Exclusive Interview with Joe Hipp - "The Morrison Fight? That Was A Great War!"

22.04.08 - by James Slater: "Indian" Joe Hipp may have failed in his bid to become WBA heavyweight champion, but in fighting for the title, against Bruce Seldon back in 1995, Hipp made history - by becoming the first ever Native-American to box for a version of the heavyweight championship. Unfortunately, in the 10th round, Hipp was pulled out of the fight due to severe facial swellings. A member of the Blackfoot tribe (Joe's mother was a Blackfoot and Joe was born on a reservation) Hipp is very proud of his history-making and his Indian roots..

Indeed, pride and guts were attributes Joe possessed in spades during the time he spent battling against some of the bigger names from the mid-nineties heavyweight scene. It seems the division could benefit from having as rough and tough a big man these days, so short is the weight class of good heavies. This is not to suggest that Joe Hipp was ever anything approaching a boxing master - far from it. But Joe, all 6' 1" and around 230 pounds of him at his best, gave his all every single time out. And if, for instance, Hipp had been blessed with half the overall talent of a, say, Eddie Chambers, he would have gone a lot further no doubt.

Certainly, Hipp would have given anything to have had some of the capabilities "Fast" Eddie has. Yet despite his skill, what was Chambers seen doing in his last fight, the IBF title eliminator Vs. Alexander Povetkin? The 25-year-old, in refusing to throw punches during the second half of the bout, gave a performance that clearly showed what is wrong with the majority of today's aspiring big men - they just don't want it enough! This lack of desire is not a failing that could ever have been aimed at Mr. Hipp. Quite simply, while ignoring his limitations, Joe NEVER stopped trying in ANY of the 50 fights he ever had (43 wins).

Today, aged 45 and living in Tacoma, Washington, Hipp continues to work-out and keeps himself in shape. Joe also enjoys spending his time giving back to the youth of America via his non-profit All Nations Foundation - an organisation that devotes itself to talking to young people and warning them of the dangers of alcohol and drugs.

Speaking in a clear voice that gives no indication of what he used to do for a living, Joe began by talking about his start in boxing.

Joe Hipp: I first put gloves on at age 8. My older brother got me into boxing. I had an amateur record of 119-9, and I was a 5-time Seattle Golden Gloves champion and a Four-time Tacoma Golden Gloves champ. I also boxed in the junior Olympics.

In 1987, Joe turned pro with a four-rounder.

J.H: I can remember my pro-debut quite well. I won every round and I think I scored two knockdowns. I was nervous, but enjoyed boxing as a pro.

Making progress, Joe moved up in class somewhat in 1991 when he fought former title challenger David Bey - winning by stoppage in 7 rounds.

J.H: The Bey fight was my first real breakthrough fight, but my first T.V fight was my win over Cleveland Woods. That fight got me on ESPN. After that I fought Bert Cooper. That fight should never have been stopped, I was still in the fight when they called it [the stoppage] in the 5th round. [due to facial swellings - a common Hipp bugbear].

The following year, Hipp, then with a record of 24-2, fought the fight for which he is probably best remembered by fight fans today. He boxed the big-punching Tommy Morrison in a superb slugfest of a heavyweight bout.

J.H: Oh, the Morrison fight, that was a great war! I lost the first 3 rounds when he was trying his best to take me outta there. But then I thought, if I'm gonna lose, I'm not gonna lose backing up (laughs). So I stood and traded with him. I felt good after the fight, I knew I'd given my all and that it was a good fight. There are no good heavyweight fights like that today. I felt it was a bad stoppage, I was up at the count of 6 ( after being decked in round 9), but the ref stopped it. In a way that fight did more good for me than it did for Tommy, I actually went up higher in the world rankings than him afterwards. It was hard fight though, I broke his jaw, he broke my cheek bone!

Joe may have lost, but he was now a fan-favourite. Soon after capturing the NABF belt with a points win over Alex Garcia in '94, Hipp got his big chance - a crack at WBA champ, Bruce Seldon. Seldon had won the vacant title with a win over Tony Tucker, and was now making his first defence.

J.H: The Seldon fight was another bad stoppage.

At this point, a trend will surely have been noticed by readers, in that Joe is still unhappy about, and argues against, the majority of stoppage defeats he suffered in his career. Basically, if Hipp was upright, he wanted to continue fighting! For certain, Joe never wanted to be pulled out of a fight merely because his sight was being affected by swellings around his eyes - which accounted for his loss vs. "The Atlantic City Express." It is this bravery and willingness to grit his teeth and take the pain that made Hipp what he was. Again, many of today's heavies would be a lot better off if they had some of the stuff Joe had.

J.H: I felt I could've gone on when they called it, but I fought the wrong fight against Seldon. I should've gone after him much more than I did. I let him box me, and he kind of stayed away. His jab was fast though, and he kept popping my eye with it. He was a pretty good fighter.

Joe carried on boxing, in an on-and-off fashion, until 2005. But his big chance had come and gone. Does he have any regrets about his career today?

J.H: Not really. I loved my boxing and boxing was good to me. The only thing I would say, is my fight with George Foreman never came off, and that was a disappointment. I had a contract to fight the winner of Foreman and Michael Moorer. But George decided he didn't want to fight me. We went to court, but that was real expensive and I had to give up, I couldn't afford to fight my case.

This aside, Hipp is happy about how his career went. He is also in good mental and physical shape, despite the number of quite brutal fights he engaged in.

J.H: I'd say my health is fine. The lower weight classes take much more punishment than heavyweights. With a heavyweight you get KO'd much quicker if you're hurt! I still work out today, I spar and I actually feel better now than I did when I was younger, because now I don't have the injuries I used to get when I was fighting. I weigh around 250 pounds today.

Joe then spoke about his work with the All Nations Foundation.

J.H: It's a non-profit organisation. I go round and give talks to kids, about keeping off drugs and alcohol. I tell them to work hard, and that if they do then they can be anything they want to be in life. I enjoy it. I have 3 kids of my own, too. I have twin daughters aged 22, and a son aged 27. They tried boxing, hitting bags and stuff. It's good for fitness and for self-defence, but I'd never push them into boxing full time - it's a tough, tough sport.

As tough as it is, Joe has plans to fight again. Like many former big names, Hipp cannot resist coming back one more time. No doubt the lack of good, blood and guts, fan-friendly heavyweights from today being at least a factor in his desire to return, Joe wants to give it one more go.

J.H: I want to box again this year, then retire. I realise I'm getting kind of old at 45 (laughs), but I actually felt great after my last fight [a six round points win over one Ted Reiter in August of 2005]. I would like to fight someone in the top-15 and see how I handle myself. Also, I plan on boxing for the All-Native heavyweight title, which is a new title. I'd really like to fight overseas, too. Maybe in Australia. I'll see how I do this year, and then I'll quit for good.

A friendly and cheerful guy, one hopes Joe Hipp comes to no harm in his planned return to the ring.

Article posted on 22.04.2008

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