NBC TV — KO Behind the Scenes in Boston for The Sweet Science

Grand Slam on the Grandstand
BOSTON — Covering the PBC on NBC show in Boston last week was hard work but it was very rewarding. I'd like to tell you some more about what that was like for me to be there and to do that. For the first time since creating the KO Digest in 2010, I (Jeffrey Freeman) was credentialed under a different media outlet (The Sweet Science) and I was working for somebody else (Michael Woods). As my friends and loyal readers in the boxing community know, I set the bar very high for all things media related but this live coverage assignment needed to be taken to the next level. That much I was very stressfully aware of.

Unaware of exactly how I'd go about achieving this end, I took the advice of my editor to "be the artist" and trust my instincts. It all worked out splendidly. 

That creative effort began for me at Fenway Park on Thursday for the final press conference before the Saturday afternoon card on nearby Comm Ave May 23.

Dirrell, the Greatest, Micky Ward, and DeGale
Like a Red Sox player on the base paths, I ran around the ball park talking to everybody, making impressions, and obtaining quotes and pictures. I took full advantage of the opportunities for one-on-one interactions with main event participants James DeGale and Andre Dirrell. It was during these exchanges that I worked side-by-side with USA Today's Mike Coppinger and others.

I also enjoyed a great conversation with "Magic Man" Paulie Malignaggi and even got a close-up look at that fatefully sliced left eyelid of his. As a cut, I've seen much worse but I could now see with my own eyes why his Brooklyn Brawl at the Barclays Center against Danny O'Connor had to be scrapped.

I met international media members from across the pond and close to home. On a media sign-in sheet that was left out by the entrance of Gate E on Lansdowne Street, I somehow managed to beat the UK's "Sky Sports" but not Cary Shuman from the Independent Newspaper Group. Imagine that. Having covered my fair share of boxing press conferences for KO Digest, I can say without question that this one at Fenway Park for TSS was the best and most fun. The free food was pretty good too by the way in the form of a full buffet of Fenway Franks with all the fixings.

On a belly full of Beantown bites, I covered the final presser like it was my job, because frankly, it was. 

Baytown in Beantown
The weigh-in on Friday at Faneuil Hall was more of the same. For any boxing reporter or photographer worth his or her salt, this was a target rich environment. After taking some more great photographs, I spent my time there conducting on the spot interviews with some of the undercard fighters such as Spike O'Sullivan, Ryan Kielczweski, Danny O'Connor, Chris Gilbert, Logan McGuiness, and Baytown, Texan Craig "El Gato Negro" Baker. Sporting a "Flip The Bird" Larry Bird T-shirt, Baker gets my vote for "most fun fighter to talk to" a day before a big boxing match. Baker, who was stopped in three rounds by Edwin "La Bomba" Rodriguez, sat right next to me in front of the weigh-in stage while he waited for his time to go up there and hit the scale. After I took a shot of him in his cool shirt, Baker posted it on social media and we watched as the likes and comments poured in.

As a native Texan, I felt a responsibility to make Baker feel welcomed in my city.

When I arrived at the venue on Saturday around noon, I parked in a special media lot that was only $5 for the day. As I gathered my things and got ready to make the short walk over to the Agganis Arena, an arriving vehicle honked its horn. It was good friend and fight photographer Pattee Mak. We chatted it up on the short walk to pick up our press passes. As we made our way from the credentialing desk to the ring, we passed through the "backstage" area of the entire PBC production team. There was a spot to stop and take photos with the NBC on PBC logos as a staged backdrop. From there, it was into the arena which was still being set up. Before taking my seat in pressrow, I took a few minutes to converse with fellow early-bird Lee Groves. The Ring Magazine's Travelin' Man was there to count punches for COMPUBOX and he gave me an impromptu verbal preview of the article he was working on for RingTV about his time spent working in Boston.

I'm eager to get down to work - Photo by Pattee Mak
Before you knew it, the Agganis Arena was filling up and the fights were officially underway at 1:38 PM. One undercard bout quickly turned into another and then another. There were four first-round knockouts and two that went the distance. Before you knew it, it was 4:30 PM and the show was going live on NBC television. With tunnel vision, I blocked out all the distractions and wrote about DeGale vs. Dirrell while simultaneously scoring it round by round. In the end, I had it 116-110 for DeGale. It was only afterwards that I came to realize some people on social media had it a draw or a Dirrell win.

I'm still not sure what fight they were looking at. 

When there were no more boxing matches left to cover and no more quality content available to gather, I packed up my media bag and said my goodbyes to friends and colleagues. Fellow boxing writer Steve Tobey tried to convince me that he was retiring from fight writing after many years of service but I didn't want to believe him. With good friend and boxing publicist Bob Trieger by my side, we made our way from the ringside press section towards the area where I first came in. What better place to depart the premises I thought. It was a good thing I did that.

As we walked towards the service exit, I suddenly saw James DeGale and his British posse as they emerged from the dressing room to leave the venue. I knew I had to approach DeGale and talk to him about the fight, that my job as a journalist was not complete. As I did, somebody from his team made a halfhearted attempt to stop me but DeGale immediately recognized me from our fight week interactions and "Chunky" gave a subtle nod that it was OK I talk to him. And so that's just exactly what happened.

Exclusive access to the new IBF champ
After covering a televised world championship bout in Boston, I walked and talked with the new super middleweight champion of the world, interviewing him for my Sweet Science article, all the while curious to see that IBF championship title belt that seemed to be banned from the PBC promotion and from the NBC telecast.

Where is your new title belt I asked DeGale?

It was in a small locked case that his Dad was carrying for him. With British boxing promoter Eddie Hearn looking on, DeGale then stopped and removed the beautiful red belt before posing with it for me just outside the building nearby an ambulance parked on standby.

An hour or so later, I was home filing my ringside report for TSS. 

Thanks for reading. See you at the fights my friends!

Images & Words by Jeffrey Freeman

May 7, 2015

Willie Monroe Jr. has boxing genetics on his side against Gennady Golovkin

The Mongoose says he's the one to upset Triple G
By Jeffrey Freeman — Willie Monroe Jr., 19-1, 6 KO's, is a very confident middleweight contender going into his May 16 challenge of WBA champion Gennady Golovkin, 32-0, 29 KO's, at the Forum in Inglewood, California. "This is the fight I asked for. Golovkin is the best." At just 28 years of age, Monroe Jr. cites Sugar Ray Leonard, Pernell Whitaker, and Roy Jones Jr. as his primary boxing influences. "The guys I look up to are fast and elusive and can do special things that other fighters can't pull off, and in such a pretty fashion." 

Born to a fighting family, Monroe's great uncle Willie "The Worm" Monroe was the first, and some say only fighter to ever conclusively defeat the great Marvin Hagler, doing so by unanimous decision in 1976 in Philadelphia. As you can imagine, there's persistent confusion about who's who and how they're related.

Monroe's father, also named Willie Monroe, was, as described by his son, "a good middleweight" in the 1990's.

Great Uncle Willie handled Hagler in 76
Monroe Jr. says that boxing is in his blood and that after he wins the Golovkin fight on May 16, he'll give the sporting world a deeper look into his personal life, about which he says, "I've been the underdog since I was conceived in my mother's womb. I mean that literally. I'm one of those people who's always looking to prove people wrong. I relish being the underdog."

Does Monroe Jr. know he's an off the board underdog, expected by nobody to be able to defeat the marauding Golovkin, a winner of 19 straight by knockout, with 13 of those KO's in defense of the WBA title Monroe Jr. will soon fight for?

Of course he does. It just doesn't seem to bother him one bit.

"I'm the one who can take Golovkin's cloak of invincibility."

Big Drama Show or another KO for GGG?

May 6, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VIII — The #MayPac "Money Grab" wrap-up

The Farce of the Century
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao turned out to be so much worse as a fight, and as an event, than any of us could've imagined. It's still hard to believe something so big could suck so bad. The undercard was terrible. The promotion was next to nonexistent. Any relationship between the two boxers was long ago reduced to contempt and then chronic disinterest. This was not a rivalry. This was not the biggest fight in boxing history. This was a money grab, a fleecing, a shameful shake-down and boxing got shook up. 

The "fight" itself was so terrible they actually killed the allure of a rematch. They couldn't even get that right. Can you believe it? The three hundred million dollar men delivered a final product not worthy of the novice class Golden Glove semi-finals in Lowell. It was all so bad that not only don't we want a sequel, we'd all like to go back and undemand this debacle, a waste of space on my DVR so foul I deleted it to make room for the movie Grudge Match.

Duran and Leonard put on a better show in 1989
DKSAB — Scour the world wide web long enough and you will read and see things that defy belief. Two girls, one cup. Creation science websites. Mass beheading videos. The list goes on and on. And now, the latest in online insanity. Brace yourselves. I'm going to say this very slowly so it doesn't knock you down where you stand. Get ready. Here it comes. There are actually people out there on planet Earth who scored the Mayweather-Pacquiao whitewash for Pacquiao. Let that sink in. Try not to scream. I know it hurts. My head aches too.

Obviously, Floyd won at least 9, but maybe even 10 or 11 rounds and yet despite this, Al Gore's internet will show you misguided scores of 115-113 for Pacquiao like this was Marvin Hagler-Sugar Ray Leonard and not the Leonard-Duran III redux it obviously was. KO scored it 117-111 for Mayweather in a waltz.

A picture worth a thousand words and 300 million dollars
Class Dismissed — The ultimate lesson of ‪#‎MayPac‬ was heard (and learned) loud and clear by every single prizefighter in the world of professional boxing who dreams of low risks and big rewards. That lesson was that when boxing fans actually want to see you and some other guy fight it out in your primes, no matter what you do and no matter what people say; don't fight that fight, at least not right away. Instead, what you do is wait, delay, duck, dodge, put it off, and build it up. Then when sports fans worldwide are finally ready to fork over the really big bucks, you grab that cash with both hands and give them a pay-per-view sparring session.

The Last Words KO wrote one very wrongheaded prediction on RingTV's "Fight Picks" by Anson Wainwright but also lots of foreboding pre-fight analysis for ‪#‎MayCrap, the greatest fleece in boxing history. What follows was my best and most accurate:

Mayweather left boxing fans wanting less


"It's no secret that Floyd Mayweather is a defensive counterpuncher who looks to minimize contact and do just enough punching to win boxing matches. Mayweather will not expose himself to a firefight if it's not absolutely necessary and the onus is on Manny Pacquiao to make it absolutely necessary."

"Mayweather, 38, against Pacquiao, 36, on May 2 is an overdue money grab and the fight itself comes with a high probability of being boring to the eyes. The least they could do is make the build-up exciting for fight fans and enticing to mainstream sports fans who long ago abandoned boxing."

April 19, 2015

Ringside Report — Lucas Matthysse busts up and beats Ruslan Provodnikov

Boxing Warriors Invade Verona
VERONA, NEW YORK — Believe it or not, not every fight in the world of boxing is fought for a worthless title belt or a whopping pile of cash. While it's true that the sport of boxing is a business, for Lucas "The Machine" Matthysse and Ruslan "The Siberian Rocky" Provodnikov, it's the hurt business. There was no junior welterweight championship at stake tonight at the Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY., and their collective paydays for the bout are comparable in amount to what Floyd "Money" Mayweather would need just to pay a very small percentage of his soon to be even more massive tax burden.

Matthysse and Provodnikov both fight for the gory-fisted glory that can can only be won when engaged in Fight of the Year type performances. This is who they really are - warriors. In 2013, Provodnikov (24-4, 17 KO's) battled American Timothy "Desert Storm" Bradley to a close decision loss in the "KO Digest Fight of the Year" and in 2014, the Argentine Matthysse (37-3, 34 KO's) stopped John Molina Jr. in the eleventh round of a knockdown, drag out, slobberknocker to win the highly coveted "Ring Magazine Fight of the Year" award. 

It's easy then to see why boxing fans were so excited to see these willing warriors go at it. Both boxers are best described as brawlers and neither man is the type to take a backwards step. The match-up immediately begged the question of what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object. That is why anticipation was so high for their April 18 clash at the Turning Stone Casino in upstate New York, a somewhat curious location for a pairing that was preemptively being compared to the unforgettable drama witnessed a decade ago in three epic fights between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. During fight week in Verona, the pre-fight promotion shifted to Hagler-Hearns comparisons due to the fact that it coincided with the thirtieth anniversary of their unforgettable April 15, 1985 WAR in Las Vegas. According to Derek Bonnett of SecondsOut.com, HBO's Jim Lampley was spotted on the afternoon of the fight at the nearby International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota comparing it to Brandon Rios against Mike Alvarado.

Matthysse wins the war on HBO
In the ring on Saturday night, Matthysse and Provodnikov lived up to all the expectations in front of a capacity crowd that was frenzied from the very beginning. Provodnikov came to the ring to the sounds of "Burning Heart" by Survivor and the tone was set for a Rocky night of boxing. Provodnikov did his part by blocking jabs with his face like the "Italian Stallion" against Apollo Creed. Matthysse couldn't miss with it and he jumped out to an early lead by keeping the fight in the middle of the ring where he controlled the pace with the jab and follow-up power punches. A clash of heads in the second resulted in a nasty gash over the left eye of Provodnikov and it bled all night. In the fourth, Provodnikov won his first round by pressing the action and landing his left hook. Matthysse took back control and won the next five rounds by being more accurate with his punches than the onrushing Provodnikov. In the tenth round, a mouse appeared under the right eye of Mattysse and Provodnikov closed the fight strong, winning the last three rounds by forcing his left hook into the fight and onto the face of Matthysse. In the eleventh, Mattysse was visibly hurt for the first time in the fight and it looked like a significant shift in tide was taking place.

Provodnikov's face tells the story of the night
In the end, it wasn't enough and Matthysse was awarded a majority decision win by scores of 114-114, 115-113, and 115-113. HBO's Harold Lederman scored the fight a draw, while KO Digest scored it 116-112 from press row in favor of Matthysse. At the post-fight press conference, Provodnikov apologized profusely to his fans for failing to win the fight and he wore a dejected look of disappointment on his badly bruised face. "It was a close fight, but the better man won. Send me a rematch contract and I'll sign it," said Provodnikov. 

Matthysse bluntly acknowledged to the media present that he was "hurt" in the eleventh round and "tired" in the last three frames and he also noted how difficult it was to slow Provodnikov down in the ring. "I knew he was going to keep coming forward and I prepared for that and I won the fight."

Images and Words by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

April 15, 2015

The Reflections of a Brocktonian Paperboy -- Extra! Extra! Read all about it

Hagler wins the WAR against Hearns
By Jeffrey Freeman — In 1985, there was no internet.

It was a different world 30 years ago. News and information was passed by word of mouth and on the printed page. Things were not as immediate as they are today in the age of social media and online reporting. Newspapers were the primary source of dispatch and most regular people had a paperboy who delivered it to their front door 7 days a week. Growing up in Brockton, Massachusetts, a massive paper route was my first job. I made about $150 a week with tips. I was 15 years old and used the money to buy boxing magazines and other youthful treasures like comic books and baseball cards. 

I had over 100 subscribers to the Brockton Enterprise and another 100 or so for the Boston Globe. Some people got both papers. Others got just the Sunday editions. It was a lot to keep track of and a lot of "pulp non-fiction" to go door to door with but I enjoyed it more than you can imagine, being the bearer of all the latest news.

8 minutes of fistic fury
The Boston Globe was a morning paper. The Brockton Enterprise was an afternoon paper. Sunday mornings were a nightmare for me and my ten-speed bicycle. The big stacks of fat Sunday papers that were waiting for me at the end of my driveway when I woke up at 4AM was an intimidating sight to behold. However, one day in particular stands out for me as a young news carrier. That was Tuesday, April 16, 1985. The Monday night before in Las Vegas, Nevada, "our guy" Marvelous Marvin Hagler had knocked out Thomas "Hitman" Hearns in the third round of an instant classic to retain his World Middleweight Championship and make his mark on history.

Brockton Enterprise Victory Edition April 16, 1985
And so it came to pass that during the early morning hours of April 16, it was my distinct honor and privilege to deliver the front page, good news to the waking people of Brockton (in my south side neighborhood anyway) that our hometown Marvelous One was indeed still champion of the whole wide world and winner of the most exciting prizefight in middleweight boxing history.

Later that day after high school in the City of Champions, I proudly did it all over again with the Brockton Enterprise. It only occurs to me now that when it comes to the timely delivery of boxing news, I've been at this for a very long time.

As always my friends in fistiana, thank you for reading.

April 7, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VII — Countdown to Mayweather VS Pacquiao

#MayPac
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest 

April 6 — No press tour for Mayweather vs Pacquiao is a mistake.

The "biggest fight in boxing history" is just 27 days away and I bet you haven't heard it being talked about at the water-cooler once. Superfights are supposed to get the world talking and the people buzzing. Well, the world is awfully quiet about this one. The "big lie" in this promotion (if you can even call it a promotion) is the notion that this fight "sells itself" so they don't have to even bother. Nothing but drugs and hookers sell themselves in Las Vegas. Boxing matches, even really big ones, still need to be hyped, especially in a down economy. The truth is, boxing just does not matter to the world like it once did. Of course, addicted boxing fans will buy it like a strung out junkie buys heroin and cigarettes but most people are not addicted to boxing and most people don't care one way or another because there's no reason for them to care. Nobody is selling it to them as the "Fight of the Century", only assuming they'll buy it for whatever price they ultimately decide on for the pay-per-view. Ali vs Frazier or Hagler vs Hearns this is certainly not. Those were highly anticipated global events made even bigger and more fun by proper promotion. Then the fights themselves were amazing. Bottom line, Americans don't support Floyd Mayweather across nationalistic lines and Manny Pacquiao is from a far away land that most people don't care to understand.

Mayweather, 38, against Pacquiao, 36, on May 2 is an overdue money grab and the fight itself comes with a high probability of being boring to the eyes. The least they could do is make the build-up exciting for fight fans and enticing to mainstream sports fans who long ago abandoned boxing. KO still loves it though and here's what to expect in Vegas. 

KO Digest Previews Mayweather vs Pacquiao

Money Meeting Manny in Miami 
First and foremost, this match-up will be about offense versus defense.

Manny will be the more aggressive fighter. Floyd will be the more defensive boxer. The product of these styles, and how well they are imposed, will determine a winner. We'll see a super fast Superfight, a southpaw against right handed counterpuncher. Don't expect to see Mayweather's lead right land with regularity. That punch won't be there for Money because Manny won't be there to get hit with it. Floyd's jab will have to be razor sharp and his left hooks hard and accurate. Pacquiao must be a non-stop punching machine from every angle he can wrangle. The Filipino promises to break Floyd's D and take his O.  

Pound For PoundIrish Micky Ward talks to KO about the best fighter on the planet — "There's only one Floyd Mayweather. Everyone tries to be like him, he's the best. He's leaps and bounds ahead of everyone even at his age. It's incredible how he works so hard, that's why he is who he is. People don't see how dedicated that kid is. He's proven himself over and over."

Opponents often speak of how tiring it is to keep up with Pacquiao in the ring. American Tim Bradley has elite level conditioning and was exhausted after four rounds in both of his fights against Pacquiao. If Manny can "beat the brakes" off Mayweather early and wear him out, the fight will be his for the taking. If Mayweather can impose his defensive advantages and turn them into offensive opportunities, he will win the bout on points. What I am expecting is a legacy struggle. Both combatants are in that rarest of position in the sport of boxing where a win is worth so much more than just a world title belt or a better place in the current pound for pound ratings. This one is for "all time" history and perhaps it will be the fighter most aware of what's truly at stake who will win.

Head to Head
Ten Key Categories

Defense: Mayweather
Power: Pacquiao
Chin: Mayweather
Accuracy: Mayweather
Hand Speed: Pacquiao
Legs: Mayweather
Foot Speed: Pacquiao
Training Quality: Pacquiao
Elite Experience: Pacquiao
Counterpunching: Mayweather
 


PREDICTION: Does it help to carry the hopes and dreams of an entire nation into battle with you? Can Mayweather beat Pacquiao—and "Pride of Dedham, MA" Freddie Roach? Yes and no. Pacquiao somehow scores a tricky balance knockdown early for a critical 10-8 round and wins a close split decision. Offense overcomes defense but not by much. There will be those who say Mayweather won and those who agree with the Las Vegas judges. Maybe there will be a rematch and maybe there won't be, but when history looks back on the whole of Mayweather and Pacquiao, it will remember who tried to avoid the fight—and who finally won it.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Someday they'll get it on and settle it then
Amir Khan still doesn't want to fight Tim Bradley. It's now being reported that Khan turned down a proposed 2015 Bradley bout in favor of facing Chris Algieri. Back in 2011, when Bradley was in training for the Joel Casamayor fight, I asked "Desert Storm" about Khan, queried who's ducking who, and quizzed Bradley on their history of going back and forth but never fighting.

Bradley told KO, "One day, me and Khan will get it on in the ring and we can settle it then but I was supposed to fight Khan way before, in fact I was supposed to fight him after I fought Lamont Peterson but then Khan went on to sign with Golden Boy and Golden Boy didn't want no part of it. He ducked me first! We tried to make the deal, we kept calling but they never picked up. When the time is right, me and Khan will settle our differences, and we're gonna get it on."

According to King Khan, the time is still not right.

Lee is a never say die Irish warrior
Irish Eyes Are Smiling -- WBO middleweight champion Andy Lee keeps his promises and lives up to the lofty expectations that were set for him by late trainer and mentor Emanuel Steward. Back in 2011, when he was getting ready for the Brian Vera rematch (Vera stopped Lee in seven rounds back in 2008) I asked Lee about his recent do-or-die win against Craig McEwan in March of that year. After having live covered that memorable battle at MGM Grand Foxwoods, I was interested in Lee's outlook on the sport of boxing and where he sees himself fitting in. Are you a come-from-behind brawler or really a boxer? 

Lee told me, "I have shown in the past that I have what it takes to do both. I showed that I have what it takes to come back and dig in at the end. That [win over McEwan] gave me great belief in myself that if I have to do that, no matter how desperate the situation, I have it inside myself. There is no quit in me. I'll keep fighting until the end. If I have to go to war, I'll go to war."

Lee faces Peter Quillin on April 11 in Brooklyn on NBC. 

March 25, 2015

In Your Face — Adonis "Superman" Stevenson is focused on Sakio Bika

Knockouts sell, even on free TV
By Jeffrey Freeman — For a "piece of shit", Adonis Stevenson sure keeps his pimp hand strong and his title fight schedule busy. The WBC light heavyweight titlist is the recognized world champion of the historically action-packed 175 lb. division regardless of what Sergey Kovalev says about it or calls him on HBO. Since winning universal recognition as World Light Heavyweight Champion in 2013 with a smashing first round technical knockout of Chad Dawson, Stevenson has defended his crown four times with three of those wins coming inside the distance by way of powerful "Superman" punches. After a KO Digest "Fighter of the Year" award in 2013, Stevenson then made "bad press" headlines in 2014 for doing what nearly every other boxer in the world who matters has done, which is sign a contract with adviser Al Haymon. Rightly or wrongly, it was perceived by many as an effort to "duck" or delay a unification bout with Kovalev.

The result was an end to Stevenson's time on HBO, a "defection" to rival cable network Showtime, and an indefinite dissolution of Stevenson vs. Kovalev. After Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, there might not be a bigger fight in all of boxing that fans want to see more than Superman vs. Krusher. It has to happen for the good of the sport and Stevenson has reportedly stated that he is willing to fight Kovalev and that the highly anticipated fight will happen eventually. Until then, boxing is left with the two best light heavyweights in the world facing anyone and everyone but each other. If this scenario sounds familiar, it's because Mayweather and Pacquiao did more or less the same dance at welterweight, fighting inferior competition, before finally signing to a long overdue Superfight scheduled for May 2. To his credit, Kovalev has racked up recent wins against Bernard Hopkins and Jean Pascal but now faces the reality of boxing politics in the form of a mandatory ABC title defense against unranked, unheralded Nadjib Mohammedi. That's exactly the kind of name recognition that Stevenson was in the ring with twice last year against Andrzej Fonfara and Dmitry Sukhotskiy.

Kovalev against Stevenson is what fans want
Where Haymon has advised Stevenson after a sub-par 2014 is back to his adopted hometown of Quebec City, Canada, as part of boxing's "next big thing", Haymon's Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on primetime network television.

After drawing huge ratings for PBC's debut on NBC earlier this month, Haymon's PBC banner is now expanding and debuting again, this time on CBS, April 4, when Stevenson, 25-1, 21 KO's, puts his lineal light heavyweight championship on the line, for the fifth time, against Australian Sakio Bika, 32-6-3, 21 KO's, a former super middleweight belt holder and a notoriously dirty fighter. Fan and media reaction to the free match-up on CBS has been critical to put it mildly. For one thing, Bika has never fought at light heavyweight, and for another, he's coming off a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of WBC 168 lb. champ Anthony Dirrell. Interestingly, Stevenson himself came up from super middleweight and won the 175 lb. title in his light heavyweight debut.

Stevenson is nonetheless focused on the task at hand and claims to be free of distraction. "Bika is in my face right now. I don't see Kovalev or anybody else in my face," said Stevenson on a March 25 media conference call to promote the Bika bout. Despite the best efforts of reporters to get in Stevenson's face about a future Kovalev bout, Stevenson stuck to the carefully scripted, Haymon approved, talking points and didn't let his emotions get the best of him, saying to those who dared ask, "I don't think about Kovalev. I do want to unify the light heavyweight title but that's after Bika. My focus now is on this guy."

The Scorpion believes in himself even if nobody else does
Stevenson's Kronk trainer Sugar Hill actually likes the fight, even if boxing fans don't. "Bika comes forward. He wants to fight and Adonis loves to fight and go toe-to-toe. This is important for the maturity of Stevenson to be in the ring with a strong, determined veteran who's never been knocked out. This fight is a test and Adonis loves to be tested and I love for him to be tested as well." 

Feeling disrespected that the media is hyper-focused on Stevenson and Kovalev and not his chances to pull off the upset, Bika himself is fired up for the test. "I've been in this business a long time. I have fought the best in the world. Nobody is giving me any respect! Can I handle the big boy? Can I handle Adonis at light heavyweight? It's a big challenge but I'm sure I can. I'm very sure I'll take care of my business and win the WBC title. On April 4, you will see."

Stevenson then offered a final reminder for Bika and for Kovalev: "I'm the man at light heavyweight. I'm the Superman!"

March 1, 2015

KO Digest Interview: John Molina Jr. — “I wasn't supposed to be here”

When a loss is really a win
Articulate junior welterweight John Molina Jr. hates to lose. At anything. That includes prizefights, checkers, and trash can basketball. What's ironic is that were it not for a loss last year to Lucas Matthysse in the Ring & BWAA Fight of the Year, Molina might not be in the enviable position he now finds himself. It was against the "Machine" Matthysse that the "Gladiator" showed fight fans what he's truly capable of when a boxing match becomes a war of attrition.

Despite the 11th round defeat in the championship rounds, Molina is now on the front of boxing's long overdue return to the mainstream. His fan-friendly style is one that new primetime viewers will easily relate to. On March 7, "good guy" Molina takes on "bad guy" Adrien Broner in the first of two bouts to be aired on NBC as part of Al Haymon's new Premier Boxing Champions banner.

It's a truly big deal and Molina, 32, is well aware of what a win over Broner could do to boost his career. While it's not wise to mistake Molina's kindness for weakness, one can't help but like him as a person and as a pugilist. Molina, 27-5, 22 KO's, California, comes to fight and rarely leaves anything behind in the ring. KO Digest caught up to Molina less than two weeks before the Broner bout and found him to be unflappably affable during a 45-minute telephone conversation that came on the heels of a long day spent in Los Angeles talking to writers and reporters at a scheduled media workout. Mourning the recent losses of his grandfather Sid and good friend Andy Gee, Molina plans on dedicating his fight against Broner to Grandpa Sid and to the memory of Gee, who passed away from cystic fibrosis at the tragically young age of just 28. "I'm going to honor Andy March 7. He will be on my boxing trunks for this fight." 

Molina has five losses but does it matter?
KO Digest: How well are you adjusting to the intense media attention that now comes with fighting on the first ever Al Haymon PBC card on NBC? 

John Molina: Nothing changes. A fight is a fight. We're prepared.

KOD: How big a deal is this PBC on NBC, not just for you but for boxing?

JM: Outside the boxing community, for boxing as a whole, it's huge, because it's putting boxing back into the mainstream of sports, right where it belongs. I won't say boxing has been a black market event, but this is definitely putting it back in the mainstream—where everyone knows somebody like Peyton Manning or Kobe Bryant because of primetime TV. This will make us all more household names. Everybody is going to know who we are. Back in the day, the champion of the world was almost as big as the President of the United States.

KOD: What can you tell us about your dealings with the mysterious Al Haymon? 

JM: Al Haymon is the best manager in the business. He is an advocate for us fighters.
He has definitely enhanced my career and I am very grateful to fight under this banner and be a part of Team Haymon.

KOD: You're coming off back to back losses but that doesn't seem to matter like it might have in the past where being undefeated was the winning formula. As you prepare for the biggest fight of your life, to what do you attribute this apparent contraction?  

JM: I think it's very fitting that we're going back to the old days of boxing, given my style, and why the fans gravitate towards me. Fans root for me because I've been the underdog every which way you can imagine. I'm very grateful for that. I started late in this sport. I didn't start boxing until I was 17. I didn't turn pro until I was 24. I had only 22 amateur fights so I had to take the scenic route to get here. I wasn't supposed to be here. But I did make it and I'm showing everybody in the world that if you stick to something you apply yourself to, you can make it in life. I think that's why fans are so intrigued with my style, with how I fight. Fans enjoy it because that's exactly what it is. I'm there to fight you. I'm not there to outpoint you.  I'm there to beat you up.  Fans relate to me because of that.

KOD: You’re a pretty powerful guy and you have never been afraid to trade—you have the name "Gladiator" for a reason—but the first fight on NBC is a game changer. Is there a stronger temptation than normal for you to give viewers an all-action fight?

Al Haymon's PBC banner
JM: I'm on a grand platform of 130 million homes worldwide on primetime television, so of course I want to perform my best. I hate to lose at checkers, let alone a fight of this magnitude. We're already a known name now, and we passed a couple of humps, and so a win over Adrien Broner would catapult my career into the stratosphere and that's where I want to go. I'm a family man and this is how I provide for my family. Boxing has done nothing but wonders for me financially.  I don't ever want that to change. It wasn't always like that.

Now that we're here, I want it to stay like this forever. I don't want this lifestyle to change for my family. That's motivation enough to get me up and ready for this fight, especially being on the platform of NBC primetime television.

KOD: The main event you and Broner are fighting under on March 7 is Keith Thurman vs Robert Guerrero. 
What are your thoughts on this welterweight fight and how do you see it playing out? 

JM: Very intriguing. They're both my friends. I imagine Guerrero would be the underdog given the momentum that Thurman has built up but if he is an underdog, he's a very live one. Thurman is the young hungry guy. Some people might say he's not battle tested yet. Other people say that somebody like Guerrero will bring out the best in him. I think Guerrero is in every fight, he's a former world champion. If Thurman is not what everyone is expecting him to be, Guerrero will be the guy to reveal that to everybody, to expose that. I think Thurman, Guerrero, Broner, and myself are going to set the bar very high for the inaugural show back on NBC primetime.

KOD: Adrien "The Problem" Broner is a controversial character who elicits a very wide range of negative emotions in fans and fighters alike. He plays the villain role very well. Taking the emotions out of it, what is your assessment of Broner as a fighter?  

Boxing is back on primetime
JM: As a fighter, you cannot deny the accolades he's accomplished in the ring. He's a three time world champion and a showman, but that's completely irrelevant. I have to worry about the Adrien Broner that shows up March 7. I don't have to worry about the antics outside of the ring. As a fighter, he is very talented. He had an extensive amateur career.  I think he has some shortcomings. The reason he didn't go to the Olympics, I heard, is because he got in a little trouble when he was younger. What he's accomplished at such a young age speaks volumes about the kind of fighter he is.

Do I think I have the kryptonite to his power? Absolutely, I think our styles are going to clash very well. I'm very confident. I think he realizes he's in a real fight. No disrespect to his last two opponents, but I am not them. I don't believe that Emanuel Taylor or Carlos Molina posses the power I posses. The punches they were touching Broner with, if I touch Broner with those same punches, which we know we will, we gotta see what the outcome is going to be. The one God given ability that Broner has is hand speed, it's phenomenal, but we know what I do with hand speed. Hank Lundy had it. So did Mickey Bey, but we ended up on top in those fights.

Broner punches bag
KOD: Broner is known as quite the trash talker. The worst thing I've head him say about you is that you're a punching bag who apparently punches back. 

JM: That's actually quite big of Broner to say. That's actually a compliment given his past rants and raves for past opponents. When I heard that, I said, OK, I'm in his head, he's thinking about me. He knows he's in a real fight whether he wants to play it cool as a cucumber or not, March 7, it's irrelevant regardless of what we both say. It's going to be me and him in the ring fighting. So let me take it a step further. I'm a punching bag who can knock you out.

KOD: They say you sometimes learn more from your losses than from your wins. You've had four losses in the past two and a half years. What did you learn from your losing experiences that you can take into the Broner fight?

JM: Nobody like to lose. The Matthysse fight was actually a weird kind of oxymoron. It was like the only way in a loss where you can be a winner.  That loss catapulted my career. Matthysse was like this boogieman in the sport of boxing. The fight that came about between him and I put me on the map. That was a rare occasion where you can lose a fight but actually win. You can learn a lot from a fight like that being in there with a power punching beast like that. If I had to pick between who hits harder, Broner or Matthysse, I would say Matthysse, wouldn't you? So there is a lot you can take from a loss, but the moral of the story is sticking to everything in life. Discouragement is a key word in boxing. If you can get past that, it lends itself to anything in life. If you can get past discouragement, you're going to make it in whatever you focus your ability on. I am a first class example of getting past discouragement.

KOD: You are now best known for the Fight of the Year loss to Matthysse. You had him down twice early but he rallied back to stop you in the eleventh. The performance was valiant and earned you new fans, new respect, and new opportunities. What is it like to come so close to victory but not be able to grab it, particularly for a fighter like you, one that's known for those late round heroics?

Molina had Matthysse down but could not finish him
JM: I don't want to be the loser in anything in life. That's a fight that down the line I think we'll need to readdress and open that one back up.  The fans deserve it. Both of us fighters deserve it. That was a brutal, all-out dog fight. It could be a trilogy like Ward-Gatti or Rios-Alvarado. I can see the makings of a rubber match. Somewhere down the line I believe we're going to have to lace them up again. I think the fans will clamor for it. But yes, getting that close and not finishing on top with the win, there were some things I learned. I'm going to chalk that one up to inexperience. That was just my second time at that level. Had I known then what I know now, I think I would have stepped on the gas pedal when I actually had him hurt. When I had him hurt in the first and second rounds, I didn't realize how hurt he really was. Had I put the onslaught on like I did against Bey, I could have ended the night in the second round. I was being a little too cautious. I didn't know if he was playing possum to try and coax me in to catch me with a big shot. These are the many different variables that go through a fighter's head when you're in the ring. You're trying to read your opponent. But I'm not crying over spilled milk. Matthysse did what he had to do to get the win. Did we give the fans a treat? Absolutely. Did I learn a lot from the experience? Absolutely. It's a fight I'd want to address one more time.

Molina gives the edge to Matthysse
KOD: Matthysse vs Ruslan Provodnikov just became official for April 18 at the Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, NY. What do you think about this venue? Is it big enough to hold a fight that is already being speculated on as a Fight of the Year candidate? How do you see this one going down in the ring?

JM: Us fighters can fight in the backyard. A fight of this magnitude with these two proven warriors, I can't say I agree so much with the location. I feel it has more of a making for like a StubHub in Southern California, a location that would be more appealing to the fans. I'm sure the fighters aren't going to look too much into the location as much as they're looking to be prepared for a fight like that. This is not going to be "Dancing With The Stars" this is going to be a real hell of a fight.  I've never been in the ring with Provodnikov. I have shared the ring with Matthysse and I think he is a bit better technically. I would bet that Matthysse comes out on top. I'd tell Ruslan that as soon as he has Lucas hurt to step on the gas pedal. Don't play it back. The respect has to go out the window. Not in an ignorant or naive way where you get caught cold because you're so wide open but the respect in the ring has to be a happy medium. When you have the man hurt, finish him.

KOD: That is exactly what you did in 2013 against Mickey Bey. That tenth and final round was the consensus "Round of the Year" and you scored a dramatic come from behind knockout victory. What are your recollections on that incredible fight with Bey? 

Molina beats Bey with a tenth round TKO  
JM: Going in, my back was against the wall. A month before that, I'd lost to a guy who I was like a 15 to 1 favorite to beat but I didn't train properly against Andrey Klimov. He was set for me to go and dismantle but I didn't do it. I chalked it up to training.  I went into my promoter's office and told him, "I don't care who you get me, get me a fight. Make it happen." The next day, I get a phone call, "OK, we have a fight. Mickey Bey. You have 28 days to get ready." At this point I'm thinking Bey was an outstanding amateur, he had some roadblocks, and he got busted for the testosterone allegations that he had in Vegas. So I said send the contract and I'll sign it and I'll get ready. Then they were reluctant to take it because Bey's team was wondering why I'd sign the contract so fast, like do I know something they don't know? So my back was against the wall at this point and I needed to show the world that the Klimov loss was just a hiccup. Bey finally accepted the fight but here is the kicker. Everybody thought I was, but I wasn't making huge money at this point. Bey took the lion's share. I got paid more for hole in the wall club fights, that's how embarrassing it was.

The opportunity itself was bigger than the purse. The fight was one-sided where he was outpointing me, yes. He was fighting very technically sound. But if you watch, I was tracking him down. We both landed our shots but mine were putting more of a worse for wear on him. Before the last round, I hit him with a devastating body shot that really hurt him. I knew I was getting close to knocking him out. The tenth round came and I'm behind on all the score cards. At this point I was not with Al Haymon.  We knew that going into Floyd Mayweather's backyard in Vegas, with the most influential man himself, ringside, which is Mayweather, against his undefeated prospect, the best guy in his stable, with his promotional team, long story short, I knocked him out with 58 seconds left in the fight. That fight changed my life. I signed with Haymon and we're today fighting on the biggest event in boxing. People ask me what was going through my mind in that last round, I say, "I have a mortgage to pay! I have a daughter I want to send to college."  

KOD: Your 2012 fight against Antonio Demarco was for the WBC lightweight championship of the world. It looked like a quick stoppage in the first round before any kind of fight could even break out. Can you talk about that loss from your point of view?

JM: I think it was an inexperience issue. I messed up and got a massage 30 minutes before the fight. I don't want to blame it on that, Demarco is a hell of a fighter and a hell of a warrior. There was a lot going on behind the scene that world doesn't know. My daughter was born and five days later my mother-in-law passed away. It was an emotional gauntlet I was going through in my head. That's not to take anything away from Demarco. Were my legs buckled? Yes. Some people say it was a premature stoppage. Given the nature of the Mattysse fight, I think the world would now agree it was definitely a premature stoppage and the fight had the trimmings of another fight of the year candidate. Jack Reiss is a hell of a referee but I believe he made the wrong call that day. Had he made the right call, the world would have been treated to another fight of the year. I don't see a rematch happening. I don't see Demarco's name being what it once was to make it worthwhile. At the end of the day, boxing is a business and it needs to make financial sense. I would actually say Demarco is the nicest guy I've ever had the opportunity to share the squared circle with. To this day, we're friends.

What color is Goossen's outfit?
KOD: You're trained by Joe Goossen. What does he bring to the corner? 

JM: Joe is a soothing calm voice in the trenches of warfare. I've had my best moments with him and I've had some of my worst moments with him. He's probably forgotten more than I know in boxing after his 40 years in the business. He is the man for the job and there is a reason why we are with him. Joe is a trusted voice. In that ring, when we are at war, if he tells me the grass outside is blue, and you ask me what color the grass is, it's blue. That's how much trust you have to have in a trainer when you go into war. He's a well respected trainer and trusted set of eyes. He has the fight of the year with me and Matthysse and the fight of the decade with Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. So, he's been in this position before and he's been able to navigate though to victory. Joe knows what the heck he's doing in that ring.

KOD: Let's say you make your fans very happy by beating Adrien Broner on network television. What are your long and short term goals after March 7 and how do you see yourself blossoming into Al Haymon's Premiere Boxing Champions banner on NBC?

JM: There is not much I can say right now about after Broner. Right now, this is my fight. This is the one for me. When the dust settles, I believe this will catapult me into becoming a household name, especially on the NBC platform with 130 million homes. Broner plays a hell of a villain. People love to hate him. I've always taken the high road and the world knows that. I'm like the working class man in the sense of where everyone rallies behind me and is pushing for me. I think it's going to be quite fitting after I beat Adrien Broner, it's going to give me the name and get me all the extra accolades that I need to catapult my career to the stratosphere.

KOD: This Broner brawl at the MGM Grand in Vegas looks and feels like a "good vs evil" match-up. Is that why Al Haymon chose this fight to serve as the very first bout to be shown on network television after such a long time away from primetime airwaves?  

JM: Al knew exactly what he was doing when he put this fight together. I think it will be a brutal, barn burner. I'm going to hit him every opportunity he gives me. I'm going to bully him and make him know he's in a fight. That's the key to victory.  I believe this is classic boxing at its best. I think the world is going to see what they've been missing. There is a villain and a hero and we already know who wears what hat. I'm rightfully the underdog but I have the lottery ticket in my hand right now and I have to go cash it in.

Molina favors Mayweather to win
KOD: OK, last question. Speaking of winning lottery tickets, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are finally set to fight on May 2. They'll each make in the range of 100 million dollars. What are your thoughts on boxing's ultimate match-up and who is going to win Superfight 2015?

JM: You're not talking about the fight of the year or of the fight of the century. It's bigger than that. You're talking about the biggest fight in the history of boxing. Do I wish this happened four or five years ago? Of course. You want to see these guy at their prime peak. But, with that being said, I think casual fans are going to tune in to see the biggest fight in the history of boxing.  I think if anyone can figure out the enigma of Mayweather, Pacquiao could have some kind of recipe for destruction against Mayweather but with that said, if I have to bet with my hard earned money, you have to side with the guy that's undefeated, and that's Mayweather. If it happened four or five years ago, it would be a little closer, but I'd still see Mayweather figuring it out and getting the win.

KOD: Any final words for your fans John?

JM: I'm very thankful to them for keeping me relevant, for falling in love with my style, my never say die attitude. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to showcase my ability on the grandest stage in boxing on NBC primetime. This fight is dedicated to my grandfather Sid who just passed away and to my best friend Andy Gee who lost his battle with cystic fibrosis two weeks ago. I'm going to honor him on March 7. That really took the wind out of my sails, my little brother Andy who I grew up with. He was only 28 years old. Andy will be on my trunks for this fight. We will mourn his death after the fight but we're going to celebrate his life with a victory.

KO Digest Interview conducted, written, and produced by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest EIC

February 11, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VI — The "Undisputed Truths" Edition

Iron Mike got busted up by the Tyson Buster
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

Exactly 25 years ago today in 1990, the greatest upset in the history of boxing took place in Tokyo, Japan. A 42-1 underdog named James "Buster" Douglas shocked the sporting universe with a tenth round knockout of an "invincible" Iron Mike Tyson to lay his claim to the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World. The fight itself was incredibly dramatic, Douglas got up from an uppercut knockdown to win it for his Mom & Dad, and it all had a little touch of controversy too with the long count by referee Octavio Meyran. And just like the assassination of JFK or the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we saw it happen or heard the news. I was 20 years old, and actually walked off my job in a Brockton, MA. restaurant kitchen to rush home and watch the fight on HBO.

I requested the night off weeks in advance but they scheduled me anyway, upsetting me greatly, pun intended. It turned out OK in the end though because they hired me back the next day and I didn't miss the most unbelievable thing to have ever taken place in a boxing ring. Where were you? What were you doing? What is your Douglas-Tyson story? Share it today on KO's Facebook page.

The "Long Counts" Explained — They say that controversy is to boxing what salt and pepper are to a juicy steak, a little added spice that turns something good into something great. When defending World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson knocked down challenger Buster Douglas in the fateful eighth round of their 1990 title fight in Tokyo, Douglas was down on the canvas for somewhere between 13 and 14 actual seconds before he was up on his feet and ready to continue fighting. These are the facts and they are undisputed. This is also where things get spicy. You see, referee Octavio Meyran made a mistake. The experienced "big fight" referee failed to pick up the "official" knockdown count from the official timekeeper seated at ringside whose responsibility it was to do that. One guy did his job, the other did not. While Tyson waited in a corner during the last truly "great" moments of his boxing career, Douglas simply did what he was trained to do in this situation, he got up before the referee said "10" and counted him out.

If the fight had been held in a British ring where referees don't muck about, Douglas would surely have been counted out.

Douglas beat Tyson, King, and the count
Two rounds later, it was Tyson on the canvas. Though Meyran correctly picked up the official count for this second knockdown of the fight, the actual count also lasted somewhere between 13 and 14 real time seconds. When Tyson made it to his feet, he was in no condition to continue and Meyran mercifully stopped the title bout, hugged Tyson to keep him from collapsing, and awarded the championship victory to Buster Douglas by way of tenth round KO. So went the greatest upset in the storied history of boxing.

Now, nobody liked Tyson's crooked promoter Don King or late WBC President José Sulaimán very much, but the pair did have a case to be made ex post facto when they famously claimed a "long count" occurred in the eighth round and that Tyson was therefore still heavyweight champion because as King infamously pleaded to anyone who'd listen, "the first knockout obliterated the second knockout!" Problem was, nobody cared. The protest was doomed to failure. Tyson was a beaten villain and nobody having anything to do with him was catching a break, deserved or otherwise. In the end, the in-ring ruling of Meyran was correctly deemed to be final but this was not a manufactured controversy with no merit. A defending world champion had his challenger knocked down for more than 10 seconds from a punch and still lost the fight—and his title.

These are the facts and they are in fact, undisputed.

Lost Lies in Lowell
The never ending NBC Brian Williams fiasco reminds me of the fraud Dicky Eklund perpetuated for years in Lowell, MA. after the infamous 1978 Sugar Ray Leonard fight on HBO. During the ninth round of their memorable bout in Boston, Eklund, a one-time "Pride of Lowell" nominee, trip-pushed Leonard to the canvas and then casually stepped over his face to accentuate the point. More than just a bit disrespectful, Dicky claimed a knockdown of Sugar Ray for many years back home in the Mill City where the urban legend grew into bar room fact. There remain townies to this day who believe it was a knockdown, and tell their version of the story that way. The exaggeration was all so unnecessary.

The true story of glory was never told. It's a damn shame too. Tricky Dicky stole from himself the valor to which he was entitled for being in a war zone with a baby-faced killer. Against Leonard, Eklund was in a firefight for his life against a ferocious young pugilist that was trying to take his head off for ten long rounds. Eklund himself survived three very real knockdowns and went the distance with one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots on the ground.

That should have been good enough.

Attitude of Gratitude — I was overwhelmed by all the birthday wishes I received last week from my many friends and readers in the boxing community. Thank you all so much for that. Your roving ringside reporter is now 45 years young, doing what I was born to do and loving every minute of it. You might even say I'm living the dream. Not bad for a kid "from" boxing, i.e. Brockton, Massachusetts, the City of Champions. Because of where I grew up and what that means to me, I set the bar for boxing coverage very high. 

It's good to have such marvelous friends
Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler would not have it any other way and neither will I. To be the best or die trying, that is the essence of Brockton. 

The KO Digest started in 2010 as an idea to build a boxing blog that was worthy of being read by boxing fans. What I saw when I looked were gaps in the boxing media in need of being filled, so I went about trying to become the change that I was looking for. If KO Digest has achieved that, I am personally satisfied. If KO someday grows into something even more significant, I will be very proud. Where it's already taken me in this sport would blow your mind. My role as an insider has only intensified my immense admiration for boxing's humble, noble warriors. They deserve my very best. They will continue to get it. The sky remains the limit, and honesty my only excuse, but the core concept of KO Digest is a simple one: to be informative and entertaining as a boxing writer in the digital internet age. To deliver accurate, unbiased coverage and commentary.

To provide a friendly environment where good people can learn, interact, and enjoy themselves as boxing fans.

To be read and respected as a voice in the sport that has become my whole life.

Taylor is in a world of trouble
Middleweight Madhouse — Whatever ultimately becomes of the now vacant IBF 160 pound title is irrelevant to me and should be to you as well. Whenever World Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto signs to fight long avoided #1 contender Gennady "GGG" Golovkin, wake me up with bad intentions and make my press credential out to KO Digest. Do I have your attention now? Good, because deciphering another bowl of boxing's lukewarm alphabet soup after it's been force-fed down my throat always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sick of it and they say chicken soup is good for the soul? Apparently not. Recently stripped titlist Jermain Taylor is now confined to an Arkansas state sanitarium. Ironically, Taylor is likely to encounter more sane people in there than he ever would have in dealing with any more of the ABC governing bodies of boxing, all of whom seem to exist in a Bizarro World that only they understand.

Collins speaks undisputed truth


"There's no rationalizing boxing. It is a beautiful sickness that charms and repulses in equal measure. We have to accept it for what it is or leave it alone." — Current ESPN.com boxing columnist, longtime Ring Magazine Editor in Chief, and 2015 International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) boxing writer Nigel Collins  

February 1, 2015

KO Digest Interview: Ray Mancini — "I hope I'm a good example for my fans"

The Good Son is now a Boxing Hall of Famer
In June, former WBA lightweight champion Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini will be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York.

The wait to enter the Hall was longer than his career and by his own admission, Mancini wasn’t exactly pacing by the phone waiting for the call. But this is the Hall of Fame, and few fighters achieved the level of recognition that Mancini did in the 1980's. As one of the final matinee idols on network TV in boxing, the Youngstown born and bred brawler reached a level of stardom that extended beyond the numbers on his 29-5 record. His career was rather short (he retired for the first time at 24), he only held one world title belt, and his lone victory over a Hall of Famer came against a watered down Bobby Chacon. Some will dispute his merit for induction, but he doesn’t particularly care what they think.

Mancini always cared what his father thought though. Behind Boom Boom’s career lies a deep bond with his father Lenny. Seeking to bring home the world title his World War II veteran father could not, his journey to the championship was one of great personal triumph that cannot be fully be put into perspective by the numbers. The infamous 1982 bout with Deuk-Koo Kim cast a tragic shadow over his career too, one which has lingered through the years. By now, Mancini seems to have outwardly reconciled the event and has even met with Kim’s family in his own home (though not in Korea as erroneously believed). The impact of that fight on boxing reforms in the mid to late 1980's can be disputed, but as title bouts eventually shrunk to 12 rounds and the sport slipped away from network TV, Mancini stands out as being one of the last members of an important, bygone era in boxing.

At 53, "Boom Boom" is still as charismatic as ever and he has plenty left to accomplish beyond boxing. Finally back home in Youngstown, Ohio again, he’s focused on family and a new passion in film. Come induction weekend though, Mancini the fighter will step into the afternoon spotlight once more, a fitting time to honor one of the sport’s most popular midday mainstays.

Mancini is back in boxing on TV
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: Let’s start with some new and exciting news. You’ve joined The Fight Network as a boxing ambassador on television. What exactly are you doing with them and what can you tell us about FN?

Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini: Before the big fights, they ask me to give analysis about how I think the fight will go and who will come out victorious, and then we do a post-fight recap after the fight, like whether or not it went as I expected it to go. I really enjoy it. I enjoy talking about something I know about—or at least I think I know about it! It’s been very good so far.

KOD: The boxing world wants to know, who wins Mayweather or Pacquiao?

RM: Both fighters are special. What both have achieved is remarkable. But I believe Mayweather wins in an exciting fight, because he is bigger, faster and stronger. That is the trifecta in boxing. Having those advantages over your opponent is usually the difference.

Mancini hopes CBS will follow NBC's boxing comeback
KOD: I think Fight Network is exciting for fans because we’re starting to see a rejuvenated interest in boxing on regular TV again. Are you familiar with Al Haymon and his upcoming Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) concept on NBC?

RM: Yes. I’ve been around boxing for a long time now, but if Haymon walked into a room, I couldn’t tell you who he was. Here’s a name I’ve been hearing and reading about forever but I couldn’t tell you who he is. He has this mystique about him. Nobody knows where he’s at. There’s a few pictures of him online and I think I know the face, but friends say “Ray, you know who he is!” and I say “No, I couldn’t pick him out of a crowd!” That’s intriguing to me. You’ve got a guy who is as strong as he is in the business, who has as many fighters as he has, but you never see him in the corner or in the ring, and he stays out of the public eye. There’s something about that I like. Haymon is pulling the strings, yet he stays in the background. He’s the puppet master.

KOD: This deal with NBC could be huge for boxing. It has been awhile since there has been boxing consistently on network TV. Do you think that boxing as a whole should take a look at Haymon’s approach and try to tread further into network TV waters?

RM: I’ll be able to answer that after the first couple of fights. I certainly like the business model. He’s taking a hell of a chance to buy the time, pay the network, and sell it for promotional time. I admire that very much. It takes chutzpah. If it hits, he looks like a genius. So far, it seems to me that anything he touches turns to gold. You’ve got to admire that. What’s more amazing to me is how does he get these fighters to sign with him? How? What does he offer them? As far as I know, he hasn’t offered them a whole lot. He promises fights. Does he deliver? I don’t know. I’m interested to see, but it’s a great thing for boxing. I’ve said this for a long time. People often ask me, “what does boxing have to do to get back to where it was?” And I’ve said, without network television, we’ll never have the same popularity we once had. Never. Now that NBC is back in the game, maybe my old network, CBS, will do the same.

Primetime Mancini
KOD: You used to be a “matinee idol” when boxing was not only on network TV, but also on in the afternoons. Things changed in the sport in the mid-1980s. Why did the sport transitioned away from being easily accessible on TV and turn to the PPV niche it maintains today?

RM: People often ask me “don’t you wish you were fighting now as opposed to then?” And I say yes and no. If I got paid according to how many people I put in seats and the TV ratings I did, yes. I got exposed to over 6 million people domestically, over 100 million people worldwide on network television. With pay-per-view and cable, there are 30 million homes capable but with a two percent buy rate considered a success, it’s only half a million people. The visibility is much less. I’m a fight fan, but I can’t tell you half of the guys. I know the names, but I can’t tell you the faces. That’s what network television does. That’s why it will benefit these guys fighting on network television now. Going back to what you said about boxing popularity, here’s what you need to know. In 1985, network television was paying a half-a-million dollars rights fee to show a fight. In 1995, they were paying $80,000. A little different. Why? Because there’s a lot of bad fights. Corruption has always been a part of the game, but it started coming out. People got exposed, fighters had blown up records, Don King got exposed for putting mismatches on to get fighters on TV. When that came out, sponsors did not want to touch it. Since then, it’s hard to get back in again. Part of it is that they want to know what they’re buying. That’s why this deal with Al Haymon is a great deal for them. They’re just getting paid and if he hits the lottery, great.
If not, they still get paid. It’s a win-win for everybody.

KOD: You were managed by Dave Wolf during your career. He was a very smart guy who managed Donny Lalonde and others, making an impact on the sport both as a manger and a writer. He passed away in 2008, but what do you recall about Wolf?

RM: Dave was the best. I loved Dave Wolf. I know how he felt about me. When I met Dave, the fact that he was a writer and had so many other interests, he came to boxing from a different route. He wasn't difficult. I liked that about him. He was very educated, very, smart, a brilliant man. He looked at boxing differently than most. That’s what I loved about Dave. He was a salesman who invested in me. I’ll never forget what he told me. I got offered some money by some local wise guys to fight with them. They were going to rent me a car, an apartment, give me a weekly salary. I asked what they’d do for me and they told me they’d get me an agent to book my fights—Dave said, “look, I’m not going to offer you anything. You’ll have to move to New York, and you’re going to have to sleep on the couch until you make enough money to get your own place. I’ll loan you money, but eventually when you start making money, you’ll have to pay it back. The bottom line is, I don’t want you to have to owe me anything and I don’t want to owe you anything. You do your job and I’ll do mine, and I’ll get you the world title.” I said “that’s all I want to hear.” And that’s how we did it.

A great man and his good son
KOD: A driving force behind your career was always the relationship with your father, Lenny. What made this relationship literally worth fighting for?

RM:
My father is the one who never wanted me to fight. He tried to talk me out of it in the worst way. He told me, “Raymond, I had to fight, I had to eat, but you have so many other opportunities.” I had an academic scholarship for college, I had a professional baseball offer—I had other opportunities. But I said, “I want to win the title for you.” That’s always been my dream, my goal. People always ask me when I wanted to become a fighter, but that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.

I’ve been very fortunate to live out my dream and share it with my father. I always heard about how my father should have been, could have been, would have been world champion if not for World War II. I wanted to be champion for him. He was a hell of a father and a hell of a fighter.

Times change and so do people
KOD: You mentioned that your father served and was injured in World War II, preventing him from reaching his full boxing potential. An interesting parallel comes to mind here. During the Vietnam War, Muhammad Ali refused to serve. What did you and your father think about Muhammad Ali's refusal to step forward?

RM: My father didn’t like Ali for that reason. I didn’t either until I got to meet Ali. When I got older, I realized how brave it was of him to do what he did. Whether you agree with him or not, it was incredibly brave. I admire the man. He has his principles and he stuck with them. Whether I was OK with it or not is irrelevant. My father thought that everybody should serve their country when called upon. Whether it’s right or wrong, he believed that. World War II was quite a bit different than the Vietnam War, and a lot of the old timers have that against Ali. There are all these reasons I didn’t like Ali, but I was a Joe Frazier fan. I like that style of fighting, I love to see a guy come forward. I don’t want to see guys taunting and all that, doing the rope-a-dope. He’s the only one that has ever been bigger than the sport. He’s a cultural icon. Now I understand, he was the first to bring psychological warfare in the game. He beat guys down mentally before he beat them physically. He was so far ahead of his time, but as a kid, I was a Frazier fan so naturally I didn’t like him. When my father met Ali, he really liked him. He thought Ali was an interesting character and they got along great. My father developed a great fondness for him.

KOD: In terms of making your Dad proud of you and living the boxing life that he could not live because of his service to America, which was the bigger achievement: winning the WBA world lightweight title or reaching the International Boxing Hall of Fame?

RM: I think winning the world title. I would never have been in the Hall of Fame if not for the title. One precipitates the other. Winning the title was everything, my lifelong dream. When I got the call about the Hall of Fame, I was totally surprised. I didn’t think I fought long enough to warrant it. It didn’t concern me. I don’t mean that in a flippant way, but if it happened it would be a wonderful dream come true, but it didn’t consume me. I never thought about it much. When I got the call that I made it, I said “wow, that’s something.” I told the reporter like I'm telling you, I didn’t think I fought long enough to warrant it, but he told me “look, you’re one of those guys from the early 80's. Without you, boxing wouldn't be what it is. Without you, Sugar Ray, Ali, Marvin, Duran, Pryor, Camacho, I don’t think HBO or Showtime would be where they are today. It’s not the quantity of the career, it’s the quality of the career.” I’ll buy that, I'll take that. I’m very flattered. I know my parents are smiling and I know my family and my city is very happy. When that day comes, it's going to be wonderful, something I can’t explain, a dream come true.

KOD: Have you heard much controversy about your election to the Hall of Fame?

Mancini is in the company of greatness
RM: I’m sure there’s writers and people who say I don’t deserve to be in, but who the hell cares, man? I couldn’t care less what people think. Here’s the bottom line: they say I lost to Arguello, yes, in the fourteenth round, but I was beating him after 12 rounds. They say I lost to Bramble, yes, but I was winning after 12 rounds. And I beat Camacho even though I didn't get the decision. The true championship distance is 15 rounds. I have a problem with guys who only have to go 12 and got into the International Boxing Hall of Fame before guys who went 15. I lost but against Arguello and Bramble, I was winning after 12 rounds. So the bottom line is if it's only 12 rounds, I'm undefeated! What would they say now if I had beat those legends? You see what I’m saying? What would those same people be saying now? A lot of people thought I deserved it and I appreciate it. I had a good career. I never thought of myself as a hall of famer or a great fighter because greatness is a quality of longevity and I didn't think I fought long enough to acquire that. But if a gentleman says the quality of my fights and my impact on the sport is enough, I’ll take it.

Duk-Koo Kim fights for his life in the championship rounds
KOD: The decision to cut championship fights from 15 rounds to 12 rounds came during a period of reform for boxing. Do you think that 15 round fights are more dangerous than the 12 round fights we see today?

RM: No. A lot of people say my fight with Kim changed it, but I say it didn’t. They started talking about it then, but it took four years before the WBC pulled the trigger on a knee jerk reaction. If my fight changed it, then it took a long time to come around. That was a TV decision, not a medical decision. I’ve talked to neurologists and brain surgeons and I’ve found out that there is no substantiating proof—none at all whatsoever—that more damage is done in the last three rounds as opposed to the first 12. There have been fatalities in 12 round fights too. It was a TV decision not a medical decision. They wanted 12 rounds fights so they had an opening and a closing if a fight went the distance so it wouldn’t go over into the local newscast. They had to finish and say “that’s it ladies and gentlemen, goodnight.”
Once people understand that, then they’ll understand why it’s 12 rounds now.

Reno was a favorite of Ray's
KOD: One of your signature victories came in 1984 against Bobby Chacon, the only other boxing hall of famer you ever defeated. How much did Chacon have left when you beat him?

RM: I know I didn’t fight Bobby when he was Bobby, I beat an old version of him. I know that, trust me. But he had enough when he beat Boza and Bazooka Limon in their fourth fight. Look, I love Bobby, he was one of my favorite fighters. Just like when Rocky Marciano fought Joe Louis. He loved Joe Louis. I loved Bobby Chacon, so it was hard for me to fight him. But, it’s a business, what was I to do? I know I didn’t get vintage Bobby, trust me, I know that.

KOD: Three years after that fight, rocker Warren Zevon wrote a song about you called “Boom Boom Mancini.” I’m sure you’ve heard it, but did you play any role in its production?

RM: The song was written and it had already come out when I got a call from Chris Mancini, Henry Mancini’s son, who was an executive over at the record company. He called me to see if I had any problem having a song named after me and I said no. Zevon was one of the original alternative artists and I loved his music. He had so many great hits. The fact that he thought of me to write a song was incredible. I was very honored.

Mancini's first title shot
KOD: In 1981, the Alexis Arguello fight really helped put you on the boxing radar. It was a mismatch on paper going in, but fights aren’t fought on paper and you held your own against him. What were your own expectations like going into the fight? Did you surprise yourself?

RM: No, I would never have taken the fight if I couldn’t put on a good show. I was in it to win the world title. I never thought I'd get another shot, just ask my father how many shots you get. I went there thinking I caught him at the right time. I was such a fan of Alexis, I loved him. I saw him when he fought Jim Watt, and he didn’t look very sharp. Now, Jim Watt is an awkward guy, but he didn’t look sharp. Alexis had a lot of wear and tear on him at that time. I fought Jose Luis Ramirez in the fight before and so I watched tape of when he fought Alexis. Ramirez fought Alexis in Miami in a non-title fight and dropped him twice and he should have gotten the decision but he lost a split decision. So with my strength and my enthusiasm, I really though I'd catch him at the right time and that’s why we took the fight. Experience took over.

KOD: As soon as the fight was over, Arguello exchanged some very heartfelt words with your father. What do you remember about that moment and what did it mean to you to hear this great champion say these things not just to you, but to your father as well?

RM: It meant the world. I tell people that if you look up the word “champion” in the dictionary, it’s Arguello's picture. Alexis exuded class inside and outside the ring—he was the personification of a champion. For him to do that was a beautiful thing and I appreciate it so much. He won the crowd and he won America over with the way he was. I’ll forever be indebted to him for that. Even though I lost, he took me to another place, to another level, and after that fight, I knew I’d be a world champion.

"Boom Boom" beats Frias for the title
KOD: You were right. Your fight against Arturo Frias in 1982 is in the discussion for the most entertaining opening round ever. Not only was it a shootout, but you claimed your first and only world title. What do you recall about that WBA title fight and why is it still special to you today?

RM: That fight is everything to me. That fight let me know I could be the world champion. Sometimes one round can teach you more than all the other wins. I went 14 rounds with Alexis but if was 12, I win the world title. 

KOD: A fight that many fans would have loved to see was a super fight against Aaron "The Hawk" Pryor. What derailed that fight from ever happening?

RM: I wanted that fight so bad. Aaron did too. That’s a perfect example of styles make fights. If I fought Alexis the same time I had fought Frias, I think I would have won that fight too. I was hoping for a rematch with Alexis but he moved up. But the fight against Pryor, perfect styles. Strong guy, but I didn’t think he was going to be much stronger than me, and we both come forward. People seem to forget Aaron Pryor got dropped when he fought ordinary guys because he walked in with his chin up in the air. He’d get up and knock them out, but if he did that against me, I'd test that chin, knock him down, and keep him down. That fight would have been perfect for me. We almost had it made, but then the WBA made me fight Bramble. Instead of taking step aside money, which a lot of people would do at the time, they put pressure on the WBA to make me to fight Bramble right away. The WBA said “if you fight Pryor, we’re going to strip you of the title.” Without the title, the fight doesn’t mean as much. That world title was my baby. That meant everything to me. That’s how I made my money. And that’s why it didn’t materialize.

KOD: All in all, it turned out great for both of you and you’ll join him in the IBHOF this year. Do you have any other career regrets?

"Bang Bang" Bogner was one that got away
RM: I have a couple of regrets. My biggest regret is not fighting Camacho when we should have fought in 1984, both in our primes. The same thing with Pryor, not getting that when it should have happened. That’s a big disappointment for me. The other one is one that people don’t know about, fighting Kenny “Bang Bang” Bogner. I was supposed to fight him twice. I only pulled out of two fights and they were against the same guy. I was supposed to fight Bogner in South Africa on a doubleheader when Davey Moore was defending his title against Roberto Duran on May 26, 1983. I was in Johannesburg training and three weeks into camp, I broke my collarbone. In a freak accident, my sparring partner hit me and broke my collarbone. My doctor said it was a million-to-one shot and I was the one. I couldn’t stand this kid Bogner and I would have beat him like I owned him. He kept talking about how I got hurt, but I came back and defended my title against the number one contender, Orlando Romero.

After I lost my title to Bramble, we were going to fight again in New Orleans. About ten days before the fight, I got a little cut over my eye. I laid off of sparring for a couple days, but the doctor said that after the first punch, it was going to open up. He said, “do you want to take that chance?” We already had the fight with Bramble lined up. At that point, the referees were pulling the trigger quick because of the fight with Kim. These guys were panicking, these referees, and a lot of them still do. So they said, “do you want to take the chance to give him a beating, or do you want to be a good business man?” my manager asked me. We just let it heal and went right to Bramble. Bogner kept talking about how I was ducking him, this and that, but I would have beat him like I owned him. I would have beat him good. That’s the one regret I have, not getting him in the ring and giving him the beating he deserved.

The Good Son is a passionate film
KOD: You’ve brought it up a few times already. 1982 must have been an awful year between the Kim fight and the death of your brother. How did these events impact your life and career?

RM: If you get a chance to read the book “The Good Son” or see the documentary, they tell the story. Of course the fight bothered me. I had no love for the game anymore. I had no love and I wanted to get out, and once I had financial security, I got out. Any passion I had for it was gone.

KOD: Have you gotten that passion back in the years since?

RM: I don’t have a passion for too many things other than my wife, my children, and their pursuits. I’ve been producing films. I enjoy it, but for me, the passion is making something from nothing, seeing it come to fruition and come to screen. I have a passion for that. I’m not so sure I have a passion for the business or for acting, but I have a passion to create. That I enjoy doing.

KOD: Have you maintained any relationship with Kim’s family?

RM: A lot of people thought I went over there for his funeral but that did not happen. I didn’t go to Korea until 2005. They made a biography on him called “Champion” and the producers asked me to come over. I felt that the timing was right. His wife and son wanted to meet me. But when Mark Kriegel went there to do his research for the book, he said “I’m not leaving here until I speak to this kid.” Mark Kriegel was headed to the airport and they said the kid had finally agreed to meet with him. So he met with Mark at the airport in Seoul, Korea. Mark interviewed them and the son asked if he could come to meet me in America. If they would be willing to do that, I said “absolutely.” So they came to America and met me and we filmed that when they came to my house. What you see on screen is exactly how it happened because I told them, “you’ve got one shot. I can’t do this again. I can’t do this a second time.” I’ve read that too [stories about going to Korea for the funeral]. I wanted to, but we had people from the Korean embassy who said it wouldn’t be a good time. They couldn’t guarantee my safety.

Mancini thinks he beat Camacho
KOD: Your Hall of Fame career ended on a four fight losing streak over the course of eight years with the retirements and comebacks. Why was it so hard for you to stay away from or leave boxing after first retiring in 1985?

RM: It wasn’t hard for me because I retired when I was 24. I was able to comeback because I was still young enough. I was 28 when I came back to fight Camacho. I was 32 when I fought Haugen when I hadn’t fought for another three years. If it wasn’t for the Camacho fight, I never would have come back. That was the one fight I always wanted. When I got offered that fight, I said “yeah!” Plus, I knew I wasn’t fighting a world beater. He was no puncher. If it was a puncher, I might have said no. But, he wasn’t a puncher and it was a fight I always wanted, so I said that I’d live with the result but I don’t want to wonder “what if?” That’s why I came back, and I beat Camacho. It wasn’t a great fight, but it was a good fight and I beat Camacho. And then, when that fight was over, I was content and living my life with my two children.

I was doing an off-Broadway show in New York when they offered me Greg Haugen. Acting is a challenge mentally and emotionally, but not physically. I was only 32 but I was working out and in good shape. I wanted to see, for me, if I could train for a fight and get up for a fight the way I once did. As I found out, I could train the same way, but the training is just a dress rehearsal. I was beaten before I got in that ring. I felt so guilty about leaving my wife and my children and going to training camp. I used to go in the ring saying that one of us is getting carried out of here. Now I went in with the mentality, “please don’t let me get hurt.” My wife, my baby, they need me. I was in the dressing room with my assistant trainer Chuck, and I told him “Chuck, I don’t to be here. I don’t want to do this.” He said “yeah, it’s a hell of a time to tell me now, isn’t it?” Walking to the ring that night, I was like a dead man walking. I was beaten before I got in the ring. If it wasn’t for Camacho, I wouldn’t have come back. It was never something that I wanted. The Haugen fight was an ego thing. I didn’t know if I could still compete. But if I didn’t get offered the Camacho fight, no matter who they offered me, I wouldn’t come back. Even after the Haugen fight, I got offered another fight to fight for the WBO junior welterweight championship. This was one month later and I said to the guy “didn’t you just see me fight?!” And he said “yeah, yeah, yeah, but that wasn’t you.” I said “what do you mean it wasn’t me? If it wasn’t me, who was it then?! No, that’s me now. No, that’s it.” Ray Leonard retired three times. Look, he’s the greatest fighter of my generation. But are we going to remember him for the Camacho fight? I tease him all the time and say “Ray, you know it's time to retire when Camacho knocks you out because Camacho ain’t knocking nobody out.” Was that the real Ray Leonard that fought Camacho? The real Leonard would have slapped the shit out of Camacho, there you go.

KOD: We think of Las Vegas as the boxing capital, but 4 of your last 5 fights were in Reno. 
How did you come to be fighting in Reno and whatever happened to boxing there?

RM: It’s a great fight city. The Corona family who owned the El Dorado Hotel and now they own the Silver Legacy, they owned the casinos and wanted to get Reno on the map. They’re the ones who bid hard to get me there. I don’t know whatever happened to it. It’s one of the best fight cities I’ve ever been to. They deserve it. They’re good fight fans and it’s one of my favorite cities.

KOD: It’s one of your favorite cities, but I’m sure another one has to be Youngstown, Ohio.

Mancini has a passion for creating film
RM: That’s it! That’s where I’m back at now. I just returned after 30 years out in Santa Monica, California. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving I relocated back to Youngstown. Lucky me, right? Sitting here with six inches of snow in 20 degrees. Lucky me! One reason I came back is that I’m building a film studio in downtown Youngstown. I actually filmed a couple projects already, one in 2000 and one in 2010. You have to have a presence here, so that’s why I came home. My youngest, my second son, went off to college. I didn’t want to leave until he went to college, but now the time was right.

KOD: You earned the nickname “The Good Son” because of your devoted relationship to your father. Are your kids carrying on that moniker in the next generation? Tell fans a little about your own children.

RM: I’ve been very blessed. I have two boys and a daughter. They’re great kids. They were asked when they were kids if they wanted to be a fighter, but I never told them what to say. It had to come from them. My oldest son said “No, I’m very proud of my father, but I want to make my name in a different field.” And my youngest said “no, my father did it because he had something to prove. I’m going to be successful in my own line of work.” They both set out on their own but they’re both proud of me and love me. They’ll be successful in whatever they do. My older son is an actor. You’ll be hearing about him, Leonardo “Leo” Mancini. My youngest son, Ray, is at Colorado State. He’s a very progressive kid. He has a lot going on for himself. He’s taking a fashion course, he loves fashion. He went on a basketball scholarship, but he got there and said “Pop, I don’t want to play. I don’t have the love for it like I need.” The fact that he was able to recognize that made me very proud of him. It takes a lot for a young kid to say that. I’m in love with my kids. Hopefully they feel the same about me. It's more important for me to be their champion outside of the ring than inside of the ring.

The Future of Boxing

KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli

Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting.

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli