January 1, 2013

KO Digest Interview - Hank Lundy: "I won’t run from anybody!"

Hammerin Hank Lundy
Fighters fight. It’s hardly a mystery.

The intrinsic nature of boxing is a one on one battle of wills, the ultimate test of physical and mental fortitude. For most fighters of any era, the treacherous terrain that leads to the ring is one filled with unglamorous bumps that threaten to jeopardize hopes, ambitions, and dreams. Former WBO NABO and NABF lightweight champion Hank Lundy knows firsthand that a life in the fight game tests the stamina and will of anyone regardless of fame or stature.

First, it was a battle on the football field and the fight to attend college. Next, a confrontation in the Philadelphia schoolyard that led Lundy to a boxing gym for the first time. Over the years the followed, Lundy honed his craft inside the ring with stout amateur experience and a professional record of 22-2-1, with 11 wins coming by way of knockout. But with a title fight looming against feared 140 pounder Lucas Matthysse, Lundy fights himself once against mired in the midst of a match outside the ring.

A fierce and vitriolic feud with ex-manager Ivan Cohen has resulted in a hotly contested court case, and a cancellation of a much anticipated January showdown on Showtime in Los Angeles. As Lundy attempts to pick up the pieces following his recent disappointments, which include a nationally televised upset loss to Ray Beltran, he will need to show the grit and determination synonymous with Philadelphia fighter lore.

Hank Lundy has been knocked down, but it’s time to get up and fight on. 

Beltran beats Lundy on ESPN Friday Night Fights
KO Digest: You grew up in Philadelphia, a city that has produced many great fighters over the years. But, boxing didn’t enter the equation until later in life—before stepping into the ring, you stepped onto the field as a football player.

Hank Lundy: I was a high school football star in high school, where I played linebacker and running back. Kutztown University offered me a scholarship to play football, and told my aunt that if she could pay half of the tuition up front, then I would get a full ride. But my aunt took on the responsibility of raising four kids because my mother was always in and out of the hospital, and I didn’t want to put any more stress on her. My aunt couldn’t afford to send both me and my sister to college, so I told her to send my sister, Muneerah, and I would find another way. 

KOD: Your fighting career got off to a bit of an unceremonious start with a confrontation with a schoolyard bully when you were a teenager. Growing up, was conflict of this sort a common occurrence in the daily life of Hank Lundy?

HL: Growing up in Philadelphia, fighting was a way to maintain dominance on the streets, and because I could fight, and even though it got me into some trouble, I actually stayed out of trouble too and became pretty popular. One day, I had a crazy altercation in the schoolyard and I ended up knocking a guy out, so I ran home and told my uncle. Right away, he took me to the gym, and ever since then I’ve been fighting. 

KOD: Many people in general, not just exclusive to athletes, can single out a particular moment when an occupational revelation occurs, and they know what exactly their calling is in this life. When did you know that a boxing ring is where you belonged?

Sugar Shane inspired Hammerin Hank
HL: Even when I was playing football, I always wanted to box. As a kid, I watched a lot of Showtime and HBO, and “Sugar” Shane Mosley was one of my idols. Shane was a guy with will and determination that’s right around my height, had fast hands, and he could move and punch. I was always good at fighting, and the day I fought the bully in the schoolyard was the start of it all.      

KOD: In the amateur ranks, you compiled a record of 65-5, winning the Pennsylvania Golden Gloves in 2003 and a silver medal at the National Golden Gloves two years later. Was the general consensus of those associated with you at the time that you would move on to big things professionally just a few short years later?

HL: I learned that hard work pays off. That’s always been a motto that I live by. I was a small guy on the football field, but I always put the hard work in, and that led me to a starting position. That same hard work and determination applies to the gym and my fighting career, and people noticed.    

KOD: Much contention has been raised about the ineffectiveness of the amateur scoring system, highlighted during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Do you feel that, under the status quo, amateur boxing is proficient in creating professional fighters and cultivating their skills?

HL: In the fights that you see, you’ve got big punchers, who typically do well in the pros, and you have guys that can’t punch but can box. In the amateurs, you need to have the boxing ability to score and win fights, so guys learn that and it actually helps you out.   

KOD: Growing up in a family that, at times, experienced financial strains, you never attended college despite a scholarship offer from Kutztown University. With your roots firmly planted in a city that seems to breed so many graduates in the so called “school of hard knocks,” what sort of an impact can you say that your upbringing in Philadelphia had on you?  

Hard work and dedication pays off for Hank
HL: One of the key things that I always tell kids growing up today is that if you work hard, use your mind, and are determined, you can accomplish a lot in life. I’m not going to tell anyone that you don’t need school to be successful like I am. I wish I had gone to school and had the chance to earn a degree, but that’s one of the things I had to sacrifice to grow in boxing. To be successful in that environment, you need to dare to be different. Don’t let anybody tell you can’t do something. You can be from the hood, but that doesn’t mean you need to be “of the hood.” There are a lot of people both then and now that we can call “the haters.” The stuff I hear from them keeps me motivated. A lot of people have said that I’m going to lose, but I need people like them in my life to keep me motivated to accomplish my goals.  

KOD: How is the prototypical “Philly fighter” defined? When a boxer is described as a “Philly fighter” - what image surfaces in your mind? 

HL: We have that grit. We know what it’s like, growing up each and every day and needing to fight, to show your inner toughness. Even when walking to the store, you might find yourself on the defensive. You need to be well rounded just to live in Philadelphia, and that image is portrayed in the ring sometimes. When somebody is called a “Philly fighter,” you already know that this guy has been through a lot and that nobody is going to walk through you or take you for a pushover.  

KOD: Your promoter, Jimmy Burchfield Sr. of Classic Entertainment and Sports, is a Rhode Islander, as are the majority of the fighters he employs. With Philadelphia recognized as one of the hubs of boxing in the nation, brimming with young talent and promoters eager to display them, what brought the two of you together from a couple hundred miles away?  

Burchfield Sr, Vinny Paz, and Lundy
HL: It was a teammate of mine who signed with Jimmy Burchfield. It’s a case of respect where respect is due. The guy I was training with took me to Jimmy, and right away Jimmy asked me “what do you have that other fighters don’t have? How can you be a draw in this sport?” Right away, when he said that to me, a lady came over to me and said “I don’t who you are or what you do, but you have a smile that can light up a room.” Coming from another race, Jimmy looked at that and he signed me. He’s also seen my hard work and dedication. Once you find all about who Hammerin’ Hank is, you’re going to love him.  

KOD: Trash talking and boxing have gone hand in hand for decades. Intimidating the opponent, beating him mentally before he even steps through the ropes, seems to be something a lot of fighters strive for. You always talk a big game at the press conferences leading up to your big fights. But how much of the stuff that you say do you honestly believe, and how much is merely bravado, said just with the intention of generating interest for fans? 

HL: That comes as a part of my Philadelphia grit. I haven’t been matched easy, so when I tell guys that a fight is going to go a certain way, I mean it from the bottom of my heart. When I look at some other fighters today, I can honestly say that they haven’t fought the competition that I’ve fought. I’m telling these guys the truth—whether or not they believe me is up to them. But my job is to put on a show and show them.  

KOD: Your next proposed fight was arguably the biggest of your career, twelve rounds on Showtime in the junior welterweight division against Lucas Matthysse in Los Angeles for the WBC title belt. However, the demise of this fight has been rumored for over a week, and it was very recently called off. What went wrong between now and then, resulting in the bout’s cancellation?  

HL: The fight was signed and sealed—we signed the contract, but an ex-manager who hasn’t been around for six or seven fights tried to stop it. He (Ivan Cohen) has put rumors out the about suing Golden Boy and Showtime Boxing. We got a court order for him to stop causing ruckus like he has tried to do before. Golden Boy and Showtime were scared by his actions and they called the fight off, but we did the paperwork saying that he has no ties with me and can’t keep me from fighting. He’s in a breach of contract right now. Boxing is like that sometimes. As soon as you get on top, you’ve got people who want to get under your skin and pull you right back down to the bottom.  

KOD: If Ivan Cohen has no ties to you anymore, why does anything he says jeopardize the fight?  

HL: On paper, we do have a contract. However, at the end of the day, he hasn’t done any managerial duties for the past seven fights. I went before the boxing commissioner from Philadelphia and talked about the whole situation, and he said that we should take it to a small claims court. He knew the guy, but he didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Ever since then, Cohen has not been doing his duties. My promoter, Jimmy Burchfield, has gotten me all of my fights, and Cohen has tried to stop them and has come up short. He did win this one, but we have paperwork stating that he can’t stop any of my fights, as ordered by the court.  

KOD: Why the sharp and sudden fallout between the two of you?  

HL: This guy actually stole money from me and then had me locked up. When I won the NABO title, he forwarded my signing bonus to his bank account. When I found out about that, I voided the check that I had written out to him for the fight. He had me locked up for fraud and we went to court. That’s funny, because people bounce checks every day, but I showed up in court with all types of documents that showed I had stopped the check from being used. The judge saw the case my way and he dismissed the case, but ever since that, he’s been trying to come after me.

KOD: Is there any hope of the Matthysse fight being resurrected?  

HL: I don’t know, but I do know that I was going to beat Matthysse and shock a lot of people. Everybody talks about him being a big puncher, but I’ve fought lots of big punchers and I’ve used my God given talent to out box them. That’s exactly what I was going to do, but I wasn’t going to be surprised if I knocked him out because I’m stronger at 140 lbs. I had myself winning by knockout and I was going to shock the world, but if the fight can happen later on down the line I’ll still fight.  

KOD: Does the ongoing legal saga with Ivan Cohen prevent you from fighting until it’s all resolved? 

HL: No, the judge says he can’t interfere with anymore of my fights, and I can still go ahead and fight in the future like I’ve been doing. With the way he’s handled everything, he took my career through hell, but I’m going to let the courts deal with him. All I can say is “God bless him” and keep on moving forward. 

John Molina hammers Lundy at lightweight in 2010
KOD: Since Lucas Matthysse brought his talents to the United States from Argentina, he has gained popularity as one of the hardest punchers not only in the 140lb division, but in all of boxing. In four of your fights dating back to 2010, you’ve been knocked to the canvas. Of those fights, one of them was a TKO loss against John Molina, prompting some pundits to insinuate your chin won’t stand up to shots from the division’s elite. Why are those naysayers wrong?  

HL: My body was much weaker at 135 lbs. If you took one look at me, I looked like a very muscular guy in that weight class. I’m like Devon Alexander, when he moved up to 147 lbs—he is stronger and hasn’t been knocked down as much since then. I’m moving up to my natural weight at 140 lbs. so I don’t have to kill myself to make weight. I’ve never ducked anybody. I’m going to be stronger and coming to fight.  

KOD: You're 28 years old with two losses in the past two years on your record. A fight against Lucas Matthysse seemed to be the epitome of a "crossroads" fight. With that off the table for now, what does the future hold for Hammerin’ Hank Lundy? 

HL: I’m campaigned at 140 lbs now. At 135 lbs, I was draining my body a little too much. I’m still a key player in the division. At 135 lbs, I was ranked second in the world, and I would go back down if a fight was for a world title. But other than that, I’m at 140 lbs. Everybody was scared to fight Matthysse, and I stepped up to the plate to fight him and I was training hard to beat him. Anyone at 140 lbs who wants to fight Hammerin’ Hank, or any champ at 135 lbs, let’s go! I won’t run from anybody!   

Florida's #1 Beat Writer

Interview conducted by Joel Sebastianelli - exclusively for KO Digest

Sebastianelli has built a promising media résumé. 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.