Former WBO world champion Bronco “Superman” McKart talks career to Livefight
By Michael J Jones
In May of this year, former WBO Light-middleweight champion Bronco “Superman” McKart would face off with the promising Tony Harrison in Detroit in a classic 'experience vs youth' match. However there would be no last hurrah for the 43-year-old McKart as the aggressive Harrison, nearly twenty years the younger man, would score three knock-downs for a crushing first-round victory.
Thankfully, the former champion has sensibly retired from prize fighting since then and Livefight recently contacted Bronco for an interview to discuss his 68-bout career which began some 22 years ago.
During our 45 minute conversation a few things are glaringly clear; firstly McKart is hugely proud of his boxing career which saw him face pretty much every solid contender and champion around over a large number of years. Secondly, the Monroe, Michigan man is very respectful of every opponent he faced. Many times during our talk he would make the point of saying a former ring foe was a “nice fellow” or “great guy”. There's also absolutely no malice with the 43-year-old about any of the frustration in his career (and there was much to be frustrated about). He just puts the negatives down to things that happened which he was then able to put behind him.
The young McKart turned pro in July 92' aged 21 and within seven short months was a perfect 7-0. The first blip would occur in bout number eight when a slick prospect named Clayton Williams would floor Bronco twice on-route to a four-round decision win.
“I think I was just over-whelmed in that fight” McKart tells Livefight of his first defeat. “I was this young kid who had never fought outside of Ohio and here I was in Las Vegas with Jack Nicholson and Bruce Willis ringside. I think I just got caught up with all of it.”
After losing his first pro contest on a card which featured superstars James Toney* and Roy Jones Jr (in separate bouts), the beaten man would receive encouraging words from a boxing legend to make the experience less traumatic.
*Both McKart and Toney would share the same manager and trainer for a long time in Jackie Kallen and Bill Miller respectively.
“After the fight, I was in the changing room and George Foreman walks in and he says 'don't worry about losing son, you showed a lot of heart out there today', obviously that meant a lot to me. Many years later when I became a world champion, I bumped into him again in a lift and I talked to him again about that moment. For a legend like George Foreman to say something like that meant the world to me.”
McKart put the defeat firmly behind him and was soon back to winning ways. In fact he would reel off victories in his next seventeen contests with fifteen by knock-out. Tall for the 154lb weight limit at six feet, McKart was that rarest of things in boxing; an exciting southpaw. Sure he was a lefty but he had a high work-rate, worked the body well and could punch with either hand too.
After claiming both the Michigan State and WBC International titles, McKart was ready for the division's best contenders. In June 95' he would be pitted against former world welterweight champion Aaron Davis in a clash of “Supermen”. Davis at 40-3 was still a slick and cagey operator with power but McKart was ready for his toughest test to date.
Now 24-1 (17) and unbeaten in the two years since his only reverse, McKart started the bout quickly and riddled Davis to head and body with both hands. The right uppercut in particular scored hard and often to the chin of Davis who couldn't seem to fend off the younger man. After four rounds, McKart was 4-0 up...
“That was a heck of a fight” remembers Bronco. “My mind-set was there was no way I was going to lose that night. I said before the fight I was going to set a great pace and by the sixth I'd start breaking him down but the opposite happened and he started coming back at me.”
The two men fought at an incredible pace for the entire fight. Davis came to life in the middle rounds but McKart, in superb shape, stayed with him. By the later rounds the Monroe southpaw still seemed slightly ahead but Davis was looking strong. The two gladiators finished frenetically but it was McKart who hurt Davis in the last the seal a memorable victory by split decision.
The two men threw an astonishing 1407 combined punches over the twelve action-packed rounds as McKart retained his WBC International title with two scores of 116-112. The third judge gave it to Davis narrowly at 114-113.
“It was a confidence booster to beat a guy like that, a former world champion who was a dangerous guy. Seeing the men (Davis) had beaten, and would go on to beat, I knew then that I could move on up to the next level.”
Now ranked highly by the WBO, McKart patiently waited for his world title shot but it was not to be straight forward. Five months after the Aaron Davis thriller, Sheffield’s unsung Paul “Silky” Jones produced one of the shocks of the year by out-pointing Verno Phillips to become an unlikely world champion.
McKart was by this time the mandatory contender yet Jones was hesitant in agreeing to face the Michigan fighter...
“The funny part was, I'd gone to Vegas for the WBO convention and met “Silky” Jones. We talked and shook hands and I thought he was an OK guy but it was just one of those things. I was a six foot southpaw, who could punch and was on a roll so I fully understand why he didn't want any part of me.”
The two men were eventually scheduled to face each other in March 1996 in Indio, California. However, at last minute there would be a surprise turn of events.
“I was there one day at home and a reporter from the UK rang me and told me I was facing Santos Cardona for the title. I said no I was fighting Paul Jones and he said ‘no you're definitely fighting Cardona’. I didn't have a clue so I called my Dad who also never knew. It was confirmed soon after but it's funny this reporter knew before we did.”
With Jones vacating rather than face the dangerous McKart, in came “Chino” Cardona, a 30-6 Puerto Rican who had recently taken both Pernell Whitaker and Verno Phillips the full distance in failed world title shots.
“Cardona surprised me a little as he brought some pressure, was sneaky and was a lot stronger than I thought he'd be” admits Bronco. “The move I was trying to implement was to circle to the left, feint him, wait for him to shoot the right-hand and then fire a counter left. For round after round I was trying to set it up; even the commentators were wondering why I kept circling left when I was a southpaw!”
“It was the sixth round when I finally started to land the counter left hand and from then on it was a beat down and the fight changed from that moment.”
Early in the ninth round, with McKart in total control and Cardona taking heavy punishment, the referee called a halt making “Superman” the new WBO champion of the world.
Just two months later, the champion's homecoming was set; McKart would make the first defence of his title in Monroe, Michigan against fellow southpaw Ronald “Winky” Wright. The challenger was a nice-boxing jabber with a good record at 34-1 but few could have predicted the fighter he would later become.
“I knew Winky was a good fighter, but I was on a roll back then and I just thought I'd beat him and continue making money as a champion. I really thought I won that fight, the other two (contests) I have no complaints I lost but that first fight I definitely thought I won.”
The challenger made a whirlwind start to the contest throwing bundles of punches off the right jab. The all southpaw match made for compelling viewing, while Wright had bagged most of the early rounds, the dogged champion came right back to finish strongly in front of his home fans.
“In that fight I did everything I set out to do” reasons the former champion who was shown pictures of his late grandfather after one particular round by his manager Jackie Kallen for extra motivation. “I said if I could win just one of the first three rounds then pick it up then I'd beat him. I did just that and I just couldn't believe the decision. What was strange was there was a Florida judge, a Michigan judge and one neutral judge; the neutral judge went for me and the other two scored to him.”
“Even Winky said to me after the decision I had won. He said ‘they screwed you on the cards’ so I was shocked.”
The scores read 115-113 twice to Wright while the third judge favoured the champion by 116-113 in what would be the most competitive match between the two men. If it hadn't been for Winky Wright, McKart would have probably reigned for many years more.
“For maybe two months after that fight I still couldn't take it in (that Wright had gotten the decision). Every morning I woke up thinking why did that happen? It was unfortunate for me as for many years me and Winky Wright were the number one and two in the division so we kept fighting each other. If him or me had come along two years before or after things would have been different but he turned out to be my nemesis.”
To emphasise McKart's point, the Monroe southpaw would remain unbeaten for four years after losing his WBO title to his next defeat; another decision loss to Wright. He wasn't fighting bums either; among his victims were highly respectable contenders. Solid opposition such as Glenwood Brown, Ron Weaver and Jason Papillion were all vanquished as the former champion targeted another world title shot.
Papillion twice failed to find the Kryptonite against McKart, the second bout for the NABF Junior-middleweight title. The contests weren't easy though with the sharp-punching Papillion dropping Bronco in their first meeting.
“When we were training for (Jason Papillion) and my Dad (Eugene McKart) kept saying to me not to follow him to the ropes as he had a habit of jumping off the ropes and firing the right hand. In the second round I followed him to the ropes and he made that same move and dropped me. I was like 'oh man that's what my Dad told me about'. I got up and took over from the third and won everything after but Jason Papillion was a very tough guy and those were two really good fights.”
“I like to keep in touch with my old opponents, I talk to Jason on Facebook, also Alex Bunema who's a great guy and I played golf with Winky Wright...I also keep in touch with Jackie Kallen she's still managing and has a couple of good prospects coming through right now.”
In September 2000, McKart would face Winky Wright again this time with the NABF and USBA 154lb titles on the line with the bout also doubling as a final eliminator for the IBF crown. The fight took place in Chester, West Virginia and this time there would be no doubt about the judges' decision.
“In the rematch Winky was a totally different fighter” accepts Bronco of his great rival who put on a defensive master-class to win clearly by scores of 118-110 (twice) and 116-112. “That night he went up another level and fought the perfect fight. He was on target and fought with absolutely no flaws.”
After losing the rematch, McKart would again come back strongly to beat good men in Michael Lerma, Brandon Mitchem and winning a split decision over Alex Bunema. In the meantime, Wright would win the vacant IBF belt (vacated by Felix Trinidad) with a decision over Robert Frazier. Wright would then make his second defence against his old rival two years after their second meeting.
The third and final meeting between the two men would take place in Portland but would prove a nightmare for the challenger from the very start...
“The problem was the ref for that fight (Michael Fischer) wasn't ready for that fight. He was an amateur ref who had never handled a world title fight before. Everybody knows Winky Wright wore his trunks high and kept his elbows very low...I ended up fighting Wright and the ref that night.”
The farcical contest began at a steady pace but every time McKart went to the body the ref jumped in like a shot. After a few rounds Fischer began to take points away, the eventual tally being five point deductions before McKart was disqualified in round number eight.
“Winky had a great chin; he could take a heck of a shot. Nobody was ever going to knock him out and with his style he was tough to out-point too. Being deducted all of those points I was never going to win that fight. Besides, everyone knows if you’re deducted three points it’s an instant disqualification; why did (Fischer) get to five points?”
Does the 43 year old regret taking on Wright for the third time?
“Listen, I never turned any fight down, I never ducked or dodged anyone. I fought all the best guys around and my record shows that. I take great pride in that too.”
For the remainder of his twelve years in boxing, McKart would still mix in good company in going 11-7-1. He would box again for a world title in 2004 against the unbeaten Travis Simms losing a clear decision for the WBA version of the title.
“He was a good fighter but what he did he changed tactics midway in our fight” comments Bronco of Simms. “The fight was warming up and I caught him with a good right hook in the fifth which shook him up. After that he quit fighting and changed tactics and started to box and move. I hoped he'd stay with me (fighting in close) but I give him a lot of respect.”
The former WBO ruler would also meet an upcoming middleweight prospect named Kelly Pavlik for the NABF middleweight belt in Uncasville. McKart would floor “The Ghost” briefly before being halted in the sixth.
“Of all the fights I had Kelly Pavlik was the hardest puncher I faced” reveals McKart who would suffer his first knock-out defeat to the lethal-punching Pavlik. “He'd hit me on the arms and it'd hurt. We went to war and I had him down but he stopped me. I like Kelly but it was sad how fast he rose and how quickly he faded. He was a very talented kid and if certain things had been different I think he would have been around for a long time.”
“As soon as the Bernard Hopkins fight was made I knew that was a horrible match for him. It was stylistically all wrong for him and I knew he’d get totally out-boxed.”
In the second half of 2007, the slowed-down version of Bronco McKart would share two tough contests with durable Mexican Enrique Ornelas for the NABF middleweight title.
In the first bout, the older man would grind out a split decision victory in Uncasville but the rematch would be a vastly different meeting between the pair.
“The first fight I won a split decision but I said I’d give him a rematch” begins Bronco. “In the rematch I caught him with a good left and he went down, but when he got up he hit me back with some big shots and burst both of my ear-drums. I was laying on the ropes taking punches in the fourth because I lost my balance.”
“Ornelas was a strong guy and a real big middleweight who went on to give Hopkins a good little fight.”
McKart would soldier on with his career for another seven years, drawing with Raul Marquez but suffering further defeats in good class to Roman Karmazin and Anthony Mundine. After suffering his latest setback to Tony Harrison six months ago I ask whether he’s definitely retired from boxing now?
“I am definitely retired now and you will never see me in a boxing ring again” says the former crowd-pleaser emphatically. “In August I was given a place on the board of commissioners in Michigan which I’m very proud of.”
“Boxing has been a blessing to me and has allowed me to do things outside the ring that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I’ve visited schools and Churches to talk about my career and I hope to keep my hand in boxing by helping the young guys out.
I’m also hoping to get into commentating, if I can just get my foot in the door with that I think I can do a good job with that.”
Bronco McKart should be a bitter man about various stages of his career but he is completely at peace and rightfully satisfied of what he achieved in the ring. Whenever talking about a defeat he reiterates time and again “all you can do after a loss is to put it behind you and move on.”
If there had been no Winky Wright, McKart could easily have reigned as champion for several years; maybe even unified to earn a match with one of the big guns of the era such as Oscar De La Hoya. It wasn’t to be but Bronco still beat every man in his prime bar Wright…and he did so as that rarest of things; an exciting southpaw who thrilled the crowds in most of his fights.
“Firstly, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me” he tells me sincerely. “I want to thank everyone who supported me through my career. Boxing has been good for me and I’ll always be grateful for what it has done for me.”
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Cleverly - Bellew 2 report
You pays your money and you takes your chance.
If you bought last nights PPV under the impression that James DeGale, George Groves or Jamie McDonnell were going to be exposed to a real chance of defeat then you either have no idea that all three fighters have huge assignments booked in for next year or you are new to the way the sport works. For any of those fighters to be allowed to slip up with big world title fights on the horizon would have been criminal. No, despite the Sky Sports hype machine last nights bill was built around the bitterness that exists between cruiserweight rivals Tony Bellew and Nathan Cleverly and bolstered by a series of showcase fights for Matchrooms stable. Of course, when an entire card is relying on one fight to deliver value for money there is a huge risk involved and, last night, that risk didn’t pay off.
If the pre-fight hyperbole is to be believed, Bellew’s split decision victory has put himself directly in the line of fire of WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck. Based on last nights evidence, the cold hard truth of the matter is that we were watching the boxing equivalent of two bald men fighting over a comb. Neither man seems equipped to cope with a fighter as rugged, effective and ruthless as the ‘Kapt’n’. Cleverly in particular seemed shorn of the qualities which made him so effective at light heavyweight.
Midway through the fight, the man from Cefyn Forest attempted some Sugar Ray Leonard style showboating but it had more than an air of Canderel Ray Leonard. Despite the fact that the Welshman did an aesthetically good job of bulking up to the cruiserweight weight limit, this was a distinctly low calorie version of the former WBO light heavyweight champion. Cleverly is clearly no cruiserweight and visibly diminished from extremely early in the fight. The fact that - despite his best attempts - Bellew could make no real impression on a weary, one handed and increasingly stationary target opens up two possibilities. Either Bellew realised that he just wasn’t going to find his groove and settled for outworking Cleverly and getting over the line or this was the final confirmation that the Liverpudlian simply lacks the variety to get rid of world level operators regardless of the weight.
The likelihood is that Bellew will get a shot at a world title belt at some point in 2015. The champions at 200lbs are a varied bunch but share one common quality; they are all extremely tough men. It will take a tremendous piece of matchmaking and a career best performance to get Bellew the world title he craves.
Cleverly opened the fight by jabbing manically and relied on that weapon for 99% of the contest. Rumours swirled around ringside that he had broken his right hand and he confirmed some damage in his post fight press conference but – to his credit – he refused to lay the blame for his performance on the injury. Cleverly isn’t a cruiserweight. It’s as simple as that. Hopefully he avoids any more prolonged lay-offs and stays in the gym until he decides whether to attempt to strip off the 25lbs of muscle he has worked so hard to add to his slender frame or remain at the higher weight limit. Or retire.
Whether you think Howard Foster ended James DeGale’s fight with Marco Antonio Periban too quickly or not, the Harlesden super middleweight deserves the upmost credit for taking the fight right to the Mexican tough guy and looking for the stoppage from the outset rather than boxing his way to a widely expected unanimous decision. DeGale stormed out for the third round to floor Periban with a left hook and Foster waved the contest off instantly. Periban protested but DeGale seemed to be fully on his game last night and looked determined to end matters quickly. DeGale remains mandatory contender for the IBF title but is still in the same position he was following May’s demolition of Brandon Gonzalez; Waiting to find out who he will fight for the title and where it will take place.
George Groves struggled to find his range during his fight with Denis Douglin and turned in a lacklustre display. Groves is at his best when he is able to establish his jab and catch opponents on the end of his fierce combinations but Douglin – who could make a decent middleweight contender - used his southpaw stance to frustrate him. It was the American’s head which caused the Londoner the most concern as an accidental head clash opened up a cut across the bridge of Groves’ nose. Gradually, Groves began to find his timing and a pair of right hands put Douglin down heavily. A follow up barrage bought matters to a close. Mandatory challenger, Groves, can now put his feet up and begin planning his assault on Anthony Dirrell’s WBC super middleweight title.
Scott Quigg will probably receive scant credit for his unanimous decision over Hidenori Otake but the WBA regular super bantamweight champion could have done little more as he hit the brave Japanese fighter with absolutely everything in his arsenal. Otake entered the fight on a seven year unbeaten streak and never stopped coming forward but lacked the power to discourage Quigg. Otake picked up a nasty cut over his right eye but was allowed to see out the twelve rounds. Quigg can look forward to a busy 2015 but really needs to be spending his time preparing for the divisions leading lights rather than solid contenders like Otake.
Jamie McDonnell found himself walking out to defend his WBA regular belt at around 6pm and had a tricky time with late notice Argentinean Javier Nicholas Chacon. Chacon eventually retired with a shoulder injury in the tenth round but was apparently complaining to his corner about the damage after just six minutes action. Nontheless, Chacon gave it a go but found McDonnell’s advantages in height and reach too much to overcome. McDonnell will have to up his performance by several levels when he travels to Las Vegas to take on Tomoki Kameda for the Japanese fighter’s WBO belt early next year.
Callum Smith was taken twelve rounds for the first time in his brief career by Montenegrin tough guy Nikola Sjekloca but passed his toughest test to date with flying colours. Smith dominated every round and seemed to realise that he would be in there for the long haul and sensibly reigned himself in. Sjekloca’s team arrived in Liverpool brimming with confidence but probably underestimated just how well equipped Smith is at such an early stage of his career.
Anthony Joshua predictably walked through poor Micheal Sprott in just 86 seconds. Sprott has been a good ambassador for British heavyweight boxing and deserves better than to be remembered by the new generation for being destroyed by the talented Joshua. Joshua's hand speed and power were as impressive as ever but is ready for bigger tests. Kevin Johnson is a good way to start 2015.
Groves: Degale made family remark, caused backstage bust-up
iFLTV speak to George Groves following his stoppage win last night in Liverpool:
"I look forward to punching degale in the face" said Groves, adding that he'd rather do it in a ring in front of everyone, than in a corridor.
Hearn on Clev Bellew: If there's demand we'll do third fight
* PRESS RELEASE*
Tony Bellew gained sweet revenge over Nathan Cleverly with a split decision win at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, live on Sky Sports Box Office.
The bitter rivals looked neck and neck over the first eight rounds, but Bellew crucially found the extra gears and pinned Cleverly against the ropes in the final rounds, and although the Welshman was able to withstand the onslaught bravely, Bellew took over the fight and appeared to have done enough to win the fight.
Cleverly was awarded the fight 115-114 on one card but Bellew was the victor 116-112 and 115-113 – as the pair showed mutual respect at the end.
“I'm over the moon, it's put to bed,” said Bellew. “I've said a lot of things, I don’t like him but I've outworked a great athlete and it's over. I'll fight anywhere, he's not a Cruiserweight. It’s been a long camp, 12 weeks, he was pacing himself and he looked at the belly and thought he woud tire – I don’t tire at Cruiserweight.”
“I said it would be a replica of the first,” said Cleverly. “A split decision shows my character, he was using his natural strength - maybe we'll have a third fight one day, this is the second time I've come to Liverpool, maybe we have a third fight in Wales.”
Eddie Hearn: “It took time to catch fire, I felt Tony won the fight but fair play to Nathan. If there’s a demand for the third we'll get it on. Marco Huck wants to fight Tony for the title, and so do a lot of other champs.”