December 1, 2013

KO Digest Interview: Darnell Boone - "I am not a journeyman"

Win, lose, or draw - Boone comes to fight
Darnell “Deezol” Boone is the best below .500 fighter you’ve probably never heard of. His record, currently standing at 19-21-4, is ugly, telling a tale at first glance of a beaten and battered journeyman who is nothing more than another no-name on a local fight card. But like any good story, there’s far more to discover once you look beyond the deceiving cover. Debuting with four straight wins in 2004, Boone showed the promise of a formidable boxer, and had aspirations of reaching the top of the middleweight division. However, the landscape of boxing is one marred by money, and more money means more problems and controversy. “Everybody wants to put my name on their resume, and when they can’t, they find a way to do it,” Boone said.

Boone had the skills, but never the connections, and a series of apparent mismanagements sent him down a murderer’s row of opponents. While many fighters fail to fight the best of the best even while in possession of a world title, Boone’s career resume features a who’s who of the sport, including battles against then up and comers Andre Ward (who he knocked down), Edwin Rodriguez, Erislandy Lara, Jean Pascal, Craig McEwan, Sergey Kovalev, and Adonis Stevenson—who he actually knocked out the first time they fought.

In many of these fights, ringside reports and video would suggest that Boone should have been victorious more than once, but he has been robbed numerous times, most recently on Saturday in W. Virginia. Against undefeated former sparring partner Morgan Fitch, Boone dropped his opponent but only emerged with a split draw. But despite the numerous fraudulent losses, Boone still maintains the fighting spirit that embodies the attitude of the Youngstown bred boxer before him, and no amount of disappointing defeats can discourage him from continuing on in boxing. “No,” he said when asked if these repeated robberies have soured his outlook on boxing. “I know it comes along with the sport. I just like fighting, and the business side I can’t worry about because I need to worry about fighting in the ring. I can’t worry about fighting the judges or the refs. I’m used to it now. It has been going on with me my whole career. The only thing I can do is keep on moving forward.”

Although the train-fight-lose-no-matter-what routine makes it seem like Boone is treading water without the resources to buy his way to the top, he plans on dropping to 160 and is campaigning to fight anyone who wants to fight him. At age 33, Boone is something of a gatekeeper, a litmus test for the promising young fighters tossed into the ring with him, but make no mistake—as anyone who has ever watched or fought Boone knows, he is certainly not a journeyman

Boone's plans to win don't always materialize
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: Journeyman is a word used in sports that often has a negative connotation attached. Do you view this as a negative description or is it something you embrace?

Darnell Boone: It’s just a stereotype. I’m not a journeyman, because journeymen don’t beat guys they aren’t supposed to beat. A journeyman is a guy going in that’s ready to lose or knows he’s going to lose. I’m always going in there knowing that I’m going to win, unless the odds are stacked against me and the politics of boxing kick in. I guess that’s what makes me a journeyman, but I don’t consider myself a journeyman.

KOD: You started your career in 2004 with a series of wins, but soon got thrown into the ring with lions of the division. Fighting the best of the best so often isn’t something that many guys can claim to do, especially away from the world title. 
How did your career take this shape?

DB: I don’t really know, but I’m thinking that after a while, the people I was with didn’t care about what was going on with my career. They were just worried about a paycheck. After I fought Andre Ward, they should have slowed me down, and said “look, this is where we’re trying to go with this.” They kept throwing me to the wolves. I think they probably want to test their guys, and see how far they can get past me, however the situation may happen.
If you can get past me, you probably have some promise.

KOD: Had you been managed differently, do you think you could have been a world champion?

DB: Oh yeah, no doubt in my mind. All the writers and the boxing world can see that if I was managed the right way, I could have been the world champion and it’s not over—I could still make it happen. It’s just about getting the right fights. Who is going to take the chance to fight me? Guys don’t take the chance to fight me unless there’s something in the mix—they know the judges are with them, or that the referee is going to be on their side.
Going into each fight, I know there’s always something that’s against me.

KOD: For many fighters, the motivation to continue stems from fighting for a world title. 
You've fought the best, but never for the ultimate prize. What is your motivation to fight?

Deezol does it for the kids
DB: My kids, my fans, and everybody that believes in what I can do. I fight for the city. I fight for the struggle. The struggle is coming from the streets of Youngstown, a hood rat, a guy that comes from nothing, that didn’t have the glitz and glamor, didn’t have all the money, didn’t have the silver spoon.

I fight for the kids in the neighborhood that don’t think there’s another way out, so when the mothers and fathers talk about me to their kids, they know that there is another way. “He did it.” I do it to motivate the young.

KOD: Do you prepare any differently for fights against highly regarded foes? Is it easier to prepare because there's more video than your typical young fighter?

DB: I train for everybody the same. The only way they can beat me is if they catch me short notice, or the odds are against me and they have everything in their favor. But in a fair and square fight, they can’t beat me. I would like to go down to 160 pounds, and fight guys like Elvin Ayala that are veterans of the game and can actually be beat. Then, after a string of about five wins, I would step back up into the good class.

Boone held Kovalev to a split decision in 2010
KOD: Who is the hardest puncher that you have fought?

DB: The hardest puncher was [Sergey] Kovalev. He knows exactly how to use his height and leverage with punches. He keeps you on the outside, away from getting on the inside on him. He fights tall.

KOD: Many of your opponents have gone on to win or fight for world titles, and have at the very least stayed relevant in the sport. Are they any in particular that you think are overrated by the public, ones that didn’t impress you in the ring? 

DB: I’m not impressed with none of them. The only one doing something was Ward, but everybody was babied. Yeah, they fought the good fighters, but they fight guys when they’re beat up. They have a good record, but boxing made them old, so they are either on their way out or just now coming up in the boxing ranks. Of course you’re supposed to beat guys like that. None of them really impressed me much.

KOD: In 2005, you stepped into the ring with Ward. The acclaimed prospect was only in his seventh professional fight, and you gave him and his undefeated record quite the challenge. To date, you’re the only person to have dropped Ward, and one of few to have given him any sort of struggle. Take us through the fight and your impressions of Ward.

Boone dropped Ward in 2005
DB: I used to watch him fight. I was sitting in my room talking to my girlfriend, and I said “I want to fight this guy. I can beat him.” No sooner did I say that, two or three months later it came about. I knew I could beat this dude. I believe I beat him, everybody that was there thought I beat him, and he knew I beat him.

KOD: What about the knockdown, can you describe it? Also, what do you think is the blueprint to beating Andre Ward?

DB: You can’t let him dictate the fight. Keep him off balance at all times. You’ve got to rough him up. He was hurt with an uppercut-straight right hand. The referee gave him a delayed count, he got up, and he stayed away from me. First three rounds, he won slightly. Second three, I win, then I won the fight with the knockdown, but you know how the politics are.

KOD: What’s your impression of Andre now—how has he evolved since you met him in the ring?
Is he worthy of being ranked as the consensus #2 pound for pound fighter in the world?

DB: Yeah, he definitely got better and earned his spot. That goes for everybody else that’s fighting him too. They try to go in there and knock him out, and use the same blueprint that I fought him with, but that was 2005. He’s not going to fall for that over and over, especially since he was hurt. He won’t get hit with that same shot.
They need to come up with their own gameplan.

KOD: The crowning achievement of your career to date appears to have come in 2010 against Adonis Stevenson. Coming into the fight at 13-0, Stevenson had already established a reputation as a fearsome puncher, but you turned the tables on him and knocked him out in the second round. Tell us about your experience that night in Maryland.

DB: He was stalking me, and I was blocking shots. Going into the second round, I hit him with a right uppercut and a left hook that buckled his knees. I knew he was hurt, and when we came out for the second round, I doubled the jab up and threw the overhand right short. I didn’t even throw it hard, I just threw it and it landed. It really did surprise me, but I told everybody I was going to knock him out. Just like everybody else, he looked at my record and said, “oh, I can beat him,” without knowing what was behind those losses.

Superman takes his revenge on Boone
KOD: Last March, Adonis Stevenson exacted his revenge and knocked you out in the sixth. How did this fight go differently? Was he very much improved?

DB: No, they switched the weight on me, and I was the naturally smaller guy. I was in shape, but he was just too big. With him being bigger than me, he was supposed to do what he did. I never have a gameplan, I just go in there and do the best I can, but I signed the contract at 168 pounds. I’m underweight. Me and my trainer are sitting at the table, and his promoter comes down and says “you might as well eat. He’s going to come in heavy. He’s still 178 right now.” If I decided not to take the fight, would they have still paid me? I’m already up there in Canada and I don’t know what’s going on, so they start throwing money at me. My manager talked to them and got it up to $18,000 and then with him not making the weight, they threw me an extra $2000, so it ended up being $20,000. I took the money. Now we’re fighting at 175. The day before the fight, he’s 178 but gets down to 171.8. With me eating, I hit the scale at 170.8. How much was our weigh in before I even ate? With me losing this weight, I’m there three days, tired, hadn’t been rehydrated right, and this guy is coming down from 190-195. The fight was supposed to go the way it went.

KOD: You seem to never have a concrete gameplan going into your fights.

DB: No, because if you go into the fight with a plan, that plan goes out the window once the fight starts. Now, I do listen to my corner, and see what they see that I’m not seeing, but I don’t ever go in there with a gameplan. You don’t use it. As soon as you get hit in the mouth, that goes out the window. Of all the fights I have lost, I would say at least ten of them were fair and square. The fights against Enrique Ornealas, Brandon Gonzales, Jesus Gonzales, Lajuan Simon, Lennox Allen, I could go on and on about the fights I won but lost because of some situation.

KOD: As we already touched on, you fought both Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson. Fight fans have begun clamoring for that explosive showdown at 175. If it happens, who do you foresee as the winner, and how?

Boone thinks the Krusher can beat Superman
DB: Kovalev, because he’s the more sound boxer. Both of them are strong and it’s going to be whoever lands the shot first, but I would go with Kovalev on that. They both have what it takes to knock each other out. Both of them are strong, but the thing with Adonis is that he does the same thing in each fight. Paw with the jab, paw with the jab, paw with the jab, left. He never really mixes it up. With Kovalev, he’s throwing combinations, he’s moving, and punching off angles.

KOD: The glamor in boxing is mainly associated with title fights and the cash cows of the sport, but on local cards and fights that occur outside the eye of the TV networks, anything can happen. What's the craziest story that you've experienced in your career?

DB: I never really had the proper camp or preparation time. That’s always been a factor with me. If I don’t take that fight, then I won’t fight for six months. I had an up and down career, ain’t nothing fun about my career—just fighting. The best thing that happened to me is that I won three ringside awards and I got to meet a lot of people.

La Bomba loses to Ward but gets credit from Boone
KOD: What about your 2009 fight against Edwin Rodriguez? Do you think Edwin has what it takes to become a world champion?

DB: It depends who they put him in with. I expected him to do better against Ward, but that exposed him a little bit. Me fighting him, at that time, the people I was with didn’t know what the heck they were dong. They put me in the fight, I went and fought. He was just a better man that night. I was coming from being incarcerated before that. I was out of the ring for 22 months. I’m just coming home from doing a stint; I’m trying to get my money back to where it was before I went in there.

KOD: Did that jail sentence change you?

DB: It did. I don’t trust anybody anymore. It plays into my relationship with females. When I came home, I got back in the ring doing what I was doing. I was falsely incarcerated for something I didn’t do. Some family members were robbing people, and I was at camp preparing for a fight. When I got home from camp, they were arresting everybody, and I had paperwork to prove I didn’t do it and wasn’t around, but they still held me.

KOD: Your resume is a who's who of the sport. Who is the best fighter you've fought?

DB: I get asked this a lot. My favorite fighter that I have fought so far has been Anthony Thompson. He had the same fire that I had. He didn’t make it far because of his religion. He couldn't fight on certain times or certain days. With that being said, if the promoter can’t make you do what they want you to do, they can’t mess with you as much. The thing that set him apart from every other fighter is that he was just so sharp. He was smart in the ring, and he used everything that he had to fight. He would try stuff in the ring and was just so skilled.

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