March 9, 2012

KO Digest Q&A with Tony "The Tiger" Thompson

Will Thompson's arms be raised against Klitschko?
Not many professional fighters get a shot at the legitimate Heavyweight Championship of the World and even fewer fighters get a second shot at that title but if things go according to plan, Washington DC native Tony "The Tiger" Thompson (36-2 w/ 24 KO's) will get his second shot at Wladimir Klitschko and the heavyweight championship of the world this summer. KO Digest caught up with Thompson following the YouTube announcement from Klitschko that he would seek to defend his title against Thompson, most likely in Germany - following his recent destruction of Jean-Marc Mormeck. During the interview, I found Thompson to be articulate, humorous, and perhaps more than anything: confident.

KO Digest: Hi Tony, thank you for taking the time to talk to KO Digest. You must be very excited to be getting a second shot at the heavyweight championship of the world, what can you tell boxing fans about the negotiations for the fight against Wladimir Klitschko?

Tony Thompson: No date or location is set yet, we are in the very early stages of negotiation. I am very excited. I've worked hard to get back to this position, it's been four hard years and I finally made it so I'm ready to be the Heavyweight Champion of the World. I know that he is going to accept my fight, there's been a lot of talk that maybe he'd vacate the IBF title just to avoid me but that's not true. Wladimir has proven to be a great champion and he's showing it again by taking the toughest fighter out there for him and that's me.

KOD: Where would you like the fight to be held?

Thompson: I'd like the fight to be in the back of my yard! I really don't care where the fight winds up. I mean obviously it would be a great thing to win the Heavyweight Champion of the World here in the United States in my hometown of Washington DC but that's far fetched so I'm gonna go wherever I have to go to capture the title.

KOD: How much do you expect your purse to be for this fight?

Thompson: Ha! I really couldn't tell you but he's selling 50,000 tickets. Maybe no HBO TV but he's got plenty of TV. Whatever it is, I'm expecting it to be a raise from the last time.

KOD: How much were you paid last time you fought Wladimir, back in 2008?

Thompson: A little under a million dollars.

KOD: Some might call you an endangered species, an American heavyweight challenging for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. For the people out there across America who have forgotten there is even such a thing as heavyweight boxing, how do you plan to shock the world and return the title to America? 

Thompson: Well, I have a great game-plan, we're putting together a great team. I'm very confident with the skill-set that I have that I can beat Wladimir Klitschko. The biggest thing for me is conditioning. Everything else will take care of itself. Everybody would love to see me bring the title not only back to America but to Washington DC, the nation's capital.

KOD: It's been over ten years since there has been an American heavyweight champion, 22 years since Douglas beat Tyson, and there has been only one southpaw heavyweight champion, do you think about these things and just how historic it would be if you beat Wladimir Klitschko?

Thompson: Most definitely I think about those things - among the other things I have my mind - a guy walking into the gym off the streets, 27 years old, no experience fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world, for the second time. There's just a whole bunch of things there that's just momentous too so I think about it all.

KOD: What will you do differently this time against Klitschko? Will you take more risks? How far are you willing to go to win?

Thompson: They're gonna have to carry me out of the ring. I don't care about getting knocked out, I don't care about getting hurt, damaged. I just want to do what I have to do to knock Wlad out before the 11th round - like he stopped me- I have to stop him before the 11th round. As far as going all out, I've always been a fighter that went all out. The only difference in this fight will be my conditioning. If my conditioning is what it's supposed to be, I'm not injured anymore, believe me I will bring it to Wladimir. I brought it to him as much as I could on one leg, give me two legs and great conditioning and you'll see a lot better Tony The Tiger Thompson!

How it ended in 2008: Klitschko KO11 Thompson

KOD: Were you injured for your first fight against Wlad? Can you elaborate on that?

Thompson: I had a torn meniscus in my right knee and I didn't know it at that time. I just knew my right knee was hurt, and instead of doing the proper roadwork, I didn't do any roadwork. I resorted to other means to get my conditioning and it didn't work. I didn't know any better at the time but experience is a great teacher. I went through it, I've learned from it and I'm coming out wiser. Since the fight, I've had two operations on the knee. After the fight was over I went to see what was wrong with my leg because I knew something was wrong. You're taught as a fighter to fight through pain so I decided to fight through the pain but eventually I had to check and see what was wrong with my knee. I came to find out I had a torn meniscus.

KOD: How is the knee now?

Thompson: It's sound enough where I can get in condition, believe me. I'm able to do roadwork. I'm able to do everything.

KOD: What was the hardest part about fighting Klitschko and how do you get around that this time?

Thompson: The hardest part about fighting him was chasing him. He's a very defensive fighter. He makes you work for every punch that you land on him. That will probably be the hardest part besides being away, out of America, and a little jet-lagged.

KOD: As somebody who has felt it, how you would you describe Wlad's power and how does it compare with the other  fighters you have faced?

Thompson: Wlad is just so immensely strong. I wouldn't say he's a huge puncher even though it translates into punching power. He's just so damn strong, basically he can decapitate you with a punch. But I wouldn't put him in a class of punchers like DaVarryl Williamson whose so much smaller but hits like a brickhouse. Or somebody like a Hasim Rahman who is also immensely strong but has huge punching power to go with his strength.

KOD: What does trainer Emanuel Stewart add to Wladimir Klitschko's game?

Thompson: Emanuel Stewart added so much to the Klitschko style. I know its very exasperating and frustrating for Emanuel that he can't get Wlad to go out there and totally dominate and humiliate people but he did what he could with the temperament that Wlad had. Not just the physical but also the mental and the confidence he's added to him. He taught Wlad so many things from a mental and confidence standpoint and I think it translates into the ring.

KOD: Since your first fight against Wladimir in 2008, who has improved more, you or him?

Thompson: I have definitely improved more as a fighter. I've improved because of him! He is the pinnacle of the division. I learned so much just being in the ring with him, fighting him, being around the whole hoopla of fighting for the heavyweight championship of the world. He's done nothing else  but the norm for him. So I don't know how else he would be able to  improve. I have to give the edge to me just because of the caliber of competition - he's at the top, I fought him. After me he fought nobody even close to me.

KOD: How do you feel Wladimir compares to the great heavyweights of the past?

Thompson: Well, I think that in any era a guy that's 6'6, 250 lbs with the athletics that he has and the punching power, he will give anybody problems. Wlad is very underrated athletically. In history I put him right below Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and George Foreman. Then Wladimir. Obviously Ali is the top choice for me.

KOD: You're from Washington DC, what did you think about the last big fight in DC, Lamont Peterson against Amir Khan?

Thompson: I thought it was great, you could see the city was behind Lamont the whole time, it was electric! Everybody underrates Washington DC as a fight town or even as a sports town. We are some of the best fans a team or a person could have and it showed in Peterson's fight against Khan and it will show again if I get to fight Wlad in DC.

KOD: Are you a boxing fan? Do you follow the sport of boxing closely? Who are some of your favorite fighters?

Thompson: Ever since I started fighting, I follow the sport more. I am a boxing fan but I wouldn't say I'm a boxing historian. I do follow the sport. I started watching boxing when Sugar Ray Leonard was out, people like that. I have people I like in boxing and of course my favorite of all time is Muhammad Ali, and it wasn't even anything to do with boxing, he's my favorite boxer but it went so much beyond what he did in the ring. Lamont Peterson, Ty Barnett, Seth Mitchell, a bunch of my homeboys, those are my favorite fighters right now outside of somebody like an all time great like Floyd Mayweather.

KOD: How did you first get into boxing?

Thompson: Back in 1999, I was just living around in the peaks of my life wondering what I was going to do to make enough money to support my kids. My dream actually was to become a police officer, but once I got into a bit of trouble with a police officer, that dream was squashed so I needed another way to provide for my family. I just had to find something I was good at and obviously I was good at kicking people's ass, so I translate that into money.

Tony The Tiger
KOD: How did you get the nickname Tony The Tiger?

Thompson: Something my kids came up with.

I have a tattoo of a tiger on my right arm. I'm a fan of Big Cats, everybody who knows me knows that. I'm also a big fan of Frosted Flakes, which we were eating for breakfast and one of the kids said 'why not be Tony The Tiger?' - it works for me and it's been that way ever since.

KOD: What is your life like outside the ring?

Thompson: I'm a married man with 7 kids, 2 dogs and a huge extended family. I'm a regular Joe. I bowl on Thursdays in a league. I golf when I get a chance with a whole bunch of buddies. I'm just a regular Joe, nothing special.

KOD: As a professional fighter who is active on Facebook, what are the pros and cons of social media from your perspective?

Thompson: The benefits are being able to let your fans know about your upcoming events or anything that's coming up that might include you, if you're a fan. You're right there listening to fans opinions which you might not agree with all the time  so you have to be able to temper your attitude down and understand, it's just an opinion.

KOD: How do you respond to critics who say you are a boring fighter who doesn't deserve a second shot at the heavyweight title and that you're just going to lose again anyway?

Thompson: Well, if you think I'm a boring fighter, guess what? I used to think I was a boring fighter too! But I think people have to rate me on a curve. I haven't been fighting since I was 10 years old. I started fighting as a grown man. I'm still in the infancy of my learning curve. But having said that, I still think I'm doing great. Critics can say I'm boring or whatever - my temperament is my temperament. I'm coming out of that shell a little more, I'm being a lot more aggressive. I'm knocking people out now. Just sit back and wait, the best is yet to come. Even though I'm at this advanced age, I've always taken care of my body. I'm not beat up. The best Tony Thompson is still yet to come. It might look awkward but it's going to be effective. I am going to win with this style.

KOD: How exactly did you get into this position, as the #1 IBF contender?

Thompson: Eddie Chambers cancelled twice. The IBF made the right decision by declaring me the IBF #1 contender because I already dispatched of a very underwhelming Maurice Harris in a 4-man competition. There is nobody left to fight. It was just me so they did the right thing.

KOD: Do you feel you deserve this title shot over fighters like Arreola, Dimitrenko, and Boytsov, boxers rated in the top 10 by Ring Magazine?

Thompson: Listen, who did those guys fight? It's not for me to say what I deserve. It's for the organizations to say. They saw fit to make me the mandatory challenger so obviously I did deserve it in their eyes and that's all that counts. It does not matter who thinks I don't deserve a title shot. The IBF said I am the top rated contender and here I am.

KOD: Do you have to beat both Klitschkos to become heavyweight champion of the world or does beating Wlad make you THE champ?

Thompson: Beating Wlad makes me the Heavyweight Champion of the World. Beating both of them makes me a legend.

KOD: How long do you think you will be fighting?

Thompson: About five more years, I think I can fight legitimately until I'm 45.

KOD: You've described winning the heavyweight championship of the word as your dream. What is that dream like for you?

Thompson: It's an incredible dream. This is not something I picked up as a kid saying I want to be heavyweight champion of the world - no. It's something that came on later in life and once I started competing in this sport my focus was incredible. To accomplish something this big with that type of focus, with such a late start, would be absolutely monumentous! And to bring the title back to America, I mean, how big would that be?

KOD: How do you envision your life changing if you win the championship?

Thompson: I'd be a lot busier, people asking me to do things, be places. But other than that I don't see my life changing too much. I have a great life, I love my life. I don't require a whole bunch of material things. I just want to make sure my kids get secure. I'm going to go on being the same boring Tony The Tiger Thompson outside of the ring. I'm a very boring person outside the ring so I know how that translates into the ring.

KOD: What is your official prediction for the fight?

Thompson: Tony Thompson inside of ten!