Ray Mercer “I lost to Ferguson because I never trained but I’d have whooped Bowe”
By Michael J Jones
It’s always a pleasure to talk to former heavyweight champion “Merciless” Ray Mercer. Last week Livefight called Ray for a quick interview about his boxing career and, as usual, found the 53-year-old in good spirits.
The young Mercer was a late starter to boxing and was already 28 years old when turning pro in early 1989 following his triumph in the previous summer’s Olympic Games. The heavyweight puncher impressed in the early stages of his career with some stunning knock-outs leading to his win over Italian Francesco Damiani to lift the WBO world heavyweight title.
The new champion would then make his first defence in an unforgettable clash with the unbeaten Tommy Morrison in Atlantic City, winning by brutal stoppage in five savage rounds. With massive fights on the horizon, Mercer would be shockingly upset by both Jesse Ferguson and Larry Holmes as he was left in the boxing wilderness.
The iron-chinned Ray would regain respect in boxing circles by pushing both Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis to the wire in thrilling ten-rounders in the mid 90’s before fading away from boxing for a period. Mercer would resurface in 2001 and won four straight bouts before challenging present WBO king Wladimir Klitschko the year after.
Despite the sixth-round stoppage defeat, the Union City fighter would box on well into his 40’s before quitting the ring for good in 2008 with a fine 36-7-1 (26) record. He would also embark in a brief MMA career facing both Kimbo Slice and Tim Sylvia, beating the latter by nine-second KO.
These days, Ray is a very content man. Happily retired and a grandfather, the former champion is busy with boxing functions and always happy to talk to fans at meet-and-greet events.
Here’s what “Merciless” had to tell Livefight-
LF) Hello Ray how are you?
RM) I’m good my man I’m just getting ready for an event in Jersey. I’m going there to meet fans, sign autographs and auction some signed stuff off.
LF) I read recently about your run up to winning the Olympic Gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Games. That was a great tournament for you winning all four bouts by knock-out; were you surprised you were able to stop all of your opponents at the Games?
RM) I was just so nervous beforehand but I had to work very hard to get there and I knew if I could get to the Games I would win. I worked very hard to get ready and I even surprised myself a little that I stopped everyone but I knew I had trained extremely hard.
LF) You beat future pro opponent Tommy Morrison in the US Olympic trials before the Games, do you remember much about that fight?
RM) Sure I remember, that was not a hard fight for me. He was unknown at the time and not on the level I was. It went the distance but I was able to walk right through him.
LF) You didn’t turn pro until you were at an age many fighters retire at; does a part of you wish you had started earlier than that in the unpaid ranks?
RM) Yeah maybe. I did leave it a little late and that’s why I probably continued fighting until I was 47.
LF) You were very busy at the start of your career, reeling off eleven bouts in the first ten months. Your first close call was against former WBA cruiserweight champion Ossie Ocasio in Las Vegas. You won a split nod after eight rounds, was it as tough as that decision suggests?
RM) Well we wanted to fight every month and pretty much did that. Ocasio was one tough dude and a southpaw too. I fought him on the undercard of Ray Leonard vs Roberto Duran (part three). That was a very tough fight for me.
LF) After three more wins you had that absolute war with “Smokin” Bert Cooper, winning a unanimous decision for the NABF belt. Was Cooper the hardest hitter you ever faced?
RM) He wasn’t the hardest puncher I faced that would be Tommy Morrison but Cooper landed the most damaging punches on me. You see he had been my sparring partner so he knew me very well. It was a hard fight and it really wore me out I had to spend two days in hospital after that fight.
LF) You came from behind to knock-out Damiani to become WBO champion five months later before defending against Morrison. He was, like Damiani, far ahead in the fight before you stopped him?
RM) I knew Tommy hit hard but if a guy throws punches like that I knew it would take something out of him eventually. I knew he couldn’t go twelve rounds throwing shots like that and that’s what happened. I went to work from the third and turned the fight around. I always thought it would have been the same thing with Mike Tyson that if anyone could get past the fourth or fifth round he’d lose all the snap in his punches.
LF) You vacated your title to box Larry Holmes a few months later. That was meant to lead to a match with Evander Holyfield (which subsequently went to Holmes). Were you shocked by what Holmes had left for that fight at 42-years-old?
RM) It did shock me as my trainer kept telling me he’s old and got nothing left and that I’d knock him out etc. When it came to the fight what my trainer had been telling me made everything worse when Larry came out like that (confidently behind that famous jab). He psyched me out a little, I could have probably come back and beaten him but I didn’t really care for a rematch as I knew I’d made mistakes in that fight.
LF) A year later you were in the same position when facing the 18-9 Jesse Ferguson for the right to face reigning world champion Riddick Bowe. Ferguson had only won five of his previous 14 fights yet pulled off a remarkable upset. What happened for you to lose that contest?
RM) I just didn’t train at all for that fight. I was young to the game and made the mistake of thinking, like in the Cooper fight, that fighting a sparring partner would be easy. While I was barely training he was working very hard in the gym. My weight was up and I still had a lot to learn.
LF) He got the shot at Bowe and lost early, do you ever think how you vs Bowe would have panned out at that time?
RM) I would have loved to have fought Bowe and it would have been a good money fight for me. I had all kinds of management problems around that time. My manager was on TV saying he’d signed a new deal with me and I was watching on TV and knew nothing about it!
Me and Bowe should have fought and if we had I would have whooped him. We were in the Olympic camp together as amateurs and I used to tear him up in sparring all the time.
LF) You boxed a rematch with Ferguson nine months after the first fight. It went ten rounds again but this time you won a split verdict; did you think you had done enough to avenge that loss?
RM) Yes I thought I beat him definitely but he was a tough guy.
LF) The following year you boxed a draw with journey-man Marion Wilson. Many wrote you off as a serious player in the division but you came back to give both Holyfield and Lewis hard nights. What made you get back on track for those fights?
RM) It’s all about motivation. Wilson was very hard for me to get up for but guys like Holyfield and Lewis, bigger names and real characters, it was no problem getting in great shape for those two.
Writer’s note: shortly after drawing with Wilson, Mercer was scheduled to box Frank Bruno in Hong Kong but the show was famously scrapped. It was also to have featured Tommy Morrison vs Herbie Hide and Holyfield vs Tim Witherspoon. None of the three contests would ever happen.
LF) You never seem to question the Holyfield decision but I know you always say you thought you beat Lewis at Madison Square Garden?
RM) Yes I do, Lennox Lewis was a great fighter and probably the biggest and strongest guy I ever faced. I didn’t think I won clearly as we both had good spells in the fight but I felt I out-worked him, out-jabbed him and hurt him a couple of times and just about did enough.
LF) You could have easily been adjudged the winner in those two contests yet in your next fight you got a clear unanimous decision over Tim Witherspoon when it looked another close call?
RM) I didn’t think I won that fight. It was close again but I didn’t feel I did enough. I’ve never watched that fight back but every time I see Tim at events I tell him he beat me that night.
LF) You hardly boxed from that win in 1996 up until 2001. What were you up to in that time?
RM) I started getting a little bored with boxing so I started doing crazy stuff like K1 and MMA. I got weary of boxing so I needed to do something else for a while.
LF) You fought Kimbo Slice in 2007, it had the makings of a toe-to-toe classic but he ended up winning on a submission after getting you in a guillotine choke just a minute in. Were you surprised he used those wrestling tactics after gaining a reputation as a bare-knuckle fighter?
RM) Yes it did as I thought he’d come out just throwing hands but he just did what he needed to do. He knew he had no chance at beating me by boxing so he used those tactics instead.
LF) You fought Wladimir Klitschko in June 2002 for your old WBO title but a little while before that you had signed to face Mike Tyson. Lennox Lewis scuppered the fight in court but how do you think that fight would have unfolded between you and Mike?
RM) I was always confident that I could beat Tyson. I would have gotten in fast and look to take him past the fifth round. In the later rounds he always got frustrated and wasn’t as strong. I would have had him at that point.
LF) Were there any fighters you never faced in your career which you would have liked to have competed against?
RM) I always wanted to fight Hasin Rahman and felt I could have beaten him. John Ruiz was another one I wanted to fight.
LF) Are you overall satisfied with your boxing career?
RM) I am very satisfied. Five years after first putting on a pair of (boxing) gloves I won an Olympic Gold medal. I was heavyweight champion and got to travel the world. I’m happy that I still get invited to all of these events even now.
LF) Great talking with you Ray.
RM) Any time my man take care.
Ray’s chilling knock-out of Jeff Pegues from 2001-
Ray, alongside fellow boxing stars including Lamon Brewster and Gerry Cooney, is set to appear in a charity event at Tulsa next April promoted by Charles “Chico” Sherwood.
Tulsa Celebrity Fight Night welcomes you to our Inaugural Black Tie Gala coming to the River Spirit Casino Event Center April 23 2015.
Tulsa Celebrity Fight Night promises to be one of the nation’s largest charity events. This star studded action packed annual world class event will host some of the world’s greatest boxing world champions & some of the best movie stars Hollywood has to offer, along with an array of some of the greatest sports figures & entertainers.
All of the proceeds will be going to Make-A-Wish Oklahoma. The Black Tie Gala will feature a fun filled night of cocktails, a silent auction, dinner and a live musical performance. There will also be a live auction along with an introduction of all of the Celebrities that help to make this event a night you will always remember. The night will finish with four professional boxing matches with some of the nation’s greatest boxers and two MMA matches. There will be an after party following the event as well.
Help Tulsa Celebrity Fight Night Foundation Grant wishes for Oklahoma Children & young adults with life threatening diseases through Make-A-Wish Oklahoma.
Hughes Takes on Ward in British Title Eliminator December 6th
By Matt Bevans (@MBevs68)
Rossington’s Maxi Hughes has been handed a massive opportunity at domestic success, with the news he will take on Martin J Ward in an eliminator for the British super-featherweight title on December 6th.
Hughes, who is currently the International Masters champion, has been building towards a big fight all year following his move down to super-feather and now, after some disappointments this year, he has been handed a big shot against the unbeaten Ward.
Maxi said: “I’m really happy to finally get this opportunity and I totally believe that I can beat Ward in December. I saw his last fight against [Kakhaber] Avetisian, who I beat in September, and although he got a stoppage in the final round, he showed he could be hurt.
“He looked vulnerable at times, so I’m confident I can win. I’ve had a step up in opposition when I took on Scotty Cardle, whilst he hasn’t, and he’s still fighting journeymen. That can only go in my favour on the night.”
Hughes will be travelling to take on Ward in his backyard at the York Hall, but that is an experience that won’t faze him in the slightest and he is also likely to have more fans than the hometown man, as he is always well supported by his army of fans.
Hughes believes that if anyone is going to be overawed by the occasion and the noise in the York Hall, it will be Ward. He said: “I’m not bothered about being the away fighter; in fact I really like the experience.
“I’ve been waiting for these big fights for four years and now I’m headlining on a Prizefighter show, which gives you loads of exposure and draws plenty of attention your way.
“He’s used to fighting all over the country on Eddie Hearn’s shows, but he doesn’t seem to have any fans. I saw him in Nottingham on a Carl Froch bill and apart from his little entourage of three people, there was no one there for him.
“As for my fans, I’ve had a massive reaction already and loads have already booked hotels and train tickets to come down. I haven’t even got the tickets yet!
Hughes has also had a tough decision to make recently, as he has decided to remain in Doncaster to train, rather than making the move down to Wales to train with Gary Lockett as he has done before.
Dave Hulley ran the corner in his last fight, but he says it was a tough decision and one Lockett completely understands.
“I was going to be in Wales, however with the sparring I get up here against the McDonnell brothers and Josh Warrington, I get better here than in Wales. I used to spar with Gavin Rees, but now he has retired, there is no one at my weight in that gym anymore.
“Last fight I was getting the best of Josh Warrington in sparring, as he was fighting as well. I wouldn’t have got that in Wales. I spoke to Gary about it and he totally understands, in fact he’s still going to be advising me on the Ward fight, because he’ll be taking a look at him for me.
“It makes sense for everyone and it’s working. I’ll be ready on December 6th to take on Martin J Ward and then in 2015, I’m going to get those domestic titles and bring them back to Rossington.”
Lightning Bolt Lloyd Ellett plans Halloween thriller, talks sparring Eubank Jr
By Michael J Jones
This Friday in Brighton, undefeated Lloyd “Lightning Bolt” Ellett looks to make it 16 straight wins when he faces Hungarian Gergo Vari for the International Master light-middleweight title.
Since making his pro bow three years ago, the 27-year-old has made steady progress so far as he looks set for an assault on the domestic crown in the near future. Although Ellett’s record may not contain many notable names, hard-core fight fans will know boxers such as Sean Lewis, Gareth Piper and Swansea’s Gary Cooper as tough competitors who can give anyone a torrid contest.
In the 30-year-old Vari, Ellett meets a fighter with a respectable 14-6-1 (6) record and a reputation of something of an awkward brawler. Speaking to Livefight last week, unbeaten Ellett admits he knows little of his opponent entering the Masters bout.
“I know he’s tall and comes to fight but that’s all I pretty much know really” says Lloyd who is trained by Alan Smith and Eddie Lamm in Brighton.
“Training has gone brilliant and I’ve had great sparring, I’ve even been over to Las Vegas and Barcelona to spar so I’m ready and just looking forward to the fight now.”
One of the many high-calibre fighters Ellett has been able to share a ring (sparring) with recently is fellow unbeaten Brighton fighter Chris Eubank Jr who faces bitter rival Billy Joe Saunders next month. I ask “Lightning Bolt” the obvious question regarding Eubank Jr…
“Do I think (Eubank Jr) will beat Saunders? You know everyone has been asking me that but I really don’t know so I’m sitting on the fence a bit.”
“I think on the night whoever sticks to their boxing and keeps their head will win. I’ve sparred Chris many times and it’s always good sparring as he’s the weight above me so it improves my physical strength.”
After a 64 bout amateur career which saw him win Southern Counties titles as both a Junior and Senior, the Brighton ace turned pro in November 2011. After nine victories he would be matched with the “Ginger Mexican” Sean Lewis who brought his own undefeated record of 4-0 into the contest.
“Yeah that was a good win for me” comments Ellett. “I remember it clearly actually, I got offered some journeyman so I asked Micky (Helliet) if he could get me a better opponent. They asked if I wanted to fight a kid who is 4-0 and I jumped at the chance.”
The London bout would go the full six rounds with Lloyd taking the spoils by a margin of 59-55 to hand the tough Merseysider his first pro loss. Later that year, Ellett would follow up that win with a tough points decision over the game Welshman Gareth Piper to make it 11-0 before heading a bill in Brighton for the first time a year ago in a title fight against Faheem Khan.
“He wasn’t a bad kid Khan, he was a southpaw and was coming off a win over Nathan Weise so we knew he was useful but it was my first fight at home in Brighton so I was really pumped for it and it was a good night.”
The home fighter would keep on top throughout against the 5-1-2 Khan before a hard right floored the visitor in the fourth. Although he beat the count the ref waved it off with Khan still shaky.
Although he has just three knock-outs in 15 contests, the durability of his opponents has played a big part in that low KO ratio. Ellett can certainly punch solidly; particularly with his right-hand.
The light-middleweight prospect is also keeping busy, the Vari test will be his fourth ring appearance of the year with the 5’10” Lloyd looking to be out again before the close of 2014.
“I’m very happy with my activity” Lloyd tells Livefight. “I’ve had 15 fights in just three years and many guys don’t get to be that busy. It’s been a bit slower this year but this will be my second ten-rounder and I’ll hopefully be out again before the end of the year.”
In Ellett’s second bout of the year back in March, Welsh puncher Gary Cooper would provide a shock when making Lloyd touch down for the first time in his career. The Sussex boxer would regroup to pound out a decision over ten rounds for his second Masters success.
“I looked at (Cooper’s) record and saw he was a middleweight and had dropped pretty much everyone he had boxed and he could definitely punch I can vouch for that. The (97-95) margin surprised me though as I felt I won nearly every round apart from the knock-down.”
“It doesn’t look as bad now (as Cooper has gone on to stop Sonny Upton). Cooper was tough and took a lot of punches in our fight.”
Boxing prospects can either reach the top or stumble along the way to fistic glory; why does the Brighton prospect think he will succeed where so many have failed?
“I think my work ethic and skill is too much not to fail” he answers after a short pause. “Nobody works harder than me in the gym, with my talent and the work I’m putting in and the sparring I’m getting my confidence is improving all the time and that’s what is going to push me to the top.”
Away from the ring, Lloyd works part time at a local school where he helps teach kids with behavioural problems. He lists his boxing heroes as Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns, Roberto Duran, Marvin Hagler and also Roy Jones Jr and James Toney.
“I’ve got all of their fights on dvd” reveals the 27-year-old. “I’m a bit like a boxing encyclopaedia, I love the Pernell Whitaker-Julio Cesar Chavez fight that’s my favourite I’ve seen that loads of times.”
Since he’s boxing on October 31, what is his all-time favourite horror movie?
“I don’t really know as my girlfriend never lets me watch them as they’re too scary” he laughs. “Probably the Halloween films; that one where the guy has a roller skate sticking out the side of his head…..I hope nothing like that happens on Friday!”
“I just want to thank everyone for their continued support as nothing would be possible without it. We’re putting on a show this week and the support I get is the best bar none.”
The Ellett-Vari fight is part of a combined promotions show with Scott Welch and Micky Helliet featuring local Sussex talent, Marcus Eaton 3-0-1 from Shoreham, the newly crowned British Masters Bronze middleweight champion Nicky Jenman 9-8-1, brother Lee Jenman 4-0-0, 27-year-old super middleweight James Child 1-14-0, and heavy-handed featherweight Eli Green 5-0-0 from Guildford.
Heavyweights Oli Thompson and 27-year-old Tom Little 4-3-0 from Hatfield have just been added to the already packed bill.
Tickets are priced at £35, £60 and £100 and are available directly from the “Lightning Bolt” Team on 07896 748688.
To follow Lloyd Ellett on Twitter click herehttps://twitter.com/lightningbolt07
Team “Lightning Bolt” would also like to thank sponsors KSD Salt Services and The Shore Group, and PR Manager Tim Rickson.
Ringside report from Liverpool. Satchell, Butler, Mathews win
Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler began his preparation for another world title clash with IBF champion Zolani Tete next year after he secured a one-sided 10-round victory over Ismael Garnica in Liverpool.
The 25 year-old completely outclassed his Mexican opponent with his lightning quick hand speed to earn a 100-91 result.
“ It was good to get out there against a tough durable opponent. He gave me a good 10 rounds,” said the former IBF world bantamweight champion after extending his unbeaten record to 17 fights.
Tete was supposed to be in that ring but he broke his hand in training. And Butler has his eye on the South African super-flyweight champion as he aims to become a two-weight world champion.
“ Tete’s a really good opponent for me. I would have really had to have been at my best if he was in there. I was in about third gear and I’m going to have to be on full form if I’m going to beat Tete.”
Chris Eubank Jr. also warmed up for his bitter middleweight clash with Billy-Joe Saunders next month by punching journeyman Omar Siala From pillar to post over two rounds.
However, his father Eubank Senior, took centre stage once again after being warned by a ringside official to not interfere with the corner after taking his silent stance in between rounds once again.
Eubank Jr. (18-0 12KO’s) hardly broke a sweat as he pushed, punched and bullied his opponent around the four corners of the ring, targeting the body each time.
Sialla went down after absorbing a huge blow and despite his willingness to go on, the fight was ended within seconds of Eubank Jr. continuing the relentless punishment.
Speaking of body snatchers, Liam Smith (18-0-1, 8 KO’s) maintained his undefeated streak with a third round stoppage of Zoltan Sera to win the WBA intercontinental light-middleweight championship.
Despite being cut by the Hungarian early on, “Beefy” went to work on the body and he found the sweet spot in the third round after he unleashed a rib-breaker to send Sera to his knees in clear pain and in no position to carry on.
Liverpool lightweight favourite Derry Mathews made his return to the ring with a landslide victory over Kent’s Adam Dingsdale after the judges scored the contest 118-108, 120-106 and 119-107.
Mathews (35-9-2, 19 KO’s) dropped Dingsdale with a lethal left hook twice in the second round and he had the look of a serial killer in his eyes as he chased an early finish. But the 26 year-old held on to hear the final bell.
The pace of the fight slowed but Mathews remained in front throughout as he outboxed Dingsdale with his piercing jab to secure the 36th win of his 47-fight career.
Kevin Satchell added the European flyweight title to his impressive trophy cabinet with a majority decision victory over Valery Yanchy. After 12 punishing rounds for both fighters, the judges scored it 114-114, 117-112 and 116-112 (despite the confusion as the MC announced it 112-110).
The undefeated British and Commonwealth champion (13-0, 2 KO’s) got off to a slow start as he was caught by wild hooks and uppercuts from his Spanish opposite. However, in the second half of the fight, Satchell shifted into gear and cut Yanchy’s left eye with a sharp jab in round six.
Yanchy (23-4-2, 7 KO’s) put up a stubborn effort though as he shocked Satchell with a stiff right hand in round 11 but Satchell dug deep to ensure he completed a set of major titles.
It wasn’t all good news for scouse boxing followers. Chorley’s Jack Catterall claimed his sixth stoppage win in 10 fights as he halted Liverpool’s Tom Stalker in the ninth round for the WBO European light-welterweight strap.
Catterall knocked down the former Great Britain captain in the first two rounds with hayemaker left hands.
But Stalker, now 9-1- remained composed and frustrated Catterall with the awkward style that moulded him into a Commonwealth gold medallist to stay in the contest. However, another big-swinging left stunned Stalker in the ninth and as the MGM Marbella man backed up on wobbly legs, Catterall went in for the kill as he unleashed a ferocious flurry that forced the referee to wave his hands.
Earlier on the night, Jazza Dickens began his preparation for a British title clash with Josh Wale next year with a second round stoppage of Georgie Gachecilaze. Dickens (17-1, 6 KO’s) knocked his opponent down with a big hand before unloading a barrage of punches in the second stanza, leaving the referee no choice but to step in and stop proceedings.
Welsh rising talent Liam Williams (11-0-1, 5 KO’s) continued his unbeaten run with a second round knockout of Stepan Horvath as he sent the Czech boxer to the canvas with a stinging right hand around the back of the ear.
It was a mixed night for Ellesmere Port’s fighters because along with Butler’s success, Mason Cartwright made an impressive start to his career with a 40-36 points victory.
However, Matty Fagan lost a close points decision to Latvian Andrejs Podusovs by 58-57 after six competitive rounds.
Campbell and Coyle impressive but not in deep
Which opening paragraph do you prefer?
Hull starlets Tommy Coyle and Luke Campbell last night cleared the way for a blockbuster 2015 showdown. 2012 Olympic gold medallist, Campbell, stopped vicious Argentinean body puncher Daniel Brizuela in the fifth round of their fight and Tommy Coyle did something no fighter has done before when he knocked out Australian gladiator, Michael Katsidis, within two rounds.
Hull starlets Tommy Coyle and Luke Campbell last night cleared the way for a money spinning 2015 showdown. Luke Campbell completed the transformation from elite amateur to solid professional as he learned from his rivals February troubles and outboxed and stopped tough Argentinean Daniel Brizuela and Coyle showed a clinical side to his game as he found a perfect early left hook to knock out shopworn Australian Michael Katsidis.
The most accurate statement is probably somewhere between the two but as modern boxing business talk precludes the realism of the second statement, this weekends event in Hull was promoted more in line with the hyperbole of the first paragraph. That is a shame as this weekends fights required no overstatement. Campbell and Coyle were both in fights that they were heavily favoured in but both performed well and showed important and previously unseen aspects of their games.
Something plenty of fans seems to be unable to grasp is that should an Olympic gold medallist lose to an unknown fighter [and, yes, despite being involved in an exciting fight with Tommy Coyle, Brizuela is still extremely low profile in the grand scheme of things] in his hometown before reaching major title level then somebody has failed appallingly at their job. The fact that Campbell was a 1/22 shot with one particular online bookmaker shows that despite the Sky Sports hype machine rolling out the “acid test” quotes and portraying the body punching Brizuela as a lightweight version of Mike McCallum, Campbell losing was always a remote possibility.
What was impressive was the manner in which Campbell went about dismantling the Argentinean. Having seen the trouble Brizuela caused Coyle during their eight knockdown brawl in February, it would have been extremely easy for Campbell to fall back into the style which bought him so much amateur success and keep at arms length at all times, relying on his ever increasing frame and undoubted skill. He didn’t. He may have fought at range but he was more than willing to punch with Brizuela and seize any opportunity which came his way.
The vulnerability Coyle showed against Brizuela in February marked him down as the more susceptible of the two lightweights on show this weekend but maybe ‘Boom Boom’ is simply the type of fighter who needs to have fear instilled in him and for whom complacency is his worst enemy. During his fight with the then unheard of Brizuela, Coyle stumbled more times than Johnny Nelson reading a script. Against Katsidis – who is light years beyond his best but should still pose more danger than Brizuela on muscle memory alone – Coyle knew exactly what the old Katsidis was capable of should his concentration lapse for a split second and he appeared assured under pressure before finding that perfect left hook that took away anything Katsidis may have had left. Again, the fact that Coyle beat the shop worn Australian shouldn’t come as a surprise - there is a fight with Campbell to promote next year, remember – and Katsidis was coming off a hard acareer, a two year lay off and a decision over Graham Earl. The way he did it, though, was notable. Against Derry Mathews last July, until getting caught with a monster left hook Coyle showed he possesses the ability to avoid getting dragged into up and down brawl when he sets his mind to it. This time he followed the same blueprint but showed that he can find a fight ending punch himself.
Television channels and promoters will always try to push fights as crucial, make or break affairs but if you’ve taken the time to read this far the liklehood is that you’re a pretty big boxing fan and can see through the bullshit no matter how generously it has been spread. Trust your initial instincts when fights are announced. Not every victory has to be career defining and not every fight has to be a 50:50 war but for real boxing fans there is always something interesting to learn.
I spent Saturday night at Middleton Arena witnessing Black Flash Promotions’ first foray into the world of boxing promotion. Concerned with the amount of action the fighters from his Collyhurst and Moston Lads Club were seeing former British and European light welterweight champion, Pat Barrett, took it upon himself to give them the platform.
Barrett and Chris Maylett from www.britishboxers.co.uk had distinct ideas about the way things should be done and I would struggle to imagine the amount of work which must have gone into preparing the event which was streamed live. Excellent – and under used - Manchester boxing voice Barkery Jammeh and former world champion Robin Reid provided the online commentary and Boxingscene’s boxing sage, Terry Dooley, carried out the post fight interviews. A big screen showed the in-ring action live in the amphitheatre style venue and rather than relying on one fixed view camera, a director flicked between various cameras, giving the viewers in the arena a unique view of the action. The excellent Caribbean food and entertaining ring girls [who promise to return on the next show with spins, flicks and forward rolls] were added bonuses.
Of course, once the glossy wrapping paper is torn off, you are left with the product itself and Black Flash Promotions have a couple of useful fighters to build their success on. Zelfa Barrett (nephew of Pat) outpointed good old Kristian Laight on his professional debut and the lightweight showed enough skill and know how to point to a promising future. Matty Ryan got rid of Mick Mills in five one sided rounds and showed the kind of hard hitting aggression that should ensure another good turn out when Black Flash return to the arena [tentatively scheduled for February].
North Manchester has been starved of action recently and with local lad and former Commonwealth light middleweight champion Matty Hall and Young King Fury linked to Black Flash, the future could be bright.
Pavlik explains frustration at Hopkins and Martinez defeats and why he left boxing at 30
Part 2 of our interview with former middleweight champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik
“To be dead honest, for some odd reason a fighter always has excuses and if I say anything the media like to dissect what I say…”
As a fight fan of over twenty years, one result which has never made sense to me was Bernard Hopkins’ upset of Kelly Pavlik in October 2009. Coming off a split loss to Joe Calzaghe, the 43-year-old Hopkins, also a long-reigning middleweight champion, had dropped the Welsh southpaw in the first but had looked lethargic as the bout progressed. Against the 17-years-younger current middleweight king though, Hopkins looked energetic, sharp and business-like.
At the close of twelve shocking rounds in which both would be deducted a point each (Kelly for rabbit-punching, Hopkins for holding), “The Executioner” would take the victory by scores of 119-106, 118-108 and 117-109. It was a massive surprise for all to see; the man on the rise not just beaten but thoroughly out-classed.
“It all started playing golf before the fight” begins Kelly. “I was just taking my shot on a par three and my friend noticed a ‘softball’ on the back of my arm. I went to see the doctor to have it drained but it was still feeling tender when I was sparring so I couldn’t spar before the fight.”
“I put a brace on my arm but it wasn’t comfortable and I started getting paranoid in camp that it was giving me bad habits. Then I got tendonitis because I over-exaggerated a punch I threw…I was hard headed and thought I could still go through with the fight even after only sparring two-and-a half times before the fight.”
If the two injuries were a bad enough burden to bear, things were about to go from bad to worse for the middleweight champion…
“The day before we left for the airport I came down with bronchitis, I started wheezing and the doctor picked up on it during my medical. We didn’t want any information about the situation getting leaked out as we knew Hopkins was always looking for things like that.”
“We were searching for something to take which wouldn’t interfere with the post-fight drugs test but there wasn’t anything; I couldn’t even use an inhaler as it had a steroid in. I didn’t want to even get out of bed but I still didn’t want to cancel.”
“It showed in the fight I was just so lethargic. My trainer Jack Loew was trying to gear me up but I just didn’t have anything. I kept waiting thinking I’d warm up but by the sixth or seventh round I just said ‘I’m not going to get knocked out but I’m never going to win so I’m going to just go out on my shield’…if you look at my fights with Taylor and Lockett at my body…then see me ten pounds heavier against Hopkins the difference is amazing. I just looked out of shape in that fight…”
Pavlik also has a final thought regarding Hopkins’ own conditioning in the bout.
“Around that time there was all that talk about Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao (regarding Mayweather’s refusal to the fight as he thought Pacquiao was on PED’s). Look at Hopkins in our fight, everything was square, even his jaw. He was the perfect physical specimen…yet in his next fight he looked skinny and weak…”
Many have suggested over the years his first defeat took a lot out of the Youngstown fighter. I ask whether he felt his first loss took something out of him as boxer. It brings an immediate and emphatic reply.
“No it absolutely took nothing out of me as I knew the situation in that I wasn’t able to ‘pull the trigger’. I couldn’t even take it as a learning experience losing that way…the way I entered the fight was a big part of why that happened.”
“The biggest negative for me was the reaction by everyone afterwards when they started saying I couldn’t fight movers. That really bothered me as I’d beaten Jermain Taylor twice and he’d beaten Hopkins twice yet the ‘arm-chair boxers’ came out talking shit saying anyone who could box and move would beat me. That part got to me.”
Four months after the Hopkins disaster Pavlik would return to the middleweight division to defend his titles against Mexican puncher Marco Antonio Rubio on home turf. After being dominated for nine rounds the challenger was pulled out as Pavlik completed defence number two.
Although the Rubio win was a solid start to 2009, the year would finish being little short of a complete catastrophe for “The Ghost”…
In early March, while Kelly was playing basketball, the skin over a knuckle on his left hand (where he’d received a cortisone injection several months earlier) burst and began oozing puss. A doctor prescribed antibiotics, but the infection continued. Further tests revealed the presence of MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a sometimes-fatal infection that resists most antibiotics.
Pavlik was given new medication and but had a near-fatal allergic reaction to one of the antibiotics. Kelly was hospitalized for four days. After two surgeries on his left hand, he needed physical therapy to regain full use of his finger.
After a bout with Sergio Mora had already been scrapped earlier in the year, the injury and subsequent hospitalization would mean a highly-anticipated clash with Paul Williams would be lost to fight fans forever.
“People said I was scared of Paul Williams which was wrong” counters Kelly of his then rival. “God Bless Paul I’ve got nothing at all against him now but why would I have been scared of him? To me he had a poor chin and I was a big puncher, he threw a lot of punches but then I did too and I was a full middleweight whereas he came up from 147. I really saw that as an easy fight for me.”
Ten months after Rubio, Pavlik would finally return from his ordeal to wipe out Contender star Miguel Angel Espino in five. Finally it seemed “The Ghost” was set to put the disappointing last year-and-a half behind him…however behind the scenes things were far from perfect.
“The Espino fight was a turning point for me” reveals Kelly. “After the Hopkins thing we decided I should stay at 160lbs for as long as possible. I’d given Rubio a brutal beating, it was the same as the Gary Lockett fight only it went longer. I then looked good against Espino but making 160 had started to get very rough.”
“I had struggled to make 160 for Espino so after the fight I said no more middleweight. I had problems afterwards and ended up in rehab for two months. I didn’t care about boxing anymore it got so bad…anyway I got sober, though I was already sober going in, and said ‘screw it’ and started lifting weights.”
The side-lined champion was to get unexpected news one night from his father who would reveal a title defence was in the works for his recovering son…
“My dad called to say they wanted me to fight Sergio Martinez…I’d gotten to 205lbs of muscle. I said when do they want me to fight him? He said ‘in two-and-a half months’…now my camps were usually two or three months and he’s telling me this.”
The retired former pugilist out-lines clearly the struggle which came with making the 160lb limit for the final time in his career.
“When you’re carrying solid muscle, the pounds are harder to shift than usual. My first week was all boxing, stretching and cardio. I checked my weight a month into camp and I was 175lbs. From then on the weight was increasingly harder to shift. A few days later I was 172, I stepped things up; I wasn’t eating enough, not taking in enough liquids…”
“It was the Tuesday before the fight and I was still 170lbs” continues Kelly. “I went on the treadmill, then went straight into the sauna, hopped on the scales and I was still 170. I worked out hard the next day, I saw the doctor and he recommended I should hop into a cold pool of water before going into the sauna so I tried that…but it made me really sick. I said ‘no more sauna’, it wasn’t working anymore.”
“We then asked the hotel we were staying in to have a static bike and a treadmill put into our hotel room. I did 25 minutes on each over and over. By the Thursday I was still 168lbs and my dad could see how sick I was getting. I remember Cameron (Dunkin) coming into the hotel room and looking at the treadmill wondering what was going on, I was like what did he think was going on?”
“I was 164 on the Friday night, then when I woke up I was down to 162. When the weigh-in came, Sergio was late; I think he thought he would hurt me doing that but it ended up helping me as it gave me extra time to get those last two pounds off.”
The trauma with making weight left the champion distraught on the eve of his toughest fight since Hopkins. The argentine challenger had only been beaten twice; early in his career to Antonio Margarito and a close loss to Paul Williams and he had just knocked out “The Punisher” in their rematch.
“Ten minutes before that fight I turned to my dad and told him I’m done with boxing” says Kelly who put on an astonishing 18lbs after the weigh-in (to Sergio’s 7½lbs). “I was sluggish by the middle rounds but I felt I was ahead. People thought he went on to beat me because of the cut I suffered but in truth it was that struggle to make weight and I don’t think it helped that I’d added a lot of liquid to my body after the weigh-in.”
With the bout in the balance, Pavlik fired a glancing right uppercut in the seventh to drop “Maravilla” for the bout’s only knock-down. From then on though it was all Sergio who took the unanimous decision by scores of 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112 to become the new champion.
“It just all caught up with me” says Pavlik sadly. “There was nothing I could have done at that stage. It came to the ninth and I just completely hit a wall. If I could go back and do it again I’d have probably got to 165, vacated my titles and fought him.”
The beaten man wouldn’t be seen in a ring again for over a year. Returning at super-middleweight, he’d win a majority decision over the previously unbeaten Alfonso Lopez at Las Vegas before disappearing again for another ten months.
In the first half of 2012, he would stop Aaron Jaco in two, wear down Scott Sigmon in seven before winning a decision over 16-1 Will Rosinsky. Pavlik would bow out with a final tally of 40-2 (34) after being universally recognised as the world’s best middleweight between 2007-2010.
“I was working with Roberto Garcia and it was pretty hard for me” admits the 32-year-old. “I wasn’t 20 years old anymore and felt I was just going through the process of fighting with my last couple of bouts.”
“I had money and kids and I just didn’t have the hunger anymore. I said to myself, I’ve won titles and have earned good money why am I still doing this after twelve years? I was flying from Ohio to California all the time, missing my family when I just didn’t have the urge anymore. I fought Jaco, then Sigmon, Rosinsky (a last return to HBO) was a good fight but I was still losing my motivation.”
When a world super-middleweight shot was mooted against recent Super Six winner Andre Ward, the former champion briefly got that dying hunger back but the dream match simply wasn’t to be.
“I got really excited by the Ward fight; that brought my motivation back. I thought he was an unbelievable fighter and I got really excited at the prospect of facing him but then he got injured. When I got told he’d injured his shoulder and would now be out for over a year that was the icing on the cake for me to end my career. Ward was the only one who could get me ‘up’ for a fight again.”
Some have given negative comments when Pavlik’s name is raised in boxing debates but there’s no doubt the Youngstown man not only got out at the right time but also did so after a great deal of success as a professional fighter. As our interview winds down, Kelly reflects with great pride on his outstanding career.
“I retired at 40-2, I was the undisputed middleweight champion for three years, I made a lot of money…I know some only seem to look at your last few performances but listen, I beat Taylor, Miranda…I beat many top quality fighters and got out of boxing intact with perfect health and I’m happy and doing great in retirement.”
“I want to thank all my fans who supported me through my career, I still love boxing and hope to start a new chapter now and work with the young kids and pass on all of my experience…I’m going to be around.”
After some colourful reports from the Youngstown press following his retirement, this writer would like to point out the former champion is still in good shape at 185lbs and, more importantly, in great spirits. Kelly Pavlik got out of boxing on his own terms and is doing great; no negative press or armchair critics can take that away from him.
Many thanks to Kelly and our friend James Dominguez for setting up this interview.
Kelly winning the world middleweight title-
Black Flash Promotions press conference (Video)
Black Flash Promotions held a press conference on Monday afternoon at the Middleton Arena in Manchester to officially announce their ‘Homecoming’ show at the venue on Saturday night October 25th. The show will feature a selection of local Manchester boxers and three prospects from Leeds, all unbeaten and one a current International Masters champion!
Joined on the top table with Barrett at the press conference was coach Paulie de Silva, and the boxers appearing on the night; light-middleweight Matty Ryan, who tops the bill in his hometown, Zelfa Barrett, Pat’s nephew who makes his professional debut, light-heavyweight Des Gargano a Middleton lad and local favourite, plus the three lads from Leeds, International light-welterweight champion Justin Newell, Middleweight prospect Reece Cartwright and super-featherweight ‘The Magic Man’ Zahid Hussain who come over the Pennines to feature on the Pat Barrett promoted show. Joining them on the top table is boxing advisor Rick Manners from Leeds and Peter Caines of the Manchester based BBTV and BritishBoxers.co.uk, who will be screening the show live on www.britishboxers.co.uk
Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik discusses his incredible march to the world middleweight title
By Michael J Jones
In July 2012, former middleweight champion of the world Kelly “The Ghost” Pavlik would survive a cut eye to pound out a decision over solid prospect Will Rosinsky at Carson, California. It would be the then-30-year-old’s fortieth victory as a professional boxer in his twelfth year punching for pay.
However, after witnessing a potential mouth-watering clash with super-middleweight ruler Andre Ward fall through, he would leave the sport and retire just six months later. With a 40-2 (34) record with his only defeats to future hall of famers in Bernard Hopkins and Sergio Martinez, many questioned the Youngstown fighter’s decision to walk away at that time.
Despite often-whispered rumours of a ring return, so far the former big-punching champion has kept to his word and stayed away from the ring. Speaking exclusively to Livefight in a rare interview, Kelly reveals he still sometimes gets the urge to dust off the punch mitts but is sticking to his guns as he continues to enjoy his retirement.
“Sure I still get the itch to come back to boxing” admits Kelly to Livefight over the phone from Ohio. “When I walked away I’d had enough, I’ve been out for two years now and I see guys of my age still boxing and they’re not the same. The urge I get could be anything like a day or a sparring session but I’m happy and keeping busy and I know I made the right decision when I did.”
The future middleweight star would turn pro after winning three National amateur titles in the summer of 2000. After a series of devastating knock-out victories, Pavlik was quickly gaining a reputation for his exciting style and heavy hands.
Only three of 26 victims would hear the final bell against the streaking prospect in his first five years in the paid ranks. Although he was looking set for an assault on the world stage, Kelly reveals there was some early frustration for team Pavlik in those early years.
“It was very hard for my manager (Cameron Dunkin) and promotional team (Top Rank) bringing me up and gaining in experience” comments the 32-year-old. “They wanted to know if I could go eight or ten rounds, I could do it in the gym but a fighter could breeze eight rounds in sparring but in a real fight with the adrenaline and nerves it was a whole different thing.”
“They were getting me guys who had that experience, who had never been stopped and I was knocking them out in five or six rounds. My team were in a pickle as they had to step me up without knowing for sure if I was ready.”
After dominating fighters such as Grady Brewer and Anthony Ivory it was time for the unbeaten Ohio puncher to step up against the top contenders. In October 2005, he would be matched with the feared Columbian Fulgencio Zuniga with the NABF title on the line.
The bout unfortunately started disastrously for Pavlik when he was floored in the first by a hard left hook…
“That was a brutal fight and probably the toughest one they could have gotten for me at that stage” acknowledges Pavlik. “He didn’t look like he hit hard, he looked slow but he was built like a Gorilla (stocky with a heavily-muscled upper-body) and had heavy hands and caught me with that good left hook. I wasn’t dizzy, it felt like someone had grabbed my ankles from under me, so it was more of a flash knock-down.”
The floored fighter recovered quickly and took over from that point though the Columbian stayed game throughout. By the close of the ninth though, the bloodied Zuniga could take no more as Pavlik claimed his 27th pro win and his first title.
Kelly Pavlik was an incredibly built middleweight. At 6’3” and with an enormous 78” wingspan, you’d think the tall puncher would have kept largely at range behind his jab but, as highlighted in the Zuniga bout, he would often give his height away to trade in close. Dangerous as the tactics appeared, it made for some thrilling nights for “The Ghost”.
After a nine-month lay-off, he would follow up the Zuniga win with solid victories over Bronco McKart and the 18-2 Lenard Pierre in 2006.
In January 2007, Pavlik would impress in another tough war against Mexican Jose Luis Zertuche in California, over-coming the spirited “El Elotero” in the eighth round with a brutal flurry of power-punches.
“That was another good fight” recalls the former champion. “I’d watched a lot of films of him beforehand. He’d fought Zuniga twice (drawing and losing a split verdict) so I knew he would be dangerous. He was ambidextrous, hit hard with both hands and had that Mexican style of fighting.”
“It was probably one of the most brutal knock-outs in boxing; he finished the fight sleeping on his feet…”
Following the chilling Zertuche stoppage, Pavlik was presented with a WBC medal as he had been previously told the fight was for the right to become the WBC mandatory contender. However, just two weeks after the fight he would get a surprise phone-call…
“I get this call that I’d have to face Edison Miranda” says Pavlik. “I’m like what? I’m already the mandatory why do I have to face Miranda?”
“I’d watched Miranda’s fight against Arthur Abraham and I think the only way he could have won that night was if Abraham had left the ring in a body-bag. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, Miranda absolutely deserved to win that fight (Abraham survived a hideous jaw injury to win a controversial decision).”
“We watched a lot of tapes of Miranda to break him down. What we saw was if a guy tried to move to stay away from him, Miranda would be very strong but, if you could get him to plant his feet, he’d leave his chin exposed. I had confidence in my chin and knew I could hit hard too so my game-plan was to go right at him and force him backwards.”
“I put my war gear on and went to war…yeah he took a bad beating in that fight…”
The two punchers locked horns and traded bomb after bomb until, amazingly, Miranda started to wilt. The Columbian puncher, whose only previous loss had been the IBF title fight vs Abraham, was hurt in the fifth and sixth before Pavlik put the finishing combination together in the seventh.
Four months later, Kelly would get his shot at the world’s premier middleweight in former amateur rival Jermain Taylor. At 27-0-1 (19), Taylor held two victories over Bernard Hopkins plus an amateur victory over “The Ghost”. Despite the underdog being a perfect 31-0 (28) and with several impressive knock-outs against dangerous opposition, many believed the champion would be simply too skilful for him but Pavlik had other ideas.
“I actually quite liked being the underdog” recalls Pavlik about the WBC and WBO title showdown. “People wrote me off because he’d beaten me as an amateur and I was just meant to be a big puncher and nothing else. Listen, when we boxed in the amateurs, he was 21 years old and I was one of the youngest on the US team class at 17. Everybody knows at that age those few years can make a world of difference physically. Also, that was the amateur system of point scoring and nothing to do with power.”
“Then I was a pro and knocking everybody out and suddenly it’s all about our amateur fight; even Manny Steward was saying it. I was meant to be the puncher and him the boxer but in that first fight I was out-boxing him and winning the boxing match and I also out-boxed him in our second fight which had no knock-out.”
The first bout between the two rivals at Atlantic City saw Pavlik floored in the second by a speedy combination but he gamely waded back into battle and appeared to take over from the third as Taylor was continuously backed up by hard jabs, heavy right-hands and crunching left hooks to head and body.
In the seventh Pavlik, despite the all three judges having him behind on the cards, seemed in firm control when a final right took all the fight out of Taylor. A follow up flurry dumped him heavily in the corner where he was rescued by the ref to make Pavlik the new middleweight champion of the world.
“I did feel the impact of my victory for sure” Kelly responds when I point out the mass of positive energy the jaw-dropping victory breathed into the sport as a new star emerged on the world stage. “The middleweight division at that time consisted of Felix Sturm, Abraham, Miranda…but the way I knocked out Taylor brought a lot of attention to the division. Plus it was ranked as one of the top ten fights of the decade by ESPN which also contributed to it.”
After a lot of speculation regarding the new champion’s next bout, he would next box Taylor again in a 168lb none-title bout. Although not quite the slugfest of the first meeting, Pavlik pounded out a unanimous decision to stay undefeated.
It can be frustrating for the fans when the big fights aren’t made and that frustration can be often shared ten-fold by the fighters in question. Kelly details the trouble his team had with pinning a major fight down at that stage.
“I wanted to fight Arthur Abraham but he refused unless I came to Germany yet I was the undisputed champion so why should I have to go to him? Sturm was the same he wouldn’t come over to the US. Around that time Paul Williams also turned down a fight yet later when I pulled out because my hands were nearly falling off and I nearly died the public turned on me!”
Three months after the Taylor rematch the reigning champion would be matched with 30-1 Welshman Gary Lockett in defence of his middleweight belts. The bout drew much negative press with scores of fight fans left unimpressed with the selection of the little-known challenger.
Unknown to most was the fact Lockett was actually a decent fighter who had beaten two world title challengers in Kevin Kelly and Ryan Rhodes and had avenged his only defeat. Trained by Joe Calzaghe’s father Enzo, Lockett was also a decent puncher but he would meet a fired up Pavlik at Atlantic City.
Being a Welshman myself, I feel the need to interject that Lockett was a much better fighter than Pavlik let him be on that fateful night. The former champion is surprisingly generous in his response and agrees with me.
“Gary Lockett was a sharp fighter and I took that fight very seriously. He was a talented fighter but I showed my boxing ability and, as he was a lesser-known guy to the ones I’d been fighting, the pressure was on to look spectacular.”
Within the opening exchanges, the far-taller Pavlik found no problem piercing the Lockett guard with big straight punches. After landing some huge shots, inflicting a few trips to the canvas and causing ugly facial damage, Pavlik would retain in three.
“Enzo Calzaghe was pissing me off before that fight” adds Kelly. “He kept saying that Joe Calzaghe would mess me up and knock the hell out of me. I said ‘hey you’ve got to get your guy here through this fight first!’ I wanted to fight Joe Calzaghe so I felt I had to take care of Lockett and make a statement.”
Following his latest defence a mooted bout against Paul Williams would fail to materialise after several failed talks between the respective promoters. With the other champions failing to agree terms and several stars lined up to feature in the super-middleweight ‘Super Six’ tournament, the middleweight champion was fast running out of options.
“We agreed to the Bernard Hopkins fight out of frustration because of the Paul Williams situation” says Pavlik simply. “It was a statement to say ‘look I’m not facing a 147lb fighter I’m going to jump up and fight a legend’…there was no one else around to fight. Also remember this was the Hopkins of six years ago not the one of today.”
Part 2 of our exclusive Pavlik interview coming soon...
Many thanks to Kelly and our friend James Dominguez for setting up the interview.