National Conference Call Transcript: Kassim Ouma, Verno Phillips

18.05.04 - In a rematch of an electrifying slugfest which had the fans on the edge of their seats from the opening bell, International Boxing Federation (IBF) No. 1 contender Kassim “The Dream’’ Ouma will take on IBF No. 2 contender Verno Phillips for the vacant IBF junior middleweight championship Saturday, June 5, on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING at 9 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast). Ouma and Phillips will be fighting in a scheduled 12-round bout for the title previously owned by Winky Wright, who was stripped of the belt. In the SHOWTIME co-feature from The Leggett & Platt Athletic Center at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin, Missouri, Jeff “Left Hook’’ Lacy will defend his World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas/North American Boxing Association (NABA) and United States Boxing Association (USBA) super middleweight crowns when he meets IBF/World Boxing Association (WBA) International titleholder Vitali Tsypko. Gary Shaw Productions, LLC, in association with Tony Holden Productions, will promote the doubleheader.

Ouma: I am looking forward to the fight. It will be a good fight. Many fighters who can fight told me, do not let this guy (Phillips) fool you. I will not be fooled. I am a warrior.

Phillips: I never talk too much about how I will come out, but I am preparing. I am going to be ready. It is not personal. I do not talk crap in the interviews. I am just going to do my best. He (Ouma) is a young fighter, strong. But, I am a veteran. I am a champion. I have been in this game for 16 years. It is going to be a good fight. He is a soldier, and I am a rebel. We have to battle. After that, I salute the winner of the fight. I will be ready. I know he will be ready. I am not going to play games. Last time he came with the body shot, but this time I am ready. I have been waiting 16 years for one of the three main belts. So, I am going to fight my hardest. He knows I am coming after him, and I know he will come after me.

Question: Verno, how much did the layoff affect the first fight against Ouma?

Phillips: I was really rusty. But after I lost to Ouma, I started winning fights. I got back in the game. I beat the best. I went to war. I boxed Ouma. I am prepared. I have good sparring partners. I am training in the high altitudes.

Question: Whoever wins, do you think you will have to take on Winky Wright to be considered a legitimate champion at 154 pounds?

Ouma: I will not say much about this fight. I am just taking this fight in front of me. I have just been in the game for a little bit. I am a warrior. Verno Phillips is a warrior.

Phillips: I am not looking outside this fight. I am focused on this one. But if it happens, it does not matter. I have been in this game 16 years and I will fight anyone.

Question: Kassim, how have you improved as a fighter since the last time you fought Phillips?

Ouma: I will not put my business out there because Phillips is on the phone. I am always improving. I am a learner. With every fight, I learn. I am a student of boxing.

Question: How has the presence of Tim Witherspoon helped you?

Ouma: Tim Witherspoon has been in the game for many years. He has given me all the best he can give me. He wants Phillips out. So, I will put him out, and if he does not go out, he is a warrior.

Question: Verno, how will you deal with Kassim being a southpaw this time?

Phillips: Like I said, when I fought Ouma the first fight, I did not have any southpaw sparring partners or any good sparring partners. So, I took the fight. I did not know who Ouma was at the time. I was just ready to get in the ring. But, they did not tell me he was a southpaw. I did not know until we got in the ring. But, win or lose, I know where my ability was at. Like he is a student, I am going to take him to school.

Question: Kassim, how will you approach this rematch?

Ouma: I have nothing personal with Phillips. I have mad respect for him. But, I saw what he did to the other guy from Uganda, and I just hope he does not do that for me.

Question: Verno, you have been around this sport since 1988. What happens if you lose? Where do you go from here?

Phillips: I am still hungry. After almost a two-year layoff, I got back in the game. This is what I do. This is what I have to do. This is what I know. All my life I have been a fighter. I will not be done or finished.

Question: Did Ouma hurt you in the last fight?

Phillips: To be honest, maybe the body shots. That is it. I was not really in the shape I should have been in. I did not really train for him. It was two-weeks notice. But, last time, he (Ouma) was prepared, and I was not. He will get a surprise this time.

Question: Kassim, how disappointed are you that, even though you are fighting for one of the title belts, that you do not have the opportunity to do it against the guy (Winky Wright) who is basically considered the man because he unified all the belts?

Ouma: I just thank God for whatever. I am still going for the world championship, and I am fighting the hardest guy out there. The guy I am fighting is the one nobody wants to fight.

Question: Verno, had Wright fought Ouma and defended his mandatory, you would still be waiting for your title shot. What was it like when you found out you were going to get this chance?

Phillips: I knew Wright would beat Mosley. But everyone wanted Mosley to win, and the belt might have been vacant anyway because he would not have wanted to fight Ouma. They are not world champions because they do not fight all the battles. As soon as that fight was over, I started getting prepared so I could fight on a few weeks notice. I do not like to talk a lot and cannot do it in the ring. When I talk like this, I know I can do it in the ring.

Ouma: And you will see Kassim Ouma as world Champion of the IBF.

Question: Kassim, is it fair to say your boxing skills are improving, and when you fight Phillips, he will see a different boxer than he saw the first time?

Ouma: He (Phillips) will see a different fighter. If I bring the same dance or different dance, it is on. If I have something against anyone, it is Phillips for beating up my homeboy from my country (Juan Candelo).

Question: Are you becoming a better boxer, not just a slugger?

Ouma: I have everything, the whole package. Just wait until June 5.

Question: Do you feel you are being rushed?

Ouma: I am a student. I give myself props for what I have. I have been fighting warriors. But I will snatch this title. I am not ducking anybody. I will fight whoever comes into my face. The boxing world is about proving who is who, and I am fighting the toughest guy out there.

Question: Where are you training?

Ouma: The Poconos in Pennsylvania.

Question: Considering your background, where you came from and the fact you were in the army, what will it feel like to win and become a world champion?

Ouma: You should ask that to Verno Phillips because he is the man. I am going to get to that level. This is operation Verno Phillips.

Question: Verno, since you fell short of Ouma, you have won six consecutive-straight fights, and are coming off a first-round knockout. Do you feel you are at the top of your game?

Phillips: I have been on the top of my game since the layoff. But I went through some tragedy and had to deal with it. Then I rushed to get back in the ring because I had been out. I lost a close decision to Ouma. If I did not get that eight count, it probably would have went my way or a draw. But, I had to see where I was at. In my mind and my heart, I feel like I am Ouma’s age. When I get in there, it is going to be on. You can hit whatever you want because like Bob Marley said: ‘I won’t feel no pain.’ I will feel the pain after the fight when I have the title around my waist.

Question: Kassim and Verno, do you have a prediction for the rematch?

Ouma: I am going to fight another warrior. We fought before. I know what I am facing and he (Phillips) knows what he is facing. Expect a good fight. Phillips better be quick because I am coming.

Phillips: Better take the padding out of your gloves.

Ouma: No padding. Just clean fighting. You are a warrior. I got love for you.

Phillips: I am ready, no matter what the outcome, respect. I know he (Phillips) will be ready. He will want to show his people, his country, that he came a long way to be champion. But I am going to try to not let that happen

Ouma: It would be nice to win a championship from Phillips because he knocked out the last guy from my country and I have to represent.

Phillips: I am not going to get in the ring with Ouma, and just freeze up. I am going to fight. I am coming with my guns.

Article posted on 24.05.2004

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