February 1, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Malik Scott - "I’ll defuse the Bronze Bomber"

King Scott wants to be the Heavyweight King
Sometimes, the way the stories of athletes get painted all blur into one. While it seems that boxing provides a closer look into the way fighters truly feel than players in other sports, interviews and press conferences are still filled with the same interchangeable clichés from fight to fight. Sometimes, the theatrics leave us wondering what bad blood is real and what is fabricated to sell tickets. That’s why talking to American heavyweight Malik Scott is so refreshing. Whether it be a story from his fourteen years as a professional boxer out of Philadelphia, or an anecdote from his many interests outside the ring, including a fondness for creating his own cigars and an avid appreciation for reading, you get the feeling that Scott is not only genuine, but also genuinely interesting.

Scott  (36-1-1, 13 KOs) returns to the ring on March 15, fighting against close friend Deontay "The Bronze Bomber" Wilder. Wilder, labeled as the ‘next great American heavyweight hopeful,’ has been like a brother to Scott for several years. The two have trained together, sparred with each other, and have treated each other as family. While stepping between the ropes with someone you care about must certainly be a difficult task, Scott knows very well what will stand across the ring from him, perhaps giving him the window of opportunity to expose Wilder and catapult his own career at 33 years of age. Whether boxing as an underdog and getting robbed in the ring against Dereck Chisora or Vyacheslav Glazkov, or simply existing as an underdog amid the violence on the streets of North Philadelphia on his way home from the gym, Malik Scott’s journey to Bayamon, Puerto Rico on March 15th’s Showtime tripleheader has been long, eventful, and hard, but he tells his story with self-assured ease, and one gets the feeling that entering the fight against Deontay Wilder as an underdog, underestimated by the public, is exactly where Malik Scott wants to be.

KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: You were born and raised in Philadelphia, a major fight town with a boatload of boxing history. What sort of impact did your residency have on you as you started your career as a fighter?

Scott in the safe haven of the gym
Malik Scott: It had a great impact. I started off with a great trainer, Fred Jenkins, who runs the athletic rec center in North Philadelphia, called ABC gym. He brought me from the ground up as a fighter, along with Zahir Raheem, David Reid, Bryant Jennings, and the list goes on. I was fortunate enough to have him in my corner, and he was like a surrogate father to me outside of the ring. The gym was in the heart of North Philly, so there were times I would leave from the gym to walk home four miles to my house. The locations you would walk through were like hell. I was walking through the projects. I’ve been robbed, jumped, and beaten up to get home from the gym, and I went through some tough times, but they build character and strength. That started me off knowing that everything I wanted I would have to fight for. Even if I wanted to walk to the gym and back home, I would have to fight for that. I did have to fight for that. Coming up as a kid, I had to walk through a lot of drug infested areas and guys who’d make you pay with their presence for being in that area.  That's how it was coming up. As time goes on, everybody got familiar with me and the ABC gym at the corner of 26th and Jefferson.

KOD: Having been through all that, did you also view boxing as your ticket out of that environment?

MS: You could definitely say that, but I come from a good home though. My mother and my grandmother always told me the difference between right and wrong. Boxing and going to the gym everyday was my outlet. My brother has Blount disease. That means his bones grow narrow. He was bullied to the tenth power, so a lot of my fistfights before boxing were fighting battles for my little brother when people used to tease him. That’s how I got into boxing. My uncle got tired of seeing me fight outside the ring. He asked me if I wanted to go to the gym. I’ve never turned back since.

KOD: You’re a pretty interesting guy outside of the ring. I hear you’re a big fan of cigars?

Scott is the Kevailah King of cigars
MS: I’m a huge fan of cigars. I’m a cigar connoisseur. I’m in the process of making and wrapping my own cigar, Kevailah. I got the name from my son’s name—his name is Malik Scott Jr., but his nickname is Keito, which means “very tiny.” He was just 1.5 lbs. when he was born. My daughter’s name is Havilah, which comes from the Book of Genesis, the land of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve got their gold from. So, I put the names together and call my cigar Kevailah. After the fight, I’m going down to Nicaragua to start wrapping my own cigar and testing the tobacco levels so I know exactly how I want my cigar to taste and pull. It’s a great relaxation for me. Something I have been interested in collecting for the last ten to twelve years. In the last five or six years, I started tasting them myself because, if I want to distribute a cigar to the people, I need to make sure the taste, the wrapping, and the pull are all right. My favorite current cigars now are the classic Padron and the Avo # 1. It goes with the mood I'm in. Be on the lookout for the Kevailah once it becomes available. 

KOD: I also understand that another one of your interests is reading, in particular, the works of Charles Manson?

Scott digs the Helter Skelter era
MS: I love to read. That’s how I train my mind to stay alert, the same way I train my body to stay sharp and stay in peak conditioning. I’m a huge Charles Manson fan and of the whole Helter Skelter era. A lot of insane things went on at that time, but those things were happening in Old America. I love the rights we have in this America, but the things that Charles was ranting about and talking for his cult were strong stances. Back then, people weren’t being leaders. For a man to take a stand, a lot of people called it manipulation, but he was standing up for the insane shit that he believed in. His logic was strong and I’m a man of logic. I believe 1+1 is 2 and the sky is blue, and nobody can tell me nothing different. And like Charles Manson said, I believe that when you leave the world, you should do things to let them know that you were here. Some things can be more wicked than other things. Some people will leave the world and will be known as hard working 9 to 5 people who lived right every day, and that’s perfectly fine, but I want a bit more wicked of a story when I’m dead and gone. I want people to say “that dude was a fighter. That dude had a mind of his own, he spoke exactly how he felt, he loved to read, and was a great pugilist who had class in and out of the ring.” Those are considered cool, wicked things, and those are the things I’m into. Manson had a lot of that in him. If you read his books and a lot of the things he was telling people in his cult—the women and some of the guys were coming from broken homes. He told them that even though you’re from a broken home, you don’t have to be a broken person. There’s some genius in being psychotic. Even though he manipulated people to believe in him, he was giving them a sense of purpose. I dig a lot of his insane logic.
A lot of things he said were wrong, but the man made a lot of sense in half the things he said.

KOD: You have a big fight coming up on March 15th against Wilder. Deontay is a former Olympian and has been lauded as the next great American heavyweight hope. Clearly, this is a big fight for you, one of the most important you’ve had in your career. How did this fight come about, and how confident are you heading into the matchup?

MS: I’m extremely confident going into the fight. There’s no secret that me and Deontay have one hell of a brotherhood outside the ring. Come March 15th, that relationship is going to be put on the side. I’m not coming to test Deontay. I’m coming to beat Deontay. The man’s record speaks for itself. He’s done everything that’s been asked of him, even with little experience in the amateurs. He’s an athlete with raw power, and I think these are the types of fights that the heavyweight division needs. If me and Deontay have to put our brotherhood on the side to make this great fight happen, I’m getting mine and he’s getting mine. We’re looking forward to it, and I’m coming to win.

KOD: Deontay Wilder, aside from his accolades, is more than your average opponent. The two of you have been friends for quite some time. Tell us about the details of that friendship, and how does fighting a friend change your approach?

Friends in the gym but rivals in the ring
MS: It’s not as difficult as people are making it. Me and Deontay both want to do two things: we both want to be heavyweight champion of the world, and we both want to provide for our families. When I think about those two things and the history that I’m chasing, it’s easy for me to put this aside and be brothers afterwards. But right now, we get ready to go to war. You’d be surprised just how close we got in our relationship outside the ring. He’s held my kids, I’ve held his kids. I’ve spent time with him in his hometown and he has in mine, we’ve gotten tattoos together, we go to the gun range together, we’ve gone to camps together, and we’re on the phone with each other talking about life in general. I think all of that though will make this a hell of a fight inside the ring.

KOD: Both you and Wilder have sparred with each other, as well as together in the same camp with Tomasz Adamek. Does that familiarity with him as a fighter help you train and be prepared for fighting him for real, having been in the ring with him?

MS: I don’t really know. When I boxed him, he was getting ready for a fight, and I wasn’t in the best of conditions. He’s gotten better and I’m ten times better than I was at that time. I don’t think we can gauge our fight on our sparring sessions or the times we were in the same camp. We want to see if what we do is enough to beat the other man. That’s why this is going to be a great fight, because we just don’t know. I think that since we know each other, we’ll make a better fight than two guys who don’t know each other at all. It’s a great matchup. It’s the athletic, pure puncher against an athletic, and most skillful boxer in the heavyweight division—me. It’s a classic fight and we’ll be brothers afterwards.

Wilder and Scott
KOD: Objectively, taking out your status as his friend and his opponent—what do you think of Wilder by the eye test? Many critics say he's still very untested. Do you find him to be the great American heavyweight hope that he has been hyped up to be?

MS: Absolutely. I think 30-0 with 30 knockouts is nothing to play with. That’s going to make me more alert and sharp because I know what I’m dealing with. He’s a young lion, a beast, and I believe he’s more athletic, and a better boxer, than people give him credit for. He does a lot of freakish things in the ring. I want to be on my A game to get this job done, because he’s everything I believe he is. If I’m not on top of my game, I know what will happen, I know what I'm in there with.

KOD: In order for you to beat Deontay Wilder, what needs to happen in the fight?

MS: I’m working on a lot of things, but what I have to do for sure is to stay myself. There’s a lot of different things that I’m going to add onto this fight that people will be surprised about, but I’m going to be me and use my natural ability and stand my ground. I’m not going to be running. Deontay is going to have to earn it, but he’s not going to have to look for it. He’s not going to be a big cat chasing a little mouse around. I’m a man, he’s a man, we’re heavyweights, and we’re going to war.

KOD: There’s an interesting parallel here with the way you were brought up through the ranks. Your reputation as a result, is quite similar to that of Deontay Wilder. Do you see that long climb as being ultimately beneficial to fighters? What do you think of the criticism of both of you for moving so slowly up that ladder?

MS: Our journeys have been parallel to each other the whole time because we're almost the A side of people's wants and the B side of what people don't want. That’s why, to me, this is the best matchup in the heavyweight division that I’ve seen in a very long time. You’ve got puncher vs boxer. One guy has been criticized for knocking everybody out, and the one guy got criticized for not knocking too many people out.

KOD: The Dereck Chisora bout last year in Wembley was a controversial one and cost you your first official loss. 
You were counted out of the fight at "9" by the referee while standing on your feet. 
Take us through your emotions leading up to the fight and then the aftermath.

Tough break for Scott in UK against Chisora
MS: Leading up to the fight, I felt great. I had a good training camp. We went over there to win the fight. I was winning the fight, and as a heavyweight, you’re going to get hit and knocked down. Fighters go through way too much in training camp and to get our turn for a ref to get to a 9 count and call it off when I’m very coherent. It was a very unfortunate thing. I don’t want to take credit away from Dereck Chisora, because he fought a great fight. I have seen so many worse predicaments when fighters have been knocked down and their equilibrium is off, and they got up at 9. Look at Diego Corrales when he fought Jose Luis Castillo. He got up at nine and a half and fought a war, and won. Fighters deserve to go out on their shields. If I’m going to lose, give Chisora the chance to finish me, in addition to giving me the chance to redeem myself. Could he finish me? We won’t know because we had a very premature decision from a referee known for doing that type of thing. That shit happens in boxing. A lot of people were on me because they didn’t think I complained enough. I guess they wanted me to choke the referee like Zab Judah or bite somebody’s ear off like Mike Tyson. But that’s not my style or my character. Milk was spilled, but there are no babies over here to cry about it. I took that lickin and kept on tickin, it was a plus.

KOD: If the opportunity for a rematch with Chisora arose, would you jump at the chance to fight him again?

MS: If it was presented to me that he wanted to fight me again, yes. I would sign that contract faster than Superman changes clothes! I actually like what Chisora is doing. I don’t even like Kevin Johnson outside the ring, we don’t get along or have good things to say about each other, but I believe he has has a chance to beat Chisora. You’ve got to give Chisora credit, because he works hard and gets the job done, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnson beat him. 

KOD: Prior to the Chisora fight, your unblemished record was tainted by a controversial draw with Vychaselav Glazkov. How did you feel about the scoring of that fight? Did you feel you did enough to win it?

Scott understands the politics of boxing
MS: I beat Glazkov seven rounds to three, at least. I won that fight. We knew it was his promoter’s card, the ring was two inches big, and they tried to pull all the stops out on me, but it didn’t work because I have the skills to pay the bills. He couldn’t keep up with my pace or my looks. That was another mishap that happened, but that’s life and boxing. I shouted about that a little bit, but that was it. I wish Glazkov luck, but he didn’t look too good in his last fight. He has Adamek next and I hope he wins, but he has to pick up the pace. If there’s a nice financial thing going on behind it or a title, I would like a rematch.

KOD: You always hear people say “that stuff happens in boxing,” but you’ve been inside the ring and behind the scenes and I haven’t. When we see these bad decisions, is it simply ineptitude of judges, or is there a predetermined outcome in fights?

MS: It depend on the fight. For a judge to think Glazkov beat me, it says a lot about promoters, judges, and everything in the sport. It’s not a good look, and there have been a lot of decisions like that lately. I’ve never been a judge, but right is right and wrong is wrong, and fights like and me and Glazkov should be called for what they are. I won seven rounds and he won three—maybe. It just goes to show that things are going on under the table that we don’t know about. Unfortunate things happen in life, and that carries into the boxing world, so it happens and I take it on the chin. Boxing is crazy but I'm happy to be in it.

KOD: Great American fighters in the heavyweight division are scarce these days. 
What are obstacles facing the Americans in higher weight classes?

MS: I don’t believe in that, actually. The heavyweight division is back in action. I think it’s actually better than it was ten years ago. There was a time when there were just American heavyweights. Now, there are American and European heavyweights. The division itself is very talented, but it lacks great matchups like Malik Scott vs Deontay Wilder. It lacks great fights. Bryant Jennings and Artur Szpilka fought a great fight, so shout out to them. Mike Perez and Magomed had a great fight. These are the tough fights that need to be made for heavyweight to get the credit it deserves, because if not, it’s just a group of talented fighters sitting around, fighting meaningless fights and people will criticize the division. The top fights need to be made. I will fight my Dad himself if that means the heavyweight division would be put back on the map, I don’t give a fuck. I put my brothership with Wilder on the side because I am here to be heavyweight champion and revive the heavyweight division as a pugilist specialist myself.

KOD: With Vitali Klitschko retiring and World Champion Wladimir Klitschko soon on his way out as he continues to age, do you think there will be more parity and quality at heavyweight once the dominant brothers depart?

The title is the target

MS: Now you have one of the vacant titles being fought in the United States between Arreola and Stiverne. It definitely opens up the division. To me, the winner of that is lined up to fight the winner of Wilder and Scott. Even though Stiverne is from Haiti and Arreola is from Mexico, the title is being fought for here in America, and that creates a lot more opportunities for Americans to fight for these titles. This becomes very interesting. You’ll see more life in the heavyweight division just because those titles will be here in America, opening doors for fighters that live in America who want a shot.

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