News June 2013

Ronnie “The Dragon” Essett talks career from amateur star to top contender


By Michael J Jones

Top contender: Ronnie Essett

One of the unsung stars of the 80’s and 90’s fight scene was Ron “The Dragon” Essett. A former amateur star who boxed for much of his career as a super-middleweight, Florida’s Essett challenged on no less than three occasions for a version of the world title and beat fighters of the calibre of Sanderline Williams, Dave Tiberi and Robbie Sims.

Despite some eye-catching victories in his 27-6-2 (16) record, Ron is probably best remembered for his three unsuccessful world title shots, one of which being a decision loss to then WBO champion Chris Eubank in Portugal. A slick and skilled fighter with quick hands and decent power, the talented American was unlucky to take on tough champions away from home in all three of his title chances.

Finally retiring after a brief comeback in 1997, Ronnie, now 50-years-old, became a personal trainer after leaving the ring and continues to enjoy passing on his extensive boxing knowledge to this day.

Still in excellent shape even now, the former contender spoke candidly about his colourful boxing career from former amateur stand-out to his successful 13-year pro campaign.

Here is what “The Dragon” had to tell Livefight-

LF) Let’s start by talking about your excellent amateur career?

RE) I was a two-time National champion, a two-time National Golden Gloves champion and was a reserve for the 1984 Olympics. I lost a decision to Frank Tate in the box-offs to go to the Games. That was probably the greatest American boxing team there ever was in that 84’ Games.

My amateur record was 210 victories with twenty losses and I’d had my first fight at 13-years-old after watching the 76’ Olympics.

LF) You turned pro shortly after the 84’ Games and soon raced to 10-0 before suffering your first defeat to Charles Campbell. I know you were deducted two points in that fight which can’t have helped the scoring?

RE) I actually lost two fights in a row to Campbell and Dale Jackson (by 11th round TKO). It was a time in my career where I’d got complacent and wasn’t working as I should but those defeats were a wake-up call and I had to work hard to re-establish my game.

LF) You came back from your first defeats to score one of your best wins over Dave Tiberi over eight rounds?

RE) I was very surprised his team took that fight. I beat him handily as I had far more experience than he did. He went on to give James Toney a tough fight (for the IBF middleweight title) and many people still say Tiberi won that fight but I was able to beat him comfortably. I still think he may have seen those two losses I had and thought I was some kind of journeyman fighter.

LF) A little while later you fought the far-more experienced future WBO champion Doug DeWitt over ten rounds. The fight was scored a draw; did you think you had done enough to win?

RE) It was a close fight but I thought I had the leverage as I had finished the fight strongly. I thought I had won but when you fight a top guy in Atlantic City and they give it a draw; that tells me who won the fight. They could have scored to him so I was very grateful to get a draw and at least come away with something.

LF) Later that same year you had that strange fight with Sanderline Williams for the NABF belt. How did you end up winning a THIRTEEN round decision?

RE) It was a pretty strange situation. I’d beaten him over the twelve rounds and thought I’d done enough to get the decision. It was in his home town of Cleveland and they made us box an extra round after the judges scored a draw. Me and my team were not aware of that rule but we had to do it and I made sure I fought hard in that extra round to win the fight.

That was probably my proudest moment of my career winning the NABF title in that way.

Note: Williams went on to hold Nigel Benn to a split decision and James Toney to a draw.

LF) The next year (1989) you challenged South Korea’s In-Chul Baek for the WBA title in his home town. It was a close fight but he caught up with you in the eleventh?

RE) With the Baek fight it was just a lack of experience. I only got to (South Korea) a week before the fight. It wasn’t enough for that long trip and my body couldn’t take it. It was a great fight but by the end I was just very tired but I take nothing away from In-Chun Baek who was a great champion who never lost on home soil.

LF) You rebounded from that defeat to avenge your early loss to Charles Campbell and then you won a great fight versus Robbie Sim just two months after?

RE) The Campbell (rematch) was one of those fights where I knew how much better I’d improved from the first fight. I’d also matured as a fighter and it was nice to avenge one of my earlier defeats.

The Robbie Sim fight was a great fight in Tampa, one of the best fights I was ever in and I did what I had to do (to win a majority decision). Robbie was a great fighter and I have total respect for him.

LF) After two further victories you received another world title fight against WBC champion Mauro Galvano in Italy. He won a clear decision but I get the feeling that doesn’t tell the whole story?

RE) If ever I was going to win a world title in my career it was in that fight. I felt I dominated him and won the fight but he got the decision. Back then there was no TV coverage or anything like that so there wasn’t the out-cry like you would probably get these days from a bad decision.

LF) You went back to France a while after and beat the 50-2-1 Pierre-Frank Winterstein on points. It must have felt good finally getting a decision away from home?

RE) Yeah it was pretty amazing (laughs). Johnny Bos, God rest his soul, was my match-maker and manager then and he said before the fight “the only thing (Winterstein) has got is a left hook.” I boxed to punch and then move quickly out of range of the left hook and it worked all night and I came away with a win. Rest in peace Johnny Bos he got the tactics perfect in that fight.

LF) Soon after you were given a third shot at the world title versus WBO champion Chris Eubank in Portugal. What do you remember about that fight?

Eubank who Ron pushed close

RE) I think in that fight if I had been the champion I would have won. I’d watched a few of his fights and he seemed more dangerous if you came to him so I let him come to me. I boxed him behind the jab but maybe wasn’t busy enough. It wasn’t a very exciting fight and as he was champion he got the decision and I had to respect that.

LF) Do you ever feel a little angry you never got a title shot in the USA at home?

RE) That’s probably one of the little gripes I have that I never got to fight for a world title here in the United States but I got opportunities to fight for a world title and I’m glad I got those. I thought I should have won a couple but I have no regrets; like I said, I at least had opportunities and that’s all a fighter ever wants.

LF) You stayed out of the ring for a few years before embarking on a comeback. Why did you return at that time?

RE) All boxers have that moment when they don’t know what to do after boxing all their lives so I ended up returning for a few fights. When they disqualified me against Norbert Nieroba in Germany it was easy for me to walk away for good. I landed a punch on him and did an ‘Ali’ shuffle and they threw me out. I knew then that if I continued boxing I’d have to go back to dealing with those things. I feel I got out at the right time with my intellect in tact.

LF) Was there any fighter you never faced that you wished you had?

RE) There was one guy; Nigel Benn. It never came to pass but I thought his wild style would have been perfect for me.

LF) So what are you up to these days I believe you are a personal trainer now?

RE) Yes I train guys here in California. There are people who don’t wish to box but want to follow a boxing regime to get into shape. It is going very well and I enjoy it very much. I’d like to eventually become a pro trainer and I feel when I do make that step the work I’m doing now will help me in that.

LF) Thanks Ronnie it’s been great talking to you.

RE) Thank you I appreciate you talking to me and God Bless you.

A young Ronnie in action vs Kris Golanski-

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