On Persistence Being Key;
I won five or six world title fights against opponents who had more talent and ability than I had, and I won because I was persistent. I would say Nigel Benn, Gary Stretch, Graciano Rocchigiani, Dan Schommer, the American Lindell Holmes, and Michael (Watson) in our second fight were all better than me. The two world title fights I lost to Steve Collins came against a fighter who had less talent and ability than me but beat me through persistence.
On Having Right Manager;
Having talent and ability and being technically skilled is very important to succeed in boxing, but twice as important is being well-managed. Let’s take Dan Schommer as an example; he beat the world number-one amateur before turning professional, yet was self-managed and could never get the fights he wanted, so he told me. I fought this man in 94, he was unbeaten in 31 fights, yet looking at his record I could not see names I recognized, so I didn’t take him heavily. Mr Schommer boxed my ears off and the judges scored it for me based on aggression. I would say this Schommer was slightly more skilled than Michael Nunn, though not as fit, and about as skilled as Bernard Hopkins would later become. Yet he didn’t make a dime. I know how good Dan Schommer was because I’ve been in with other southpaws like Graciano Rocchigiani and Joe Calzaghe, who got the better of almost everyone you can think of between them in the ring, every body. I consider myself lucky to have had Barry Hearn work for me, who would charm his way to getting his fighters notable fights.
On Importance Of Jab;
Every successful boxer in history with the exception of one, being Roy Jones Jr – who was in a one-man league of exception – will tell you that craft-wise the jab was their entire key. To either attack or defend, because you score on defense as well as attack, and with the jab being the straightest punch it is easiest to slip. A boxer will need that jab working and landing so he can gauge the range, the positioning, the timing; to get all his other shots off. I worked out early on that a six-inch jab was undefendable, so I learned to throw six-inch jabs from the outside range by stepping in, immediately followed with a three-inch jab as my body weight was shifting forward from the first jab.
You have to be scientifically-minded in this art form if you aren’t naturally gifted. But also spar. I worked out that if I had a harder sparring life than anyone else, then my reflexes would be better than anyone elses – Roy Jones aside – and allow me to slip any opposing left-hand jabs, which I always did. It was safer to catch rather than slip when moving out of range, but I preferred to slip when in the range because I liked to have my hand positioning tightly in to the front of my waist, because nobody can absorb a good body shot!
On How He Succeeded;
Other sides of the equation of boxing success include management and showmanship. Judges are there to be swayed, either by pre-fight charming tactics or during and post-fight showman tactics.
I wasn’t very good – especially when an opponent wasn’t coming into my shots – but I could jab, I could think, I could react, I could strut, I could pose, I could dance, and above all I could grit my teeth and persist.
Persistence caused me to not lose until my 44th fight, in my 11th calender year as a professional – I think that holds some value.